"Our Taste Tends Toward the Well-Made Story." Lit Mag Reading Club Chat with the Editors of Missouri Review
Kylan Rice, Speer Morgan, Marc McKee and Kris Somerville take us behind the scenes
Greetings! I come with news of another editor interview, freshly wrapped.
Today I had the pleasure of speaking with four editors—Kylan Rice, Speer Morgan, Marc McKee and Kris Somerville—of The Missouri Review.
The Missouri Review, founded in 1978, is one of the most highly regarded literary magazines in the United States. For the past four decades we’ve upheld a reputation for finding and publishing the very best writers first. We are based at the University of Missouri and publish four issues each year. Each issue contains approximately five new stories, three new poetry features, and two essays, all selected from unsolicited submissions sent by writers throughout the world.
Today’s discussion was part of our Lit Mag Reading Club. Speer Morgan, who has been with the magazine from its inception, took us through the journal’s founding and history. Early on, in deciding to start the lit mag, Speer said he called around to other editors such as those at Southern Review and Virginia Quarterly Review seeking advice.
Nearly five decades later and The Missouri Review is one of the most highly esteemed magazines running. This issue was themed around “The Curious Past.” The editors said that they do not come up with themes at the outset. Rather, themes arise organically from the work that is submitted. All the editors appeared to take great pleasure in finding these patterns among the work and organizing the material accordingly.
While this issue boasts some well-known names (Richard Bausch, Peter LaSalle), the editors stated that they do not solicit work. Every issue is made up of work that comes through regular submissions. In fact, these editors take particular pleasure in discovering new writers. “We’re all in the slush pile,” Kris said. Kylan echoed the sentiment by saying, “We value discovery.”
I really enjoyed this magazine, as did the other readers in the Reading Club. (We met earlier this week to discuss the issue). A story that was a particular favorite among most of us was Joanna Pearson’s “Fetch.” In today’s conversation, Speer asked me what I liked about the story. The question took me aback—Is an editor really asking me for my opinion?
I think this dialogue speaks to the ethos of the journal, where there is an overall feel of kindness, warmth and accessibility. All the work here feels down-to-earth, and while some of the subject matter is heavy at times (addiction, death of a family member, mental illness, aging and alienation), the tone of the magazine is one of straight-forwardness and a genuine interest in capturing the reader’s attention.
As for what they look for in submissions, Marc said he loves the element of surprise in poems. Speer said he appreciates a sense of mood in stories. Kris would love to see more humor in the nonfiction submissions. All the editors said they value “thematic depth.”
What else do they want to see in submissions? What themes do they see a lot of? How does the editorial process work? When will they ask to see revisions on a piece? And what keeps them going as editors in this stressful and demanding world? For all that and more, dear friends, you will have to watch the video!
This one is for members of the Lit Mag Reading Club only. Anyone can become a member anytime by signing up for a paid subscription to Lit Mag News.
Submissions to Missouri Review are open year-round. They also run three annual contests.
To everyone who came out to participate in today’s conversation, thank you for tuning in! Your faces are the sparkly lights winding all around my brittle winter branches!
And, of course, thank you to Kylan, Speer, Marc and Kris for taking the time to peel back the curtain of another vital little magazine.