Peace Corps Writers
Talking with Josh Swiller (page 2)
 Talking with
Jason Sanford
page 1
page 2
page 3

 
And that editing led to you starting storySouth?

While I was working at this publishing company, I grew increasingly frustrated at how little control I had over what I published. Because the anthologies I edited had very specific guidelines and requirements, the works I helped select were in many ways extremely formulistic. I rejected dozens of quality stories and poems each week — writings that under other circumstances I would have jumped at publishing. The only solution I saw to this frustration was to create my own literary journal.
     
However, I’d been in publishing enough to know how hard it is to launch a new print publication, and that’s without even considering the financial challenges. I decided that the way to go was to publish the journal exclusively online. I thought that an online journal that practiced professional-level editing would have a great chance at success. And because I was so far away from my home state of Alabama, I decided to focus on writings from the New South, which to me is a celebration of the immense changes the Southern United States have undergone in the last few decades. The Civil Rights Movement, the influx of new people to the region, the dying of agricultural traditions and the boom of industrialization — all are aspects of the New South.

Do you see yourself then as a continuation of the Southern Agrarian movement of Allen Tate and other conservatives in the south who wanted to keep the south “old” as expressed in Tate’s book I’ll Take My Stand?

Absolutely not. First off, I refuse to believe in any ideal utopian society having ever existed anywhere in the world, be it in the South, the North, or Shangri-La. There are no perfect societies except in people’s memories — and then the simple truth is that people aren’t remembering how life really used to be.
     
Second, I find the Southern Agrarians to be massive hypocrites. Tate, for example, lived most of his life in the North, either in New York City or New Jersey, where he taught at Princeton University. The other Southern Agrarians fell along similar lines, and even when they didn’t they weren’t exactly spending their lives working under harsh agricultural conditions, as many people in the South did at the time. And that’s without even getting into that group’s backward views on race relations and equal rights. No, I don’t bemoan the loss of their version of traditional Southern culture, which was always more myth than truth. My South involves the Civil Rights Movement, the equality of all people, the influx of new ideas and ways, all of that mixed with a love for the best parts of Southern history and culture and an acknowledgment of the equally horrible parts.

About your website. Have you published any RPCV writers on your site?

Not to my knowledge, although we have published a large number of writers from around the world and have also honored RPCV writers in our annual Million Writers Award for best fiction. I should add, though, that storySouth is always open to Peace Corps writers. The same can also be said about the online publishing world. For example, ducts.org has published a number of great columns by Benjamin Malcolm, a Peace Corps Volunteer I served with in Thailand. And I just profiled on storySouth a new online journal called Our Stories which is edited and published by Alexis E. Santi, who served with the Peace Corps in Romania. There are so many RPCVs involved in online publishing that I couldn't begin to list them all — and that's without even mentioning all the Peace Corps bloggers or even your wonderful website.

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