An Interview with Outgoing Assistant Managing Editor, Danielle Bylund
For twenty years, Water~Stone Review has been a collaborative passion project of students, faculty, and staff. While it is a staff member who holds the position of managing editor (Meghan Maloney-Vinz), and esteemed faculty (Katrina Vandenberg, Patricia Weaver Francisco, and Sheila O’Connor) who serve each issue as section editors, it is our current MFA (creative writing) students who work as invaluable editorial board members and graduate assistants. Led by the faculty editors in a semester-long course, our editorial board members learn the art of careful consideration and in doing so curate the beautiful writing in our journal each year.
In this series of blog posts we introduce you to some of our incredible and accomplished student editors. In this post we meet Danielle Bylund.
What genre and volume did you work on?
I was a CNF student editor and the assistant managing editor for volume 19.
Where are you in the MFA and what is your primary project?
I am in the middle of thesis! My thesis is a novel of literary fiction. Sheila O’Connor told me once that while she’s in the middle of working on a project that she usual says, “It’s about a family,” so my novel is about a family but not the same family as Shiela’s.
Tell us a little about yourself (job, publication, history outside of Hamline, etc.).
Previously, I have been an editor for Water~Stone Review, Runestone Literary Journal, and Columbia East Asia Review. I’ve taught at the Hamline Young Writers Workshop and was an after school tutor for the Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute. Currently I am the CNF editor for rock, paper, scissors and I am employed by Wise Ink Creative Publishing as the Author Engagement Director. I’m a veteran of the United States Coast Guard and I hold a BA in English from Columbia University. I am also an old person so I could go on and on and on, but I think those are the hits.
What drew you to be a student editor with Water~Stone Review?
Water~Stone Review is one of those journals that is just aesthetically impressive. When I came to my first Hamline MFA informational event and they put it in my hand it was really exciting to see this journal that was so beautiful and well-curated. I really wanted to be a part of making WSR as soon as I read it. Finding out that the selection process for pieces was in-depth and guided by such prestigious faculty was really exciting to me as a student.
What did you learn while on the editorial board that surprised you?
That typos matter and tone matters. I was also an advanced reader for the submissions for volume 20 so I was able to read many of the submissions that didn’t make it through to the board and what struck me most was the lack of care that some submitters used when submitting to the journal. On the flip side of that I was also blown away by the quality of writing that we receive and how hard it is to whittle down pieces to make a cohesive journal.
Do you think that your aesthetic was well represented in the issue of Water~Stone Review that you worked on? Why?
Yes, absolutely. I was thrilled by the CNF choices. I loved that the CNF board cared about showing a range of structure and form. We were also really excited to amplify the voices of emerging authors. Also, the fiction was so well chosen and worldly. I couldn’t stop talking about The Rabbits and The Americans for a while (maybe I had a little fiction envy). I was also incredibly excited by the emphasis on Hmong poets in this volume. Katrina curated some amazing work there.
How do you think literary journals affect the writing world?
This is a question I have been thinking a lot about lately, particularly in our political climate. The role of the literary journal has historically been to showcase the new and the radical. The contemporary conversations around literary journals that I have been following are about representation. How do we get editorial boards to look like the rest of the world and bring back the new and the radical? Because art-making is viewed as a luxury and not a necessity many people who work for literary journals are in an enviable economic position to be able to work for nothing or next to nothing for long periods of time. When you have that kind of paradigm there is a flattening of narratives, a homogenization. What I see as promising is the explosion of journals that are cropping up to combat that lack of representation on editorial boards. I am also seeing long-running journals take the issue of representation really, really seriously so there are some hard conversations happening about the best way to publish work that matters and is aesthetically important. Ultimately, these changes ripple outward into the larger world of writing so I think of literary journals as generators of change and canaries in the coal mine. If you follow and read lit journals today you’ll see what big publishers and famous writers will be talking about next year.
What other literary journals do you admire?
What are you reading right now?
I’m reading What Ever Happened to Interracial Love by Kathleen Collins, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. I have also just begun Dr. Sleep by Stephen King so that fellow Water~Stoner Lily Crooks and I can start our podcast about really popular books that are not very good – stay tuned.
How do you think that being a student editor for Water~Stone Review helped you in your writing/editing journey?
In terms of skills acquisition, I’ve sharpened my editing skills and definitely developed a more diplomatic communication style through my interactions with my fellow editors. I submit more and don’t take rejection so personally. I am definitely far more invested in small journals and the communities that they create.
Are you doing something literary that you would like to share?
Nope! Thesis and work and planning a wedding is about all I can handle right now.
Who is your least favorite historical figure?
I could say some despot who changed world history but I think, really, it’s Jack Kerouac. He gave a generation of middle-class white dudes an excuse to exalt jazz as noble savagery, borrow money from beleaguered aunts, and generally be insufferable. I really, really dislike Jack Kerouac.
Former Assistant Editor in Creative Nonfiction
Danielle Bylund is a writer, editor, and graphic designer living in Saint Paul, MN. She is the Associate Editor for Runestone Literary Journal and the assistant managing editor for Water~Stone Review.