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How to Produce a Literary Review in Less Than 100 Days

First of all, get your artistic diva out of the way, because no one at Fourteen Hills has time for that. Secondly, buckle down sweetheart—we’ve got a lot of work to do. It starts with a little something we like to call “The Slush Pile.” Every semester, the editors and team behind Fourteen Hills wade through more than 6,000 pages of prose and poetry that writers have posted on with the hopes of getting something published somewhere. It’s our job to find the right content quickly (read: before other journals snatch it up), which is why in a matter of 14 days, these 6,000 pages are distilled down to 600 of our favorites. The outstanding poems are given to our dedicated poetry team, and top fiction is handed to the fiction writers. Over the next month, both groups read through their thick packets, meeting once a week to discuss the ambitions and intentions of each poem or story, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. When we’re not intellectualizing the role of dialogue or setting, pacing, concepts or themes, we’re talking about our gut reactions. Simply stated, we’re talking about what sticks. After we’ve gone through all the work, each group holds one final meeting to fight for the pieces we love, well aware they may not make the cut, but taking the opportunity for one last call to arms. The entire class comes together to discuss the experimental work and creative non-fiction, while our art guru stalks the Bay Area for different pieces that may be perfect for the cover or featured within the journal. From there, Fourteen Hills is in the hands of the editors. [I am not an editor, but I imagine shaky, neurotic writers, screaming at one another and snapping the pens they keep behind their ears to make their points. “But it’s EMPTY!” one editor throws up his arms in frustration. “Its emptiness is its intent,” another coolly smokes her electronic cigarette.] Breaths are held. Final selections are made. The editors reach out to the writers and artists to give them good news. “You’re in,” they say. They hang up the phone with no time to waste. It’s time for production, when the form really takes shape. Graphic designers lay out each page. Eagle-eyed copy editors wait in the wings for their cue. After two weeks of focused frenzy, late nights and blurry vision, we assign it an ISBN and poof! Our journal is off to McNaughton & Gunn, a phenomenal printer out of Michigan. One month later we’ve got more than 120 pages of poetry, short stories, creative non-fiction and art tucked neatly inside two slick cover pages and a spine. You wouldn’t think it would take so many hands to create something you can hold in just two. But behind that pretty product is a process. A process of writers and readers and discussions and defensiveness and earnest work and embarrassing passion and people that care. A process of 100 arduous days, at the end of which, we’re all really quite proud.

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