Since its 2011 launch, London-based arts and literary quarterly The White Review has established a loyal audience in print, online and at live events. Last year Željka Marošević and Francesca Wade took over the editorship of the magazine; today we hear from Željka about the changes the pair have made to the magazine.
Tell us about your typical Monday journey to work
The White Review office day is Friday and we all have other jobs and commitments during the week. I’m the publisher of Daunt Books Publishing so from Monday to Thursday I’m usually in our office in Chelsea. I spend my commute reading submissions.
The publishing office is tucked behind Daunt’s Fulham Road branch so I pass in and out of the bookshop all day long. As an editor, I now can’t imagine not being in a bookshop everyday – you see all the new books coming in, what people actually buy, which covers work.
Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your office
At Daunt, my desk is covered in papers, print-outs of future covers and books. We publish modern classics as well as new books so my shelves feature lots of old editions of books, including a shelf dedicated to the old Virago Modern Classics and their deep green spines.
At The White Review, we share our office with Fitzcarraldo Editions. It’s in a new workspace in Deptford and the office is filled with light and right by a bakery which makes the best cinnamon and cardamom buns in London. The entire team is currently obsessed with them.
It’s an open-plan office and TWR team sits around a big round table with our laptops – there’s usually a pile of submissions in the middle of the table. We have a shelf for book proofs, a shelf for our big yellow submissions folder, a shelf for copies of the magazine. The print magazine comes out three times a year and it’s always an event when a new issue arrives – we’re currently awaiting issue 24.
Which magazine do you first remember?
Girl Talk (for the free stickers), and then Elle Girl. I grew up in the suburbs in the north of England in the nascent days of the internet so these magazines were precious connections to the outside world, particularly London. I remember reading Elle Girl at 13 and thinking, ‘what is “Sloane Square”?’
Later it was NME which my friends and I would buy on Wednesdays on the way to school and read cover to cover. It was the heyday of indie music and we were in love.
It was thrilling to visit London while at university and discover the London Review Bookshop. The first time I visited, I bought my first copy of the LRB and Judith Butler’s ‘Gender Trouble’. I remember reading every one of the pieces in each issue because I didn’t know how to be selective, which I would sadly never do now. I read n+1 online for a long time before I saw a copy of the magazine. I spent a summer while at university interning at the BBC working on a doomed arts documentary, but I recall all the n+1 essays I read online in the afternoons vividly.
I loved the first issue of The Second Shelf, the magazine created by the new Soho bookshop of the same name, which specialises in rare books and first editions by female writers. It’s a beautifully produced catalogue of the books they have on sale and features essays on lesser-known writers. Its cover is hot pink.
The Gentlewoman always has the best cover stars – Zadie Smith, Simone Biles, Agnès Varda!
I’m really enjoying The Poetry Review under Emily Berry’s reign and new poetry magazine Pain is so delicately produced and the current issue features lots of great poets, including our own managing editor Ralf Webb.
Can you describe your magazine in three words?
Art, literature, essay.
How was it taking over the editorship of an established title like The White Review?
Francesca Wade (above) and I took over editing The White Review from issue 20. Francesca had been working at the magazine for a number of years under the founding editors Jacques Testard and Ben Eastham and I was a long-time fan. Francesca and I actually met at a TWR event in Peckham in 2014.
The team is mostly new (Ralf Webb joined as Managing editor and Rosanna Mclaughlin and Izabella Scott as Art editors; we were thrilled that Kayo Chingonyi agreed to come on board as Poetry editor, and then proceeded to win every poetry prize going) but the aims of the magazine haven’t changed – to publish the most exciting and experimental writing in fiction and essay, to discover new authors and to showcase the best in contemporary art.
We have added a new feature, roundtables, to respond to our current political moment and to reflect how politics impacts on how art is made and books are written. Themes have included work, the university and class, and issue 24 features a roundtable on translation.
We like to work closely with writers and we edit collaboratively – a piece is often read and edited by at least four people (including our Online editor Cecilia Tricker and Assistant editor Joely Day). We never rush a piece. If it’s not ready, we’ll just wait for the next issue. It’s fun approaching a writer with an idea or giving a writer the opportunity and space to try something out. It’s equally thrilling to publish something we’ve found in the slush pile – it’s important to us to always be publishing new writers as well as finding interesting and unusual ways to work with established ones.
Our online presence has also changed. As well as continuing to publish essay, fiction and reviews, we now publish long reviews of book and art exhibitions. We wanted to address the shrinking space for review coverage in traditional outlets. Standout pieces include Helen Charman’s review of Sally Rooney’s ‘Normal People’, Kate Zambreno’s essay on Louise Bourgeois and breastfeeding in art exhibitions (scrollable with one hand for feeding mothers!) and most recently, Claire Lowdon’s review of Yuval Noah Harari’s books.
You curate a mix of known and unknown writers and artists in each issue – what informs these choices?
We don’t work to themes, but issue 24 is our unofficial Brexit issue. We were thinking about how we could open up the magazine at this moment of closing off. Francesca had the idea to follow the example of little magazines like Daylight, Horizon and Criterion which during and between the two world wars published international writers alongside their British counterparts as an act of friendship and solidarity.
So, for example, we put Rebecca Tamas’ luminous essay on poetry and the occult next to an interview with the German novelist Jenny Erpenbeck (conducted and translated by Theodora Danek), and placed debut fiction by Zakia Uddin among new fiction by the Egyptian writer Nael Eltoukhy (translated by Robin Moger).
The previous cover design featured a fold-out artwork wrapped around a title page.
The magazine was also redesigned; what has the reaction to the change been?
The new team also included a new Art director, Thom Swann, who completely redesigned the magazine. It felt like the right moment to rethink the design. We’re now distributed in the US and we wanted a magazine readers could discover and browse through in a bookshop; the previous design had to be shrink-wrapped.
Thom found a way to make the magazine cheaper and more accessible but still as beautiful. The reaction has been wholly positive!
Thom had the idea to not have any text on the cover, just an image, which looks bold on newsstands – it’s a single work of art, and then you turn it over and the back cover is the contents. An exciting development has been commissioning covers from the artists featured in the magazine. Issue 23 was specially designed by Allison Katz (above) and issue 24 (below) by Anthea Hamilton.
What’s going to be the highlight of the week for you?
The launch of issue 24 on Thursday at Tank, with readings from Chloe Aridjis, Khairani Barokka and NJ Stallard.
What are you doing after this chat?
The deadline for submissions to TWR’s annual Short Story Prize for emerging writers closes today so it’s time to start reading the entries.
Previous winners have included Claire-Louise Bennett, Sophie Mackintosh, Nicole Flattery and Julia Armfield, all who have gone onto great success. There will be a lot of stories to read (and probably a heated discussion over the longlist) before we announce the shortlist in April.
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