Sunday, April 3, 2011


During the years 1978-1998, I served as the first fiction editor for The Seattle Review. Over the course of two decades I had the pleasure of seeing that literary journal publish many writers, ranging from those who at the time were established and even famous (Joyce Carol Oates, John Gardner, Nicholas Delbanco), "emerging" (Daniel Orozco), and new (David Guterson). As one might guess, the real joy in selecting fiction for the Review came from discovering memorable stories from new writers whose work, given the always stiff competition for publication in commercial or mass market magazines, might not have found a home. (Early in my own life, many of my stories now frequently reprinted and anthologized, appeared originally in literary journals like Indiana Review, Antaeus, Mss., Callaloo, North American Review, Mother Jones, and Choice.) Historically, it is there, in the thousands of literary magazines in America, that many destined to become our finest writers first see their work in print.
It has always seemed to me that a "well-rounded" life as a writer involves not simply producing one's own creative work but also serving whenever possible what we call the larger literary culture in this country. In other words, helping others who do work we admire to find an audience. I count myself as fortunate in having had many opportunities to serve talented writers of every race, gender and cultural background at each stage of the creative process---first, by offering rigorous literary art instruction in my beginning, intermediate, advanced and graduate classes at the University of Washington (and elsewhere) for 33 years; then providing many people with their first publication in The Seattle Review for twenty years (some of those stories later received awards); and writing endorsements (blurbs) for their earlier and later books (these fill two and a half bookshelves in my library); and, finally, by serving as a fiction judge given the privilege of honoring their work with national literary prizes, grants, and fellowships.
The spiritual principle here is that whatever we want for ourselves we should also want for others. Or, as Martin Luther King Jr. said in "The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life," the sermon he felt captured his vision best, the second dimension for completion and fulfillment in life is learning “that there is nothing greater than to do something for others.”

Or put it this way: If you want to be happy, first try to make someone else happy.

Publishing other writers is one small way of achieving that goal.

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