An Act of Hope

It's an act of hope to submit work to a journal. We editors, in turn, read with our own hopes: that writers are sending us what they believe to be their best work, that the next piece we read may startle, give us pause, transport us—take off the tops of our heads. More than hope, we have faith, based on experience, that such work comes our way.

This faith makes us eager. When a writer submits work, that submission receives its first reading within a week. That's right: a week. As a result, 99% of the writers who send work to this magazine will hear back from us before two weeks have passed (see Duotrope's excellent website for more statistics). If a submission has been with us for more than two weeks, a writer can assume that it's claimed our attention beyond the bulk of what we've received: that we're passing it around, discussing it, bringing it to an editorial meeting—in sum, enjoying it.

How do we read carefully and still respond within a week or two? Eight associate editors serve, along with me (editor-in-chief while GC Waldrep is on sabbatical this year), as the earliest readers of West Branch submissions. These editors and I haven't missed a day of reading since the Online Submissions Manager opened on August 1st. Our associate fiction editors deserve special gratitude for volunteering their expertise to help us find and publish great fiction. Let me introduce you:

Jaquira Díaz is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, the Carl Djerassi Fiction Fellowship at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, a Tennessee Williams scholarship from the Sewanee Writers' Conference, and an NEA Fellowship, among other honors. Her work has been noted in Best American Essays, and has appeared or is forthcoming in such venues as PloughsharesThe Kenyon ReviewThe SunThe Southern ReviewFive Chapters, and the Pushcart Prize anthology.

Carrie Messenger teaches English at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her fiction has appeared in magazines including Crab Orchard Review, Fiction International, and Witness. She translates from Romanian, which she learned as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Republic of Moldova, the only other Romanian-speaking country outside of Romania.

Matthew Pitt's story collection, Attention Please Now, won the Autumn House Fiction Prize and was a finalist for the Writers League of Texas Book Award. His stories have appeared in Oxford American, Epoch, The Cincinnati Review, The Southern Review, and Best New American Voices, and have been cited in Best American Short Stories. Matt has taught at NYU, Hendrix College, Illinois College, and Penn State-Altoona, and currently at Texas Christian University.

Bill Riley is a lecturer at Penn State and a graduate of the MFA program in creative writing at Ohio State. Originally from rural Indiana, he is writing a book about the present-day Milan (IN) High School basketball team (the high school that inspired "Hoosiers" in 1954). He has work published or forthcoming in Indy Men's Magazine, Spry Literary Journal, and Prime Number.

Hasanthika Sirisena's work has appeared in Glimmer Train, Narrative Magazine, Kenyon Review, Epoch, StoryQuarterly, Best New American Voices, and other publications. She is the recipient of fellowships from The MacDowell Colony and Yaddo, and in 2008, she received a Rona Jaffe Writers' Award. She currently teaches creative writing at the City College of New York.

Alex Streiff teaches at Maryville University in St. Louis, Missouri and works as a line cook at a local restaurant. He is a graduate of the MFA program at The Ohio State University. He previously served as Editor of The Journal and as editorial assistant at The Missouri Review. His writing has recently appeared in Hobart, Pank, and Slipstream. He recently completed a novel titled Let Me Go, Missouri. In his spare time, Alex brews beer. 

Cam Terwilliger is currently a Fulbright Scholar at McGill University, working on a project titled Yet Wilderness Grew in My Heart, a historical novel set in New York and Quebec during the Seven Years War. His stories have appeared in many magazines, including The Mid-American Review, Post Road, The Literary Review, and Narrative, where he was selected as one of the magazine's "15 Under 30." A graduate of Emerson College's MFA, he teaches at Grub Street, Boston's independent creative writing center.

I'm also fortunate to have with me through the fall our associate editor, Carolina Ebeid, currently one of our two uber-talented Stadler Fellows at Bucknell. Carolina holds a degree from the Michener Center for Writers, in Austin, Texas, where she was poetry editor for the Bat City Review. Her poems have appeared in Kenyon Review, Poetry, Crazyhorse, Gulf Coast, Agni-online, West Branch, Forklift, Ohio, 32 Poems, Indiana Review, and other journals.

Beginning in January, our second Stadler Fellow, Justin Boening, will be joining the staff. Born in the Adirondacks, Justin is the author of Self-Portrait as Missing Person, selected by Dara Wier for the Poetry Society of America's National Chapbook Fellowship. His poems appear or are forthcoming in such venues as Boston Review, Colorado Review, Hotel Amerika, and The Journal. Justin also brings to this magazine his skill as an associate editor for Poetry Northwest.

If you're a writer, then, send work to West Branch not just with hope, but with the knowledge that this team of editors is waiting on the other side of the Online Submissions Manager, working to identify a sampling of our literary moment's best new stories and poems. As testament to this last claim, work first published in West Branch has been reprinted in the Best American series, Harper's magazine, and the Pushcart Prize Anthology. If you aren't yet a subscriber, I ask you to consider it.

—K. A. Hays