Kevin has been with Poets & Writers for over 10 years. This resource has a hearty circulation of 60,000 and has been in publication since 1987.
Editorial Background; or, How Does One Get Such a Plum Job?
About.com: How long have you been with Poets & Writers?
Kevin Larimer: I started at Poets & Writers in 1999, so it’s been ten years. I started as the editorial assistant, so I was at the lowest rung, and within the last ten years I worked my way up to editor.
A: What did you do before you came on board with Poets & Writers?
K: I worked briefly at a science trade publisher; I was an editorial assistant there.
A: Did you go to college specifically for this field?
K: I earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and then I went to graduate school at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. I got an MFA in poetry in ’98.
A: I was going to ask you if you were a writer yourself. Do you do anything in addition to poetry?
K: I’ve been pretty focused on Poets & Writers magazine, so I write a lot for it. Within the last ten years, though, I’ve written some book reviews for newspapers and other magazines. But, primarily, I’ve been focused on the magazine.
A: How do you feel about that switch between writing poetry and writing about fiction for the magazine?
K: I like it. I like wearing different hats every morning. I love poetry, and I love writing poetry. But my background is in journalism. I worked on the high school newspaper and I was the sports editor for the newspaper in the town where I grew up, so that’s really my background. I got interested in poetry in college and then obviously in graduate school. It’s always been a pretty comfortable switch between the two.
But the fact is, it's tough to juggle the demands of a job with the focus--not to mention the time--that creative writing requires. So in that sense I'm in a position that's no different than that of any of our readers, and I value that. We love writing--we live for writing--but we also face the necessity of work and the real-life demands that sometimes run counter to our creative goals. For those who can accomplish both, the results are even more rewarding. But it's hard, no doubt about it. That said, I'm in the fortunate position of having a job in which I can work with poets and writers whose work continually inspires me. I couldn't ask for more than that.
A: Do you feel that writing in the two different genres grows your writing?
K: Well, others can be the judge of my writing, of course. But I think, obviously, when you’re writing poetry, you have a more creative and contemplative perspective. And, when you’re writing nonfiction, it’s a little bit more straightforward and you’re trying to serve the reader or get the point across. I think the line between those two bleeding a little bit is a good thing.
Poets & Writers (the Magazine That Is)
A: Could you tell the readers what you feel sets Poetry & Writers magazine apart from some of your competitors?
K: The thing that sets us apart the most is that we're published by a nonprofit literary organization. Poets & Writers Incorporated was founded in 1970 in New York City. That’s where we’re coming from. Also, I would say that we can focus on literary creative writing. We focus on poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction. We don’t really cover science fiction or playwriting or screenwriting. We're really focused on poetry and literary prose. I would add that we're also focused on very practical matters. There’s no “get famous fast” pieces in our pages. We're focused on the real work of writing and understanding the publishing industry.
A: How do you balance between the genres within your magazine? Have you ever looked at a layout and said, “Oh my goodness, this is 90% fiction! What are we going to do?” Or, is it really not a problem?
K: We plan our issues pretty far in advance. We're usually working on things four to six months in advance. When we're planning things out, we try to keep a balance. It’s not always exactly 35% poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction, but we try to keep a balance.
A: As a magazine owned by a nonprofit, do you feel that you can have a little leeway in your ad choices--more than other major writing magazines?
K: Well, there’s a very strong line between editorial and advertising. We’re really focused on the editorial perspective of things, and we publish what’s going to serve our readers the most. Our only concern is the quality of what we're publishing and how it’s serving our readers. So, any outside influences from advertising or anything like that really doesn’t exist. I don’t pay attention to what advertisers are in the magazine until it’s already published. We have a separate advertising department that deals with all that, and it will always be that way. There’s always a very straight and bold line between editorial and advertising.Be sure to click to page two for how Kevin wants you to pitch Poets & Writers, and what he sees for the future of writing.