Monday, August 13, 2012

Parsing the "Jernigan effect" as editor of The New Quarterly steps down

Just catching up with Miranda Hill's excellent article in Quill & Quire magazine about Kim Jernigan, the retiring editor of The New Quarterly. It's a concise and loving summary of why Jernigan's contribution over 30 years has been so important to writers and to the ecosystem of small, literary magazines in Canada. 
Hill applauds Jernigan's "quiet building one of the best literary magazines in the country" and pointedly notes that, for all but a few months of the past 30 years, this has been done without compensation.
From the days of collating a mimeographed shadow of its present colourful and splendid self on her hands and knees, Kim (disclosure: we've been friends for many years) has shown both an amazing energy and a fierce affection for the writing process. She has always given credit where it was due, to the writers, and the magazine has prided itself on often publishing many well-known names for the first time.
“We want to build a relationship with writers. We want to help people to publish,” she says, simply.
Kim's determination to nurture writers has extended to reading and commenting on what they submit, something that is relatively rare. She sometimes has given guidance even if they are not published (one interesting fact that emerges is that only about 6% of 350 unsolicited stories received each year make it into the magazine.) She is renowned for her thoughtful notes to writers, fan letters often out of the blue.
"Last spring, my story Rise: A Requiem (with Parts for Voice and Wing) was accepted for publication," [says Hill]. "Since then, like countless other writers in what Jernigan calls 'the TNQ family,' I have been the grateful recipient of a generous mix of editorial attention, invitations to speaking events, personal cheering, and homemade food that might be called the Jernigan Effect."
Pamela Mulloy, who is assuming the editor's chair, says
“The lesson I am taking away from Kim’s example is that careful attention to writers enriches the experience of the writer and the editor." And though she is inspired by Jernigan’s legacy, Mulloy says she isn’t daunted: “[Kim] makes you feel like you can do it.”



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