Hello and welcome back to another Publisher 1-On-1, where we pick the brains of our publishing partners about the industry disruption that the pandemic has caused over the last year (as well as some lighter-hearted subjects!)
In the hot seat this week is Rebecca Wolff, founding editor, publisher and editor-in-chief of Fence, journal of poetry, fiction, art, and criticism.
Founded in 1998, Fence is a biannual journal has a mission to redefine the terms of accessibility by publishing challenging writing distinguished by idiosyncrasy and intelligence rather than by allegiance with camps, schools, or cliques.
Fence is long-term committed to publishing from the outside and the inside of established communities of writing, seeking always to interrogate, collaborate with, and bedevil other systems that bring new writing to light.
Annual digital subscriptions to Fence, which includes unlimited access to the complete archive as well as each new issue published, are available in the Exact Editions individual and institutional shops.
You can access the full archive of Fence through this link for one week only (until Wednesday 4th August):
Now you know a bit about the magazine and have had a chance to flick through its contents, let’s hear from Rebecca (who has been the editor for 20 years!)
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1) What’s your role within Fence?
I am founding editor, publisher, editor-in-chief, chief disorganizer, and ultimately the accountable party for all decisions.
2) What’s the best thing about working at Fence?
Distributing the power. Our nonprofit structure allows me to directly bestow goodies to writers and to editors. In the US literary for-profit industry there is a tremendous gate-keeping that happens through editorship — careers are made and not-made — and which often is guided largely by sales-related and marketing-related choices, ie, there will be literary titles bought and sold based on how the sales team thinks the book might do in the market rather than on literary merit. With Fence and the credibility it holds in US literary culture I am able to marshal and distribute these resources more equitably and with my attention on factors other than ultimate sales.
3) What impact has the pandemic had on your publication, both short-term and long-term?
The closure of bookstores and the refusal of periodicals at newsstands gravely reduced our sales, in the short term. In the long term I’d say it has given Fence (and its editors) time for reflection and consolidation which will positively affect our internal decisions.
4) What was your most unusual lockdown hobby?
My hobbies didn’t change! I did a lot of gardening, reading, running, tarot — not nearly as much knitting as I thought I would though.
5) How have you found the experience of remote working over the past year?
I’ve really enjoyed it. Getting comfortable on Zoom or other remote applications was overall a positive experience for me, and the abundance of solitude allowed me to become more organized and focused. Connecting with people in such an intentional manner felt very peaceful, as I am a bit of a classic Sagittarius who can be overly caught up in the stream of the random connectivity that happens when one is in the flow of human activity via streets and other social spaces.
6) Where are you most looking forward to travelling to, once restrictions allow?
I am not an advocate of travel, as we are globally experiencing climate crisis due to the unchecked and capitalistic industries associated with travel such as the airplane and automobile industries, which currently rely on fossil fuel consumption and which create massive quantities of carbon emissions, not sustainable if we wish to continue to enjoy any semblance of our current climate standards.
7) What is your vision for Fence in 10 years’ time?
Ten years is a long time! I’ve been the editor of Fence for 23 years. In near term I am hoping to set Fence up with everything it deserves: a new editor, a new shared vision for what is necessary in US literary culture to maintain variousness (as correlative to biodiversity) and indeterminacy (as correlative to the emergent) as these are the qualities that are most likely to be diminished within capitalism and the qualities that most support experiences of sublime transcendent beauty within art and the humans who perceive it.
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Thanks so much for your insight, Rebecca — it was really interesting to hear from you!
Keep an eye out for new instalments of our Publisher 1-On-1 series over the next few weeks. If you would like to participate, please contact the team on firstname.lastname@example.org.