I write to you saying this is my last issue as the Editor-in-Chief of The Boiler. Those who know me, know I don’t like being the center of attention. Instead of lamenting, I’d like to celebrate this space and the space it’s given me and others to connect with writers. Moreover, I’d like to celebrate that it’s been a little over ten years since I launched the first issue with the help of friends Bill Derks, Carly Susser, and Sara Levine.
I didn’t fully realize how extraordinary it was that me, a first-generation college student and son of Mexican immigrants could create a space here for others. I didn’t see myself becoming a role-model for others. After I completed my MFA, working on the journal became a lifeline for me and gave me the perfect opportunity to stay in touch with friends and make new friends. Starting as a monthly journal, no one said no to my ridiculous ideas. I had no idea what I was doing. We then switched to a quarterly format and I quickly learned the best places to put out calls for submissions. Eventually, the early solicitations yielded submissions from early career writers who oftentimes became award-winning writers. We didn’t need to solicit.
Folks send work and I’m astonished when I see names I recognize. We, of course, give them a fair shake. We’ve been fortunate to have readers and staff that have helped this machine hum along. When I started a Ph.D. program and living the broke first-gen, immigrant kid, graduate student lifestyle, I was overwhelmed. Building each issue became more tedious as we began to build an unexpected reputation. Once upon a time we were open for submissions year-round, we had to narrow our submission windows to keep up.
Now open only once a year, we still received on average 1,500 – 2000 submissions. We were lucky that tip jar submissions yielded enough to break even on the cost of our maintenance fees for maintaining our site and Submittable account. Even with so many submissions, we barely broke even. (We were lucky to be grandfathered into the early, cheaper rates for Submittable.) Still, we celebrated our successes and it felt really good to celebrate some of our authors in-person when we hosted a few off-site AWP events.
For me, the journal work has been like throwing the biggest most lit party out there. I enjoy discovering new writers and watching them succeed. I enjoy witnessing other writers read each other. On more than one occasion, I’ve heard people connecting because they were in the same issue. I say all this to give you some idea of how proud I am of the work we’ve done and while The Boiler my baby in a lot of ways, it’s always been about using the space to connect with other editors. It’s given me an excuse to say maintain friendships with writers and given me new perspectives. If I could do it full-time I would.
The past few years haven’t been kind to many of us. Like many others affected by the pandemic, it set-us back. This set-back was compounded for me after completing a Ph.D., job hopping, and other major life changes that made maintaining The Boiler more challenging. This issue has been sitting on the back burner for longer than I wanted.
Sifting through many incredible submissions has become more difficult each year because so many of the submissions we receive are good. As someone who has read for publishing houses, agents, attended a few conferences and open mikes—it’s truly remarkable the quality of work that I see. You’d think that by being online we could offer unlimited space, but that’d diminish our ability to promote and highlight the work that does stand out. The fact that people are writing, reading, and submitting work to us is beautiful to me and my goal is to keep that happening.
Most will write in their cover letter how much they love the work we publish and that’s an extraordinary thing to me. For some, it takes a few times, but I admire persistence. I don’t mind rejection and because of my work as an editor, I believe it allowed me to aspire to become a persistent writer.
Sadly, I’m not as young as a I used to be. I’ve been asked how I wear all the hats I’m wearing and I still don’t know. When I started the journal, I had just turned 23 years old and finishing my MFA at Sarah Lawrence asking friends if they were onboard with this silly idea of mine. These days, I’m trying to make a living as a writer, editor, and teacher. My priorities have changed and I have less energy than I used to. I wouldn’t recommend taking on as many things as I did without a good support system. For this reason, I’ve made the choice to step-away as Editor-in-Chief. This is an acknowledgement that a new chapter is beginning for me and The Boiler. I share this information so that you know some of what I’ve carried. I invite you to celebrate this last issue with me by reading and sharing the incredible work. Read the archives! Every time I look back, I’m always inspired by the many paths of writers. It’s thrilling to watch them grow. Luckily, their journey and The Boiler’s journey is not over yet.
The team of editors that will take over The Boiler will do amazing things. Our current roster of editors Kimberly Garza, Joe Pfister, Amanda Yanowski, Jahzerah Brooks, Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick, and Rebecca Bernard have all done outstanding work in making decisions over the years and I’m excited to see where their journey continues. The journey is what I’ve always enjoyed the most and I expect to maintain as reasonable attention as I can afford while I focus on other editorial, teaching, and miscelleanous projects.
I close by handing the reins over to Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick, a writer whom I deeply admire for her passion, support, talent, and dedication to the writing community. Please join me in welcoming her to the head of the table.