The opportunities and challenges facing Pacific’s literary magazine
Annually, the Silk Road Review has received dozens of submissions from authors around the world in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. The editorial team, which includes students in the Literary Magazine Production class listed as ENGW 466, sorts through these submissions throughout the school year. By the end of this process, a curated issue is produced, including works from both Pacific alumni and those who haven’t the faintest affiliation with the university. The upcoming issue is the 25th edition.
“Our primary mission is to publish marginalized and ‘unheard’ voices,” explained Dr. Keya Mitra, editor-in-chief for the Silk Road and the Director of Creative Writing here at Pacific.
While Silk Road is open to publishing a wide range of voices, Mitra mentions that work from authors with immigrant and migrant backgrounds and those in the LGBTQIA+ community are spotlighted in the magazine.
“While we seek historically marginalized and ‘unheard’ voices, we are drawn to all work that explores both human differences and togetherness, the richness of individual cultures, the myriad of ways of being human in this world, and the importance of empathy, inclusion, and humanization,” said Mitra.
Issues for the Silk Road don’t begin with a theme, but one emerges. This year, Mitra said, Silk Road Review has gotten “work that explores intergenerational trauma, connections, and joy, the families we are born into and chosen families, and reclamation of individual and collective identities,” which connects with the publication’s mission of diversity. Additionally, this year’s issue will feature an unusual amount of poetry.
“We got numerous poems submitted and a lot demonstrated masterclass writing,” said Dalton Sikes, one of the managing editors for the Silk Road and a senior who is majoring in creative writing and literature.
“In general, we do try to balance out pieces within each genre, but poetry always tends to be the most prominently featured due to its shorter length and the quality of those particular submissions,” said Sikes. “[In future years], we may just have to accept some poems for the issue after the current one we’re working on due to the quantity of currently accepted poems.”
To submit a piece, authors go through an online system called “Submittable,” which allows the Silk Road team to easily look through submissions. It also provides Silk Road a way to connect with more authors.
“Submittable is the professional standard for literary magazines to collect submissions and to accept or decline them,” said Sikes. “We pop up on the listing of magazines accepting work when writers scroll through the discovery feed [of the website].”
Sikes also mentions other ways the Silk Road has connected with authors.
“Students in the [literary magazine production] class are tasked with writing social media posts and sharing the word about Silk Road to help boost the number of submissions we receive,” he said. “Additionally, our team attended [this year’s] AWP Annual Conference, The Association of Writers and Writing Programs, to do some important networking.”
This led to invaluable opportunities for the publication as getting to attend a conference in any year is rare for them. “We sold issues of Silk Road, spoke with writers we published, solicited writers to send their work to us, attended craft talks, and spoke with other magazines to see how their approaches differed from our own,” he said.
The publication does not come without its challenges. Besides the usual difficulty of having to sort through numerous submissions and creating the physical issue itself, the cost of this work is high, and money doesn’t come for free.
“We’ve faced some pretty significant budget cuts in recent years,” Sikes explained, citing challenges from the pandemic and financial issues left for the college by the previous president of the university. “To maintain the high aesthetic quality of the magazine while continuing to pay writers and artists fair rates, we need to have a secure budget and this has not been the case.”
This, unfortunately, results in less production quality and fewer opportunities for the publication to get itself out in the world.
“While we’ve been able to find some funding from unexpected sources [a partnership with the English Club and assistance from the Undergraduate Student Senate], I fear for the future of the magazine if our value to the writing and Pacific community continues to be underestimated,” Sikes continued.
Despite these challenges, Sikes has hope for the publication.
“[The] Silk Road Review is going really strong,” he said. “For the last two years, we’ve ranked among Clifford Garstang’s top literary markets for poetry. People published in our magazine have gone on to get pushcart prize nominations and win big awards. As the team continues to put their all into the magazine, I have no doubt that we’ll continue to pave a way in the publishing industry toward inclusivity, empathy, and profound progress.”
Mitra says the next issue will be released in the fall or winter of next year.
“We are tremendously lucky to receive a large number of submissions from authors all around the world,” she said. “We publish powerful, diverse voices and groundbreaking work, and we truly believe you will find our issue thought-provoking and inspiring.”
“Silk Road Review is a labor of love by both English department students and faculty,” Sikes said. “This magazine showcases some really talented writers’ pieces and it would be a shame if you missed out on some good reading.” — Aaron Meeuwsen