Other Voices abandons its literary mag to champion overlooked books.
In fall 2005, we heralded the expansion of Other Voices literary magazine into the world of book publishing, with the first release on its then-nascent press, OV Books. We wrote that the transition meant the mag’s small staff had gone from “unsung” to “insane.”
Regrettably, we were more on the mark than we’d hoped. Citing growth on the publishing side of the business, and an overworked (mostly volunteer) staff, Other Voices the literary magazine has decided to shutter so that its book imprint may live. Go ahead, ask us who will win the Super Bowl.
“It was a complicated decision,” says Gina Frangello, executive editor of both the magazine and imprint. “When we first launched the press, we said that if we couldn’t do both, we’d continue to do the magazine. But we were becoming so passionate about what’s happening in the publishing world, we decided we needed to stick with OV Books.”
OV Books, which trades exclusively in short fiction, launched in 2005 with Simplify, a collection by author Tod Goldberg that went into a second printing before it had even been released. In the spring of this year it launched O Street, a critically acclaimed debut collection by Corrina Wycoff. Since taking on the imprint, Frangello says she’s become increasingly frustrated with the second-class-citizen status of short stories in the publishing world.
“Short fiction has been increasingly marginalized by the major presses, papers aren’t reviewing anthologies and I know lots of talented authors who can’t find agents to rep collections,” she says. “We’ve certainly been able to tap into a market with work that New York is denying there’s a market for.”
With the full-time move into publishing books, OV Books becomes an imprint of Dzanc Books out of Westland, Michigan. Frangello and staff will maintain editorial control over OV, but Dzanc, a nonprofit, will take over the business end.
“It’s just the greatest thing ever,” Frangello says. “They’re footing the bill, handling the distribution, dealing with the printers—and we have all of the editorial control.”
Still, it must be said that the death of Other Voices magazine is a blow to the Chicago literary scene, on the heels of local stalwart StoryQuarterly being acquired by the online Narrative Magazine. Just two months back, we reported on the revitalization of Another Chicago Magazine and the boon that was for local literary culture. Likewise, Other Voices was no slouch. It has published stories by Toni Morrison, Richard Ford, Jane Smiley and Aimee Bender. Its work was also reprinted in Best American Short Stories of the Century.
“We’re going to put on just as many events and readings,” Frangello says. “The biggest difference is that we’re simply not going to be publishing as many writers. We’re just not going to be able to have as many relationships with as many great writers here.”
As a swan song to its hometown, the final issue of the mag will feature exclusively Chicago writers, 22 in all, and will run interviews with authors Aleksandar Hemon and Audrey Niffenegger (who also designed the cover, pictured). The issue will be out in November. But don’t weep for Other Voices, Chicago. According to Frangello, it’s not literary magazines that the city needs.
“There are still a fair number of magazines—ACM, TriQuarterly,” she says. “What Chicago is radically missing as a large world-class arts city, is fiction-book publishers. And now, we’re starting to see more of that.”