One of the most extraordinary aspects of this job is the way in which each individual issue is so very many months in the making. Six months, to be specific. And there I am, with my spreadsheet of delicately balanced and honed deadlines. Chasing. Saying grace. Waiting to exhale. It’s no romance, but, you know, it really is a love story – mapped by Excel. And I know every dramatic cell by rote.
The downside of editing and producing a literary quarterly in an age of immediacy, where life is tweeted and you’ll be lucky for a single to land more than two weeks at the top of the charts, is that so much currency - or 'sense' of such – is inevitably lost. I’ve been approached with proposals for topical reviews or articles on countless occasions and have had to explain that currency for this moment won’t equate to currency for the magazine months down the line, when copy will actually appear. You have to opt for style over fashion. Ah well, I'll share a secret: I've always been a fan of that approach anyhow.
Of course, a little calculation reveals that if each issue is six months in the making and four appear in a year, issues are conceived, commissioned, edited and set in an eternal overlap.
Or should that be infernal?
When I first became editor of New Welsh Review, I was frustrated by the sheer lack of space. Head space. Breathing space. Space, space. There is no editorial, commissioning or production support. Editing copy for one issue, while punting out ideas for the next at the same time, can leave one with a haunted (hunted?) look. And all the time, the clock: ticking, ticking. But, as is often the case, perversely, the things that start out as the bane become the beauty. In a sense, it is as if the magazine, while lacking some 'currency' by the limitations of the form, has its own little eternity. Nothing stops. And where, now, did this magazine actually begin? 1988, by our records, but it's hard to believe it was that short a time ago. And while its eternity simply is, each issue is self-contained. In some strange sense, this routine and each issue's sense of belonging to itself, liberates the editor from a sense of ownership – which is the worst thing that can happen to any literary magazine. Guardianship is what it is all about.
Our winter issue is out – and no sooner out than the next is well into production. Of course, the next issue, published in the spring, is a little different for me this time. It will be my last. And so, while the magazine itself doesn’t stop, this is where, for most people, I suppose I step off, at least in theory.
Despite the unexpected sadness putting this last issue into place (a sadness which should have been perhaps entirely expected), I am looking forward to my remaining months in post until this spring and am still certain that the time is right for me to move on to my own projects and my own creative life, a decision I made early this year. Would that we could be so many people and serve so many purposes all at the same time.
This has been a wonderful year for New Welsh Review – and for me on a personal level. We’ve come through, despite a crippling recession. We’ve continued to publish the very best names around. We’ve participated in some great events. We’ve had enormous fun, for all the hard work. It's been fulfilling, joyful – and the sun shone at Hay.
I want to thank all our engaged readers and our gifted writers. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. More in January.