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An Interview with Wild River Review's Founders, Executive Editor Kim Nagy and Editor-in-Chief, Joy Stocke
Media Contact: Kim Nagy
Joy E. Stocke & Kim Nagy
WRR: How have you been involved with other publications before Wild River Review and how have these experiences affected the way you run this publication?
Kim Nagy: I’ve been in publishing for over fifteen years, book publishing primarily where I worked with authors to market and publicize their work. At Wild River Review, I am able to use my background in marketing and publicity, but my role developed into an editorial one, commissioning articles and connecting ideas that feed into our overall coverage, which is international, newsworthy, and literary.
I would say Joy and I share a literary approach to the world. The idea that a good story, interview, article, and so many fine books speak to all kinds of people and connect readers to a larger picture of the world we live in, one that defies provincial and dangerously insular thinking.
Joy Stocke: I agree. During the final semester of my senior year as a journalism major at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, I took a class called, The Literary Aspects of Journalism. I remember reading excerpts of Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, which was her account of the Balkans and provided a context for the rise of Nazism. And I thought, that in addition to hard news, this is the kind of story I wanted to write and to read.
Many years later, I was in the city of Van in Turkey near Mount Ararat and the Persian Border. I stayed in a hotel run by a Kurdish family who had been relocated during the Iraq/Iran war. The young man who hosted us still had relatives on the Iranian side of the border and was very clear that he longed for a Kurdish state. This is a man who had Love in the Time of Cholera on his bookshelf next to Albert Camus and Jean Paul Sartre. His openness and longing to share his view gave me a new perspective on that part of the world and I’ve been writing about it ever since.
WRR: What does the title of the magazine - Wild River Review - mean to you?
Nagy: I love the metaphor of the river because rivers connect land to water. And, of course, rivers fill bodies of water much larger than themselves—oceans. But when I say connect, I also mean it in the way that E.M Forester used the phrase, “only connect," in his novel, Howards End. To me, he implies not only an understanding of someone else’s life or a physical experience beyond ours, but connections between ideas themselves.
I like the word “wild" in our title, too, because rarely do rivers end up exactly the way you expect them to. Of course, water is really the most important life source and after you read a great story or article, don’t you feel refreshed?
Stocke: One of the things about rivers is that their course is affected by the landscape, by rock and gravity, which is why a river meanders. Often, when you’re writing a story, you think you’re going in one direction and the next thing you know you’ve taken a little bit of a turn. At that moment, you must decide whether to follow that path, which requires remaining open to ideas and trusting your instincts.
WRR: How do you go about finding articles to publish? Are they just from current news?
Nagy: We plan our content, but always allow for an element of freshness. Some stories come to us, such as the story of the Philadelphia lawyer, Susan Burke, who gathered testimony from the victims at Abu Ghraib. But, I think we are all connected to huge stories, and it’s the writer’s job to open our eyes and work hard to make sense of those stories.
The Human Face of War is an example of a story we jumped on as soon as we received the press release. We wanted to look directly into the faces of Iraqi soldiers. But in terms of the types of stories we cover, we have a structure in place that allows us to stay open to new stories, which is one of the beauties of publishing online.
Stocke: Another example is a piece we published on the death of philanthropist, Sir John Templeton. We’re very interested in the intersection between science and religion. On the day Templeton died, consulting editor, Joe Glantz e-mailed me and suggested we contact another of our contributors, John Timpane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who was one of the first Templeton Journalism Fellows at Cambridge University. We asked Timpane to write an entry on our blogsite – WRR@Large. As soon as he sent his piece, we realized it was something that should be on our front page because it directly addressed one of the great debates in the world right now about where science and religion intersect.
WRR: What made you decide to obtain 501c3 status?
Stocke: We care deeply about social issues and wanted to make the site financially viable while finding the best way to honor the content. Nonprofit status means we can accept donations from individuals and work with organizations like the J. William and Harriet Fulbright Center, who share our viewpoint and vision. The Fulbright Center promotes education as a peace-building tool. In this way we partner with other not for profits in a cooperative approach where we all gain strength in readership, participation, and funding.
Nagy: We also felt we might serve a larger story at a time when the field of journalism is redefining itself. Joy and I watch the world everyday as professional writers and avid news readers.
WRR: You mentioned that you take submissions and publish stories on global current events. How does that enable new writers to publish their own work?
Nagy: As commissioning editor, I want to be very selective. So, when I say we want to create a venue for writers it’s decidedly not an open forum. There is a way of capturing events, of telling stories, and making them speak to people as human beings. And we’re interested in that perspective.
I want to see writing that is alive, writing that tackles timeless ideas with a fresh voice.
For writers who feel pigeonholed into only one kind of writing, we provide some liberation. We also wanted to create that point of connection because we believe that especially online, where you can reach relevant audiences all over the world, the web can be a place to change consciousness for the better.
There is so much content on the web and we’ve made it our mission to do what a lot of sites aren’t doing, and that is developmental editing, not just checking to see that every t is crossed, but pushing ideas through until they are clear and cohesive. We sometimes work with writers on two, three, or more drafts, so that we can get to the heart of a story.
WRR: If you could think of a statement about what sets Wild River Review apart from everything that we’ve seen on the web, what would it be?
Stocke: When you read a piece in Wild River Review, we hope you will walk away with something to think about for the rest of the day. You might want to have a conversation with a colleague or friend about a piece; you might want to respond with a comment or your own opinion. But more important, the ideas within a piece may provide the catalyst for you to make a change or to act on your own beliefs.
Nagy: Also, we want to cover issues that might not be getting a whole lot of play.
Stocke: We’ve been running a regular column since early 2006, called Hong Kong Diary about manufacturing in China and how that has affected the global economy. The author takes you behind the scenes, onto the factory floor, into the marketplace, and shows how that marketplace is rapidly changing, sometimes for the good, but not always. We’ve seen this perspective in various publications, but we have the viewpoint from an insider who’s been traveling to China for more than twenty years.
WRR: What is that Wild River spin?
Nagy: We aim to cover current events, conduct interviews, and publish essays in the same way that good literature helps us embrace that which doesn’t fit neatly into one category. We feel that our publication complements many of the traditional news sources that we read daily.
Stocke: Another subject we cover is the Islamic world. We have a columnist who is Hindu and writing from Dubai, Saudi Arabia. One of our columnists, Katherine Schimmel Baki, is recreating the last series of lectures given by her Aunt, Annemarie Schimmel, at Harvard University. Dr. Schimmel was one of the world’s foremost experts on Islam, and her translations of the poet, Jallaludin Rumi, have had worldwide influence.
We would rather seek funding that allows a writer like Katherine to present material that has never been published anywhere before in her own voice and style.
Nagy: That speaks to the 501c3 and some other questions as well. We want to create a venue for someone to develop their authentic voice because we never want to allow easy answers - and we hold ourselves to the same standard.
You don’t have to fit into our viewpoint, but we are interested in a wider conversation and in people who ask difficult questions and go to uncomfortable places. For me, I think that’s how we make progress, that’s how we move forward.
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