| Editorials

Through the Revolving Door: a Salutation From Editor-in-Chief Timothy Johnson

As a reader, I’m not the biggest fan of letters from editors. Digging through phoebe’s archives, as I am wont to do, because I’m a big nerd, it’s clear someone agreed with me. At one time in phoebe’s past, letters from editors graced her pages, and then they didn’t. It’s true (probably) that letters from editors have fallen out of vogue across publishing. However, as part of our 50th-anniversary celebration and rebrand/refresh last year, we decided marking the beginning and end of our publication year with letters on our new blog would be appropriate, especially if we had important things to say.

And I do have some important things to tell you, dear reader. 

When Melissa Wade left us last spring, she ruminated on the nature of hellos and goodbyes. What’s interesting to me is how many conversations she and I, as managing editor, had on the nature of phoebe as a continually evolving literary journal. Phoebe is one of George Mason’s two MFA-run literary journals (hi, friends at So To Speak), and since student writers invariably exit MFA programs—as is the intention—each year, we send off half of our staff and welcome their replacements. As a result, each year, phoebe changes. These changes may sometimes be subtle and, at others, more overt, but phoebe’s evolution is constant and dependable. Notably, phoebe accrues years and volumes, but she never ages. Fifty years on—a milestone for phoebe that Melissa valiantly led her team into celebrating—phoebe seems poised to live forever in this revolving cycle, which grants her a fluid identity.

Each new staff must confront how they will identify phoebe. Will she pull you down with the undercurrents of her deep waters, or will she buoy you with the surface tension of her words? Will she draw blood with the edges of her thorns, or will she split herself at her seams and expose that which she hides inside? Will she be frustratingly pretentious, or will she eschew pretension in favor of honesty and earnesty?

That is something no one of us can determine because it is something this staff of ten passionate editors and writers (along with our platoon of absolutely vital submissions readers that invariably supply phoebe with her lifeblood and whom I do injustice relegating to a parenthetical) assembles.

We are, of course, only doing the job of a curator. We are not the creators. That job belongs to our contributors, the literary and visual artists who toss their hearts onto our desks by the hundreds each submissions season and who, by and large—considering phoebe’s competitive <1% acceptance rate—suffer bruising rejection at the hands of our merciless genre editors.


I have to tell you, everyone I’ve had the pleasure of working with on phoebe’s staff is kind, generous, and passionate. If there is one constant about phoebe, I am sure it’s that she attracts good people to her desks. The work our editors and media staff do is completely voluntary, and for the most part, they dedicate countless hours of their free time to phoebe because they love her and the literary and visual art our contributors are doing and want to marry those things so that others can love them, too. The whole point of what we have the good fortune to do here at phoebe is celebration, and it is impossible to celebrate art without the best of intentions.

All of that is to say I personally would like to express my appreciation for every one of phoebe’s staff who helped her make it to fifty, and I would like to express my eager anticipation for the love-labor products yet to come, including from this year’s wonderful staff.

Kayla Hare, Managing Editor
Kevin Binder, Fiction Editor
Bareerah Ghani, Assistant Fiction Editor
Christian Stanzione, Poetry Editor
Lena Crown, Nonfiction Editor
Emilie Knudsen, Assistant Nonfiction Editor
Kate Keeney, Webmaster and Social Media Manager
Leah Sumrall, Blog Editor
Jihoon Park, Layout and Design Editor

With her parting words, Melissa likened the literary community as a whole to a room, one that we move around in while we’re here, sharing and furthering art. The sentiment was that she and her cohort were leaving, but they weren’t really leaving. While their figurative and literal influence remains—some of our alumni may yet write for this very blog and continue to read submissions—I do think some segmentation occurs, and I think it’s necessary, and I think it’s the very thing that makes phoebe’s continued evolution a natural process of beauty. Phoebe’s new staff and our amazing readers will join me in this room for a time, and we will give these pieces of ourselves as part of phoebe’s lasting legacy, and then we, too, will exit through that revolving door.

I think, because of this cycle, university journals are sometimes not taken as seriously as other journals that may have full-time leadership that is consistent from year to year. I think it’s part of phoebe’s constant identity. It’s because our time is limited that we make the most of it. It is the life-and-death paradox. Without death, can we really live? Can we really appreciate what we have if it can’t expire? If we were vampires, would we even really know love? Jason Isbell sings.

This year’s team and I are psyched to bring you two issues of phoebe journal. We are already open for submissions to our winter issue, and we will open submissions for our spring contest issue in January. We may even have some other tricks up our sleeves.

Thank you for reading phoebe. Thank you for supporting phoebe. I think she’s worth it and hope you agree.

More soon. There’s always more.

Warmest regards,
Timothy Johnson
Editor-in-Chief, phoebe

Timothy Johnson

is editor-in-chief for phoebe and an MFA candidate at George Mason University’s creative writing program. He lives and writes from outside Washington, D.C. Tweet at him @tim_the_writer. He will be delighted.

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