Meet the Editors: An Interview with Managing Editor, Wendy Dinwiddie
It’s a new year and new staff here at BWR. We (the editors) interviewed each other so that you (the world) could get a sense of us as editors/readers. We’re pleased to meet you!
Interview by CHASE BURKE
Chase Burke: Let’s start (kinda) simple, because readers want to know: How do you conceptualize Black Warrior Review, in terms of aesthetic, mission, etc.?
Wendy Dinwiddie: BWR’s a journal with heart. We’re full-up with emerging writers and genre-defying writers and writers set in their ways who’ve gotten up the courage to do something new, and you can’t take all that on without having heart. We’re pretty old as far as lit journals go, and I like to think that we’ve come to occupy a space that readers know we’re looking for. We’re interested in work that transgresses borders, work that explores, work that teaches us how to read it.
CB: Do you have a favorite BWR piece, either a recent one or one from the way-back?
WD: Jane Wong’s “Root Canal Street,” Ron Austin’s “Muscled Clean Out the Dirt,” Zeynep Ozakat’s “Aviculture,” but I’m always finding new loves.
CB: If you were cursed (or, maybe, blessed) in such a way that you could only read one form of writing for the rest of your life, what would it be? Any reason why?
WD: That would be a curse. Poetry. Poetry’s so versatile, so formally experimental. I think it’s the only form that I could read and read and never get tired of.
CB: What is the best bourbon?
WD: The bourbon you’ve got, obviously. I’m on this never-ending quest for a bottle of Elmer T. Lee. I’ve called every major liquor store in a two state radius. I’m prepared to drive. Is it worth it? Probably not, but I love a challenge, and I love having a story to tell.
Basil Hayden’s is my standard. It’s light, sweet, and good for cocktails.
CB: Watch any good TV recently?
WD: Does Golden Girls count? I always say I’m going to go home and watch something cerebral. I’ve never seen The Wire, Fargo, etc, but by the time I’m done for the day, I want to fix a sandwich and watch half a dozen episodes of The Nanny.
CB: Is there room for literary realism in the world?
WD: Oh lord, what’s realism gone and done now? (EDITOR’S NOTE: realism knows what it did)
Realism’s that one cousin that’s good with money but sometimes just brings ice to the cookout.
No, of course there’s room. I’m hesitant to say that realism is foundational because the flavors vary between literary traditions and decades, but it’s foundational to me. Like poetic forms, there’s always going to be space for it. What we can do away with is stories about straight middle-class couples getting divorced. Those make me want to say, “We’ve got enough ice, Linda. Don’t worry about it.”
CB: 2017 was a mess in a lot of ways, wasn’t it?
WD: Yes. Although a lot of that mess was caused by our culture’s centering of whiteness and middle-class narratives. People kept saying, “This isn’t our country/ my country.” This is our country. This is what it’s been doing.
CB: How do you think that writing — stories, poems, essays, whatever — made 2017 more manageable, either on a personal level or a broader, I don’t know, political one?
WD: I looked to writing in 2017 as a way to re-center the narrative and hear from voices that were being silenced. I don’t know that it made the year more manageable, but I think it increased the depth and breadth of the conversation for me.
CB: What do you hope writing does in 2018?
WD: I hope that there’s more of an opportunity to showcase joy and gratitude and to praise those foundations that made us.