By Gabe Brison-Trezise
This year is The Kenyon Review (KR)’s 75th anniversary. And while the literary magazine remains as renowned as it was in John Crowe Ransom’s heyday, it is also, according to David Lynn ’76, current editor and Kenyon English professor, “in great financial shape for the first time in its history.”
The publication’s funding, Lynn said, comes from subscriptions, grants, gifts and, increasingly through the summer programs it holds. “We get no direct subsidy from the College anymore,” Lynn said. “The College supports us indirectly, like with office space and telephones.”
KR‘s financial independence from Kenyon sets it apart from many of its peers. The Missouri Review, for example, receives about 60 percent of its operating budget from the University of Missouri, according to its managing editor, Michael Nye. Meanwhile, The New England Review and The Southern Review, supported by Middlebury College and Louisiana State University, respectively, have been threatened by institutional budget cuts in recent years.
“Like so many print publications, it’s hard to make money, even sustain a literary journal, without other programs to raise money for it. So that’s a lot of what I do,” KR‘s Programs Director Anna Duke Reach said.
The summer programs KR holds are intensive. At the Young Writers Workshop , students spend their time “writing and creating work on campus at Kenyon for two weeks straight all day and a lot of the night,” Duke Reach said. The workshops are also expensive ﾗ the sticker price for YWW is $2,275. The high cost, tempered somewhat by scholarships, has yet to halt the rapid growth of the program. YWW now annually attracts over 90 students to each of its two sessions, a far cry from the dozen students who attended its inaugural session 24 years ago.
“We don’t spend money on advertising,” Duke Reach said. “I think our best advertisers are students who have attended and tell their friends who also like to write.”
The expansion of YWW has also been a boon for the College’s Office of Admissions. A high of 28 former YWW participants enrolled in the College in both 2010 and 2011, up from only eight in 2006. Twenty-one members of the Class of 2017 attended the workshop.
“It’s remarkable, really, to enroll that many students from one summer program,” Jennifer Delahunty, dean of admissions and financial aid, wrote in an email. “In our recruiting, we always tout The Kenyon Review and the opportunities for students to be members of the KR Associates Program,” Delahunty said, referring to KR‘s 50 part-time student workers, who review submissions, among other assignments. “It is one of our ﾑsecret weapons’ in recruiting,” she added.
Lynn emphasized that he’s “not trying to make money by publishing The Kenyon Review,” adding, “My mission is to have it read by as many people around the world as I can, to have them share in the literature we produce. ﾅ The money enables; it’s not the end in itself.”
Another mission Lynn stressed is to “publish the very best, most distinguished contemporary authors alongside new, but exciting, unpublished voices.”
Cliff Garstang falls somewhere between those two poles. A lawyer-turned-writer, he created the first of his annual Pushcart Prize Rankings of Literary Magazines six years ago. “I began doing this in order to prioritize my own fiction submissions,” Garstang wrote in an email.
This year, he ranked KR ninth in fiction, 17th in nonfiction and third in poetry ﾗ an all-time high in each category.
“My rankings are as nearly objective as I can make them. They are based entirely on the number of Pushcart Prizes and Special Mentions won over a 10-year rolling period,” Garstang said, referring to the annual literary prize awarded to the “best of the small presses.”
The journal Ploughshares finished first in the fiction rankings last year and fourth in the poetry rankings ﾗ one spot below KR. “Ploughshares and KR are peers: the literary publishing environment is not a zero sum game,” Ploughshares Managing Editor Andrea Martucci said in an email.
Nye, from The Missouri Review, offered the same supportive sentiment, saying, “We’re always delighted to get the latest issue of The Kenyon Review in our office.”
Brenda Keen, business manager at The Georgia Review, wrote in an email that KR has an “excellent reputation, not only within our organization, but within the wider literary community as well.”
KR‘s print run per issue is about 15,000, Lynn said, which he called “fairly high in the world of literature.” Ploughshares‘ print run, by contrast, is 9,000, The Missouri Review‘s is 5,000, and The Georgia Review‘s is 3,000. Lynn also cautioned, however, that the number of people who read the publication “is kind of a guess.”
“You have your print run ﾗ how many copies do you actually print ﾗ and then you try to estimate how many actual people read each issue if you send it to a family or a library,” he said.
On its website, which received 186,000 unique visitors last year, KR runs an electronic journal. Lynn said he aims to publish material online that is “timely; that is, it’s stuff that is appropriate right here, right today, and it may be a little more experimental.” Recent KR Online content includes a first-person essay on the 2012 Libyan elections, as well as a piece Associate Professor of Sociology and Asian Studies Anna Sun penned about the Chinese author Mo Yan after he won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature.
“She really took him apart,” Lynn said. “And it got a huge response around the world and in China.”
To read and consider the thousands of submissions KR receives each year ﾗ 7,000 in 2012 ﾗ the magazine relies heavily on its student associates, whom Duke Reach deemed KR‘s “real secret to success.”
Last year, KR switched to the online submission platform Submittable, which Lynn said has made reading submissions easier for the associates and editors alike.
When Lynn assumed the editorship of KR in 1994, no students worked for the organization. “It was the editor, a managing editor and a part-time secretary, and that was it,” Lynn said. When Duke Reach joined eight years ago, she said, KR had only half a dozen associates; last year, it had 75, before returning this year to a more manageable 50 or so.
“We found that that many [associates] made it difficult to get to know them as well because there were just so many. We could hardly fit them in the Cheever Room for their seminars,” said KR‘s Operations Manager Marlene Landefeld, whose red-walled office overlooks the Finn House lawn and is where associates record their hours of work.
The reason for the program’s popularity? “We love it; they love it; it works well for us,” Landefeld said.
Comments for this article have closed. If you'd like to send a letter to the editor for publication, please email us at email@example.com.