A Brief History of The Offing

A Message from Our Editor in Chief

Dear Readers,

It should go without saying that Black Lives Matter. But my ancestors were kidnapped into a world where “it” does not go that way at all, and that makes me want to fight and then fight some more because there are too many moments when fighting feels like punching air. Being Editor in Chief of The Offing has given me a productive outlet for this energy, so it took me months to accept what I needed to do. Effective September 1, I am retiring as Editor in Chief and Publisher, and exciting new leadership will take the helm.

Just two years ago, The Offing surprised the literary community by announcing the appointment of an unknown, MFA-less theoretical physicist as Editor in Chief and a formal separation from its parent publication, the Los Angeles Review of Books. In my early days of being in charge, I didn’t get as much sleep as I do now, I wasn’t showering as frequently as I would have liked, and every day seemed like a new and slightly terrifying adventure into literary politics. In the months that followed — with a lot of support especially from Airea Dee Matthews, Mahogany L. Browne, and Andrea García-Vargas —  I brought on new staff, including two editors who launched a new experiment in literary publishing: a science department called Back of the Envelope.

It was a precarious time for us: for understandable reasons, several content editors had left the publication; we had no money except my credit cards; and it was unclear whether we had a future of any kind. Thanks to incredibly generous family, friends, and social media followers, we gathered together enough funds to support a regular, weekly publication schedule and our path to incorporation. Before the first year was over, we were a 501(c)(3). Since then, we have successfully raised the funds needed to eliminate submission fees for 2018, and we — however tenuously — cover most of our day-to-day budget with monthly donations via Patreon. We have also made changes that were needed to ensure that being part of this publication was a sustainable volunteer experience for the editors.

These two years have allowed me to live a kind of literary dream. We’ve published experimental work by one of my favorite fiction writers, Charles Yu. Back of the Envelope completed what I (secretly) considered to be its foundational mission when it published poetry by a Black woman scientist that takes up physics and Black womanhood in the same language. In between, every single department has curated multiple works that I literally wrote home about, and I have immensely enjoyed curating the Insight department.

This publishing has been facilitated by a staff that comes not just from the U.S. and Europe but also Korea, Nepal, and Canada. Our Asian American, Black, Middle Eastern descent, Latinx, and Native American editors and readers — the people of color who make up the majority of the staff — span diverse ethnic and national identities, which is what the staff of a U.S.-based publication should look like. I am filled with pride as I look at who we are and what we have achieved. We weren’t expected to survive, and here we are, thriving.

I expect the next phase to be even better. With great excitement, I am pleased to share that as of September 1, where The Offing goes next will be in the hands of a writer who has been on the staff since before I arrived: Mimi Wong, currently Executive Editor and Editor of the Enumerate department. Mimi is a talented novelist and editor who stepped up when the publication most needed her, so I am thrilled that my closest colleague on the publication during the last 20 months has agreed to become Editor in Chief and Publisher.

Our Associate Poetry Editor Luther Hughes will be replacing Mimi as Executive Editor. Luther, a poet whose work has already received wide recognition, has also been with The Offing longer than I have. I highlight this because it’s significant that The Offing is not only a place where an unknown like me can have a chance but also where writers from the margins can have the opportunity to grow into leadership roles. It is right that staff who have been around almost since the beginning are now taking charge, and I am hard pressed to think of another publication that is led by an Asian American woman who does not have an MFA and a queer Black man.

These aren’t the only changes in the offing. Mahogany will also be leaving both her role as Executive Editor and Micro Editor. It is hard for me to put into words the significance that Mo has in the literary community, in The Offing community, and in my community of friends and mentors. A brilliant poet and a visionary leader, we were lucky to have her, and I know she will be missed.

We are excited that Ashaki Jackson will be taking up her role as Executive Editor. Since having Dr. Jackson join the staff is one of Mimi’s first decisions as The Offing’s leader, here is what Mimi wanted to share with readers:

Ashaki Jackson comes to The Offing with significant experience actively engaging and supporting marginalized and underrepresented writers. A social psychologist, program evaluator and writer, she has advocated for and mentored at-risk and post-incarceration youth for a decade. She also serves on VIDA’s Board of Directors and is a co-founder of Women Who Submit, which empowers women writers to submit their work to top-tier literary journals. An accomplished poet in her own right, she has published two chapbooks, Surveillance (Writ Large Press) and Language Lesson (MIEL). We’re thrilled to have Ashaki bring her expertise in inclusive community-building to our own growing publication. Additionally, we’re honored that, as Executive Editor, Ashaki will represent The Offing in Los Angeles’ blossoming literary landscape, where she’s based.

Even though I am excited to become a professor of physics and get to work on the books I am writing, leaving The Offing is hard because it has been an immense privilege to serve the rebellion at the helm of an incredible literary publication. I know this opportunity was only possible because of the community that makes up The Offing. The staff includes people who stayed during a time of turmoil and took a chance on some strange person writing them earnest notes on Slack, as well as people who accepted my invitation to join, not really knowing what I had gotten them into. Although I will be stepping back from the day to day, I will be staying on as President of the board, and I look forward to continuing to help facilitate the work of the best staff in online literary publishing.

To our readers: thank you for your support. Your readership, your financial support, and your social media circulation have made this opportunity possible. Keeping a non-profit publication that produces weekly content running is not easy, and without your continued investment in us, it simply would not be impossible. I urge you to keep reading, and if you donated because you appreciated my personal involvement, be assured that I will continue to be involved and want you to keep reading and donating! So join us in taking a rest in August, but be ready in September to give The Offing your full attention, at least for a few minutes every week. We promise, you won’t regret the time you spend with us.

The Offing exists in part to make space for people whose humanity has often been questioned by a society that is the logical conclusion of centuries of racist, colonialist, ableist, heterocisnormative and patriarchal white supremacy. Our artists come from peoples and communities that have a long history of resistance to these total(itarian) structures, and I am grateful to them for entrusting us with their work. Audre Lorde articulated some of the challenges involved in organizing together when she said, “My anger and your attendant fears are spotlights that can be used for growth . . . Guilt and defensiveness are bricks in a wall against which we all flounder; they serve none of our futures.” I urge you to serve our futures by always making time to read, to create first drafts, and to do the hard work of lovingly and critically revising. There are those who seek to destroy us by creating conditions where we never have time or space to be human or acknowledge each other’s humanity. We must thwart them at every turn — whether it is in the streets, at the ballot box, or on the page.

So Be It
See To It!”
Octavia Butler

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