By Meaghan Menzel
Founded in 2014, the first issue of the Rose O’Neill Literary House Press’s “Cherry Tree: A National Literary Journal @ Washington College” will make its debut Feb. 15. According to its website, the “Cherry Tree” is “an annual literary magazine featuring poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction by emerging and established writers from across the United States.”
“‘Cherry Tree’ was two years in the making, although the idea for launching a national literary journal at WC has existed much longer than that,” said Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House and Founder and Editor of the “Cherry Tree” Dr. Jehanne Dubrow. “Washington College has a strong reputation as a ‘writing school.’ Establishing a literary journal which would publish writers of national reputation is a way of adding to that reputation while also providing students with new opportunities to get hands-on training in editing and publishing.”
The magazine’s name and front cover design honors George Washington who, according to the “Cherry Tree” website, “gifted the College at Chestertown 50 guineas, consented to serve on its Board, and gave the educational institution permission to use his name.” It reminds readers of the incident in which George Washington cut down the cherry tree but could not lie about it.
What this literary magazine is looking for are “pieces that seem wise, that are unafraid to confront topics that matter, and that speak with urgency, that beg for an ear to listen. We want vividly-drawn characters who challenge and enlarge our sympathy,” according to the website.
The process of putting the “Cherry Tree” together was “both exhausting and exhilarating,” according to Assistant Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House and Managing Editor of the “Cherry Tree” Lindsay Lusby. “It was a tremendous amount of work organizing all of these moving parts, but it was very fulfilling work.” The literary magazine received a total of 544 submissions according to its website, and a total of 33 pieces were accepted. “It was a highly competitive submission period,” Lusby said.
In order to spread the word about the “Cherry Tree,” Dr. Dubrow said, they mostly “used social media and word-of-mouth,” but they also “sent calls for submissions to various list-serves and online resources that writers read.”
“Creating the inaugural issue of ‘Cherry Tree’ required significant collaborative efforts over many months. Our editorial staff worked in close cooperation with a large group of student screeners to read all the submissions, rank them, and select pieces that would work together to tell an interesting story about contemporary American literature,” Dr. Dubrow said.
Some of the “Cherry Tree” staff included Associate Professor Dr. James Allen Hall as the poetry and creative nonfiction editor, Administrative Assistant of the Rose O’Neill Literary House Owen Bailey as the senior fiction reader, Dr. Kate Kostelnik who now teaches at the University of Virginia for the fiction editor, student screeners from Dr. Dubrow’s Literary Editing and Publishing Class, and 2014 Production Intern senior Julia Armstrong.
Armstrong said, “For most of this past summer, I designed the layout of the issue. With Lindsay Lusby’s and Professor Dubrow’s direction and final say, I chose things such as the font types, the spacing of the lines, where the page number went, etc. I also input all the work Lindsay and Professor Dubrow were continuously receiving from the writers themselves. Once the template was created, I would place the pieces in it and format them individually.”
“I got so much out of the internship and the whole experience,” Armstrong said. “Because I want to go into publishing after I graduate, learning InDesign, the desktop publishing software, was the best thing that could have ever happened… Also, I learned a great deal about marketing for literary endeavors such as this one.”
According to Lusby, they have already begun preperations for their next issue and will start accepting submissions from writers around the US in August. “There is still a bit of work to be done before we are ready for round two,” she said. In the meantime, anyone interested in purchasing a subsciption can contact Bailey.
“We hope that “Cherry Tree” will accomplish a number of goals: help to raise the profile of WC in the literary community, offer students coursework and on-the-job training in editing and publishing, and bring together a diverse range of literary voices in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction,” Dr. Dubrow said.