It’s February and we are accepting submissions this month, which means that in the corner of the office there is a mounting pile of envelopes. It isn’t a very big pile yet. Today is only the 12th; the rush is likely to come towards the end of the month. Within the next few days, however—with this issue safely gone to print—I’ll start opening those envelopes and taking out the poems and short stories they contain. The process of producing another edition of The Stinging Fly will have begun.
We published our first issue in March 1998, nearly fifteen years ago. Given that, in literary-magazine terms, we’ve practically reached heroic old age, it is time, perhaps, to reflect on what has brought us this far. The secret, of course, lies inside those envelopes. (Not in all of them, it needs to be said. In one out of every twenty—or every twenty-five—would probably be closer to the mark.) It is the excitement of finding new writing, and the exhilaration, time and again, of discovering new voices. It is the satisfaction that comes from delivering new work out into the world—having first worked with the writer to make sure that it’s good and ready.
The Stinging Fly’s time here on earth has coincided with the rise and rise of the Internet, bringing with it a revolution in how we access information and communicate with one another. It has opened up a whole new set of opportunities for readers, for writers, and for publishers. During the first flush of excitement surrounding this new era of seemingly endless possibility, however, it was not uncommon to hear that publishers, also, had the most to lose. Were these gatekeepers needed anymore? Would they not become irrelevant?
My own belief is that, if anything, the ease of access to online and digital publishing serves to reinforce the need for the conscientious gatekeeper, the knowledgeable curator, the thoughtful editor. It is still the editorial process that offers the clearest path. Think of that growing pile of envelopes in the corner. Now where would you like to start?