The Bad Project

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Chapter 12. The Literary Magazine Organizational Meeting/Marianne

As Marianne arrived at the literary magazine meeting room, a tall blonde woman in tight black jeans, a plain black T shirt, and a black beret got up and approached her. “Are you Marianne?” She nodded. “I’m Bella. My roommate Mandy told me to look out for you. Welcome. I know you’ll enjoy working on the Carson Circus.

Marianne said “Hi, yes I’m Marianne,” smiled, and sat down at the big table. She thought this group could be a social clique or could be serious about writing. She wasn’t going to make a commitment until she knew which it was.

A dark haired girl arrived on crutches and took the chair at the head of the table. Marianne remembered her from the poetry tea the week before; she had asked a couple of interesting questions there. Lindsay smiled and waved to several of the others. “Hello, I’m Lindsay Rand for those of you who haven’t met me yet. I’m the President, and Ward James here is the Vice President.” Lindsay pointed to Ward with a consciously graceful backhanded wave of her hand, making Marianne think she was affected, putting on a balletic gracefulness she didn’t really have. “He and I have talked about publication timing and the kinds of contributions we need. He’ll give you a handout with our sketch of the next issue.”

Ward, an emaciated dark-haired man with severe acne scars passed out single sheets of information and then sat down without saying a word. Marianne read with interest that the first issue was to come out in late November and its theme was relationships. There would be four essays or nonfiction pieces, four short stories, eight poems, and eight drawings or photographs, if Lindsay and Ward’s plan worked out as they had proposed it.

Lindsay said, “Bella, would you take charge of the short stories? I’d like to have you drum up contributions from good writers. You know we usually get a ton of bad poetry and a mixture of good and bad nonfiction, but hardly any fiction submitted.” Lindsay was very decisive, and she assigned people to be in charge of everything but the nonfiction. She then asked, “Is anyone interested in being the nonfiction editor?”

Marianne had decided that Lindsay was businesslike and had good ideas, and she was ready to step forward. She raised her hand, and so did a black man near the back of the room.

Lindsay saw both hands and said, ’Okay, would each of you say something about your

experience and what you’d like to do? Let’s start with you, Jim.” She gracefully pointed to the black man.

He stood up and looked around, catching the eye of as many people as he could. “I’m Jim Elgin and I write for the Carson Clarion, the student newspaper. Now, don’t groan, we do some good features from time to time. But that gives me contact with people all over the campus who like to write nonfiction. I’m willing to contribute too, but I think I’m a better editor than writer. Relationships—that’s a topic that may be challenging for nonfiction, but I’d like to try doing it.” He sat down.

Lindsay nodded at Marianne, who stood up too. “I’m Marianne Wu, a first year student full of energy and looking for places I can contribute. I was editor of the lit magazine at my high school and I enjoy reading writing from people our age. So much is written by the older people, but we have fresh approaches. I think “relationships” is a very promising topic and would look to show perspectives from one-on-one to nation-to-nation in the nonfiction selections.” She sat down.

Lindsay said, “Ward, what do you think? I believe they are both high quality candidates.”

Ward spoke up in an unexpected resonant baritone, “I believe they should be co-editors. I think they’d bring in different kinds of voices and we can use both kinds.” A babble of conversation broke out around the table, mostly in favor of this idea.

“I think that will work fine. But since neither Jim nor Marianne has been an editor before, I’d like to ask everyone to keep in mind what they need and help them to locate good writers if they need to invite contributions.

“I’d also like to say that the numbers of pieces we’ve planned fit in our budget and reflect what we usually accept. The returning editors know that we get fifty to one hundred pieces submitted per week by email, and each of us needs to send me a rating between excellent, five, and terrible, one for each one. Any that don’t average at least a three are thrown out in round one, then the others go to the editor or editors for that section.

But I’d love to be besieged with so many great submissions that I have to go and ask for more money to include more works. I think Carson has more potential good writers than we’ve been reaching. So let’s make this the best year ever for the Carson Circus. Thanks for coming.”

Bella and Lindsay started to talk about short stories, and Marianne sat still, thinking about what she’d do as editor. She thought she heard Lindsay say she had written a short story that she planned to submit. She wondered a bit about favoritism, but decided to wait and see how that was handled. Jim had walked up beside where she was sitting and said, “Do you want to go for a coke and talk about how we want to do non-fiction?”

“Sure, that sounds good,” Marianne said. “I have class in an hour, but we can talk a bit first.” The walked off towards the Carson Café. “Are you from around here?” she asked Jim.

“Not too far. I’m from Monterey area,” he said.

“I’m from the Bay Area,” she said.

“How do you like it down here?”

”It’s okay. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure how it is in the Bay Area, because I was in high school and my parents kept me on a hella short leash. But I suspect there’s a lot of life in both cities, really. How do you like it here?”

“I really like it. I thought it would be smoggy, but it hasn’t been in the two years I’ve been here. If I really do go into journalism, which I want to do in spite of the rather grim outlook for the field today, then cities will be my home forever. But I miss seeing the stars and night fishing.”

“Never went night fishing, but it sounds interesting. I have seen the stars a time or two, but not from San Francisco. My family went to a business meeting for my dad in Salt Lake City and they were really bright from there.”

They arrived at the café, ordered soft drinks, and sat at a table along the side of the big space. Most of the tables had two or three people at them, drinking coffee or coke and chatting. “So,” Jim asked, “what were you thinking about relationships between countries? I am a politics major and that sounds really interesting.”

“India and Pakistan, Israel and Palestine, Tibet and China, things like that,” Marianne said. “In my religion class there is a girl from Pakistan. She says a lot about India, and there’s a kind of snarl in her voice when she says it. I’m sure there are people in the two countries who don’t feel that way, but her feeling reflects something about the relationship between their governments. I thought maybe Shaila would write an essay on that for the magazine.”

“That does sound interesting. I’m thinking about more personal stuff, and thought about asking Libby, a senior in my department who just had a baby, to write about that experience. I’d love to know how she really feels about the child, and how she felt expecting him to be born and not knowing what he’d be like.”

Marianne said, “I’d love to read that piece. I think we’ll have a great issue before we’re done. How do you think we should do the reviewing? Were you on the lit magazine last year? How did you do it then?”

Jim said, “Well, I was on the magazine but not an editor. Lindsay asked me to, but I thought I was too busy with the newspaper. But newspaper writing is too fast to be elegant at all, and if you want to write, practicing the best writing is good. So I made time this year. I heard that there were some issues of fairness in the reviews by the editors, though. I expected Lindsay to say something about that but she didn’t.”Marianne frowned slightly. “Is there a faculty advisor for the magazine?”

“Yes, it’s Morgan Wing, the novelist and essayist,” Jim said. “But she’s on leave this semester. Lindsay said that she hadn’t left town and she’d come to our meeting next month. I think highly of her.”

“She’s a well known writer herself, so it’s a good thing for her to advise us. Would she be a good person to ask about reviewing?”

Jim cocked his head to the side. “You’ve got good political instincts. I don’t know though. I want to do blind reviews, but I don’t think that’s what the others have been doing. What if Wing thinks that’s not necessary in such a small community?”

“I want to do blind reviews too. Let’s just do it our way and if anyone asks, say we assumed that was what everyone was doing.” Marianne looked feisty and ready to argue with all comers.

“That’s fine with me. Easier to ask forgiveness than permission, eh? No need to get out your boxer’s glare!”

She laughed, and looked at her watch. “Gotta go. Nice to talk with you, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing each other often. Is your email tricky?”

“Just the average email address. It’s [email protected].”

“Sounds good. Mine’s [email protected]. The usual kind. Talk with you soon.” She walked away towards the computer center, with a lot on her mind. Her little worry about how reviews were done at the magazine was getting bigger. Was it a problem that some sections could let in favoritism if she and Jim kept it out of their own section? She hoped not.Mandy caught up with her as she walked towards the philosophy building. “Hi, Marianne, had the lit magazine meeting yet? I told Bella to look for you.”

I just went. She said hello. I ended up sharing the editing of the non-fiction.”

“That’s exciting. Not typical for first years to become editors. Who are you sharing with?”

“Jim Elgin, a junior politics major.”

“Isn’t he…”

“He’s black if that’s what you’re asking. He is from the Monterey area.” Marianne told herself to stay calm. Mandy had to get used to black people, or she’d never learn how to deal with Crystal. But here was another clue that it wasn’t going to be easy.

“You aren’t going to…” Mandy said, then blushed. “It’s none of my business, really. I just thought, he and you would be working together so I wondered…”

“No romantic involvement, don’t worry,” Marianne said, pretty sure she’d read Mandy’s mind correctly. “None of my business,” Mandy said again, but she looked relieved. “Here’s where I have to go for class. See you later.”

Marianne walked on, thinking more about Mandy’s implied question. Who did she want to be involved with? Liu? Or someone else, maybe a white guy? With blond hair? How important were those dreams she had? Wouldn’t she just respond to the person, not the fit to her dream lover? She suddenly thought how embarrassed she had been asking Professor Sandstrom to dinner at her residence hall and shivered. Was he her dream guy? That wouldn’t work. He was married, she thought. Okay, get a grip on reality, she told herself.

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