Meet the Editorial Board: Nicola Koh
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 Nicola Koh.
What genre and volume did you work on?
Fiction, Volume 19
Where are you in the MFA and what is your primary project?
Finishing in Dec 2017 and working on a short story collection with Sheila O’Connor.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I went to Calvin College in Grand Rapids MI for my BA and took a ridiculous amount of credits, then went to the seminary across the pond (Calvin Theological Seminary—literarily across a pond), where I got two Masters degrees despite losing my faith.
Because I’m on a student visa, my job opportunities have been limited to part-time stints and internships, such as working as a grant writing intern with Tubman (Minnesota’s largest provider of services for victims of domestic violence), a Supplemental Instructor at Normandale Community College, an editorial intern at Graywolf Press, the associate poetry editor for Vol. 3 of Runestone Literary Journal, and one of the instructors for the Introduction to Creative Writing course this Spring here at Hamline.
What drew you to be a student editor with Water~Stone Review?
I’ve been interested in editing for a while now. Both because I enjoy helping others realize their visions and also because I find editing makes me a better writer. Water~Stone offered something for both those sides of me, editor and writer.
What did you learn while on the editorial board that surprised you?
My biggest takeaways were:
- (Outside of screening) pieces that caught fire with a few board members seemed to have a better shot than maybe pieces that pleased everyone on a simpler level.
- The student boards gives so much time to the submissions. Because it’s a learning experience, I think we’re allowed more time to really think about the pieces than at bigger journals.
- Shorter wins out—– even when the guidelines allow for really long work, it just gets exhausting to go through a 8000 worder and the shorter piece can feel a lot less daunting. Like it or not, that can impact a first read.
Do you think that your aesthetic was well represented in the issue of Water~Stone Review that you worked on? Why?
Yes. Sheila worked hard to make sure everybody’s voices were at least somewhat represented.
How do you think literary journals affect the writing world?
It’s difficult to say. It used to be that literary journals were the teeth cutting place for new writers and even established writers wanting to try wacky things, or a different genre. But as more and more established writers have to shop stories around to get new book deals, some tiers of the literary journal have become almost impossible for new writers to break into. [I think] the general infiltration from all these big writers seems to be leading to an unfortunate conservatism.
What other literary journals do you admire?
Ruminate Magazine is a journal I worked on back in undergrad and have read for a few times and I like the work they produce and how they manage themselves. I also like Brevity, Black Warrior Review, Apogee, and Prairie Schooner.
What are you reading right now?
“The Sympathizer” by Viet Thanh Nguyen.
How do you think that being a student editor for Water~Stone Review helped you in your writing/editing journey?
It made me a lot more apathetic toward rejection and also helped me see ways of improving my own writing.
Are you doing something literary that you would like to share?
Apart from thesis, I’m working on a fictional self-portrait where I am a glitch in a computer program.
Who is your least favorite historical figure?
Pseudo Paul (author of Ephesian, Colossians, 1 & 2 Timothy in the Christian Bible). Oh, and Ronald Reagan. Screw him.
Nicola Koh is a trans-androgynous, Malaysian Eurasian, depressed writer and Tetris demi-god. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in Southwest Review, Word Riot, Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal, Sweet: A Literary Confection, and A-Minor Magazine. When not studying (MFA ’17), writing, reading ,Tetrising, or procrastinating, they cuddle with their animals (Anya the dog and Magic the cat) and go to various art things. More about Nicola can be found at nicolakoh.com.