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Q & A with Pembroke Magazine editor Jessica Pitchford

July 31, 2014

Pembroke MagazineThe newest edition of Pembroke Magazine, UNC Pembroke’s enduring literary magazine, was published early this summer. Number 46 is Dr. Jessica Pitchford’s second as editor, and she is excited about it.          

Pembroke Magazine No. 46 is 167 pages with 26 poems, 11 non-fiction pieces, two interviews and one work of creative non-fiction. Pitchford interviewed Lumberton native Jill McCorkle, when she visited Pembroke in early 2013, just as the author’s newest book, “Life After Life,” was published.

Since 1969, Pembroke Magazine has published work from great writers, like McCorkle, Robert Morgan, Clyde Edgerton, Tim McLaurin, Lee Smith and many more. It pioneered special editions of Latino and American Indian writers.

Pitchford is only the fourth editor in PM’s distinguished history. Her appreciation and enthusiasm for literary journals as an important cog in the writing and publishing industry is evident in the high quality of the latest edition.

Jessica PitchfordPitchford, who teaches creative writing in UNCP’s Department of English, Theatre and Foreign Languages, is spending part of her summer teaching for the Arkansas Governor’s School.

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Question: Tell us about Number 46?

Answer: I was definitely pleased with this edition. It was a rewarding one to put together — with 25 more pages (and no ads) compared to No. 45. I really had a hard time winnowing down the submissions. It was nice, too, that I had a full year to put this one together, whereas my first issue had to be ready for the printers in just a few months. Tell It Slant, the online system I am now exclusively using to collect submissions, has helped attract more serious writers. It sure makes it easier on me as the lone reader. But it is harder in a way, because I have to be more selective, given a bevy of strong contenders.

Q: Two things stand out in this edition: 1) your interview with Jill McCorkle, and 2) the publication of Christopher Lowe’s book, “When You’re Down by the River,” came shortly after an excerpt appeared in the magazine under the same name. Are there other works that you really liked?

A: I think the issue as a whole is just really solid. I can’t wait for the NewPages review. They called last year's edition “a devastating collection of modern literature,” so I'm crossing my fingers for an equally big endorsement of this one. I also predict more authors will go on to publish books that include pieces originally published in this edition, which brings me great joy. In fact, John Vanderslice ("On Cherry Street") recently contacted me to let me know that his collection, including "On Cherry Street" is forthcoming from Lavender, Inc. in the fall. Poet Glenna Luschei also has a new book coming out in the fall, including her No. 46 poem, “My Father and Ava Gardner.” And getting to interview Jill McCorkle? I was in literary heaven. She’s just such a gracious person, which I suspected must be true from the way she treats her fictional characters, but it’s always nice when that turns out to be the case. What a fun conversation!

Q. Scanning the author’s bios, it would seem that PM is remaining true to its Southern roots. Is that a fair observation?

A. I have tried to stay true to those roots, largely because contemporary Southern literature is of particular interest to me. I minored in Southern literature at FSU (Florida State). I consider myself a writer working in the genre, and many of my all-time favorite authors fit that regional label. That said, I make a concerted effort to include writers from all over, with varying styles and perspectives. I like to think it's international in scope, regional in focus.

Q. Do the cover photos of South of the Border have something to do with a Jill McCorkle short story?

A. Yes, the cover photos are an homage to Jill McCorkle’s story “Hominids” — one of my favorites which I asked her about in the interview; the story has a very funny reference to some I-95 roadside landmarks, including South of the Border. As a now-frequent visitor of SOB myself, it seemed the perfect opportunity to present the place as art. It’s gotten people talking. 

Q. You have made several strategic moves to increase interest in PM – a Facebook page, color cover, web page, conference travel. Is it paying off? Any other ideas in the works?

A. I hope it’s paying off. I certainly see it in the amount of traffic that’s come PM’s way, and in the quality of submissions from very fine writers, both emerging and established. I'm encouraged by the number of publications that have gone on to subsequent printings, from both issues -- from #45, see Katie Burgess’s “Rahab's Thread” in the anthology, “Southern Sin: True Stories of the Sultry South and Women Behaving Badly,” edited by Lee Gutkind and Beth Ann Fennelly, and Genaro Ky Ly Smith’s soon-to-be-released poetry collection,  “The Land Baron’s Sun: The Story of Ly Loc and his Seven Wives.” I feel like that’s a pretty good success rate for writers I’ve had the opportunity to publish, and I think others are beginning to take note. As for future ideas, I’d like to feature more craft talks, Q&As and original content on the website. I’ve got several guest bloggers lined up, which I’m excited about. Otherwise, I'll keep on keeping on. It's nice to be able to settle into a rhythm. 

Q. What can we look forward to content-wise in no. 47?

A. I’m well into making selections for #47, and I'm happy about the direction it’s headed. Some provocative poetry, several really memorable pieces of flash fiction in addition to more typical-length stories and a couple of startling pieces of nonfiction. I’m especially happy about that — though it’s a popular genre to be writing in these days, it’s still the category I get the least submissions for. I want more!

Q. With your busy schedule of teaching and editing are you finding time to write? 

A. The short answer is no. But that’s the plight of every working writer, so I can’t complain. I eke out personal writing time where I can, lately in short spurts. I’ve got a couple of flash fiction works recently accepted for publication, and I’m still actively sending out my first novel to literary agencies. I really need to get with the program and write the second one.

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To order a copy of Pembroke Magazine Number 46 or a past edition, please email pembrokemagazine@gmail.com. To learn more about the literary journal, go to www.pembrokemagazine.com/.