Victoria, what are the many hats you wear, and how did you find your
way into the role of Literary Editor for r.kv.r.y?
I've been an attorney since 1980. Like so many attorneys, I was a literature
major with an inclination to earn a decent income. Hence, law school—the
default profession for liberal arts majors. The year I turned 40, in '92, I began
to do some major re-thinking about the direction my life had been going. I felt
empty and sad, and frankly, my marriages hadn't gone so well.
So I decided to start writing fiction again. I enrolled in extension classes at
UCLA, joined a writers group and began to feel good about my life. Then there
was that little social drinking habit I had, which I cut in '94, making 2004 an
anniversary of sorts.
All of life's tumblers clicked into place in '04. I started r.kv.r.y. first as a way of
staking out my dream without knowing what that dream might turn out to be. I
was casting about for something new. I took a mediation course through a
local law school and said "this is it." I went back to school to earn my LL.M in
dispute resolution and now I'm mediating full time.
Can you describe the focus of the Journal...what you look for?
The focus of the r.kv.r.y. is pretty much what it says it is: recovery. I didn't
want to focus only on alcoholism and drug addiction because my own "recovery"
is way broader than that. So the subject matter focus is pretty wide open—
people's recovery from limitations or oppression of any kind. Political, ecological
(we did an issue on natural disasters), familial, physical. It's a journal of hope
and reconciliation with a focus on overcoming obstacles.
We're looking for high quality writing. I don't know how to say what that is very
quickly. I know it when I read it. Whole libraries have been written on the
subject. The journal has links to other literary journals that we'd like to set our
standards by and the submission guidelines urge people to read those journals
that we link to. I'm always surprised when people who are, for instance,
submitting poetry, say they don't read it.
Literature and poetry are a conversation and you have to be part of that
conversation, I think, to have any hope of becoming a good writer. So I tell
people to read like their lives depend upon it, which I must say I believe to be
the actual truth of the matter.
Who are some of the more well-known writers you've published? And
do you publish work from writers who are not yet well-established or
are not yet published?
We publish a fair number of new writers. To begin with I turned to my friends
who are writers. Richard Wirick, who published 100 Siberian Postcards this year
in the U.K. and the U.S. He's not well-known because he did what I did—went to
law school and practices law. But unlike me -- mildly talented amateur -- Rick is
the real thing. Rita Williams, our literary fiction editor and a member of my
writers group, has also been published in r.kv.r.y. Her memoir, If the Creek
Don't Rise, was released by a solid publishing house last year. It was reviewed a
couple of times by Oprah and received good reviews elsewhere, including the NY
Times, LA Times and LA Times Book Reviews.
Sometimes, when I'm desperate for quality, I'll just go ahead and send a poet
an email asking for something. I did that with Dan Masterson who has published
a couple of poems now in r.kv.r.y. Rick urges his friends to publish with me, so I
have poetry from the brilliant Lissa Warren and Anthony Robinson, editor of the
literary journal Transformation. Kathleen Wakefield is a grammy-winning
songwriter who is another member of my writers group. She hasn't been
discovered as a novelist yet but should be. Christine Allen is also on the brink of
discovery in New York City where she hopes to bring to Broadway the one-
woman show that she successfully staged here in Los Angeles. We've published
the first working chapter of her memoir. Dorit Cypis is a local artist with an
international audience whose work we've published. But, you know, we don't
have Thomas Pynchon or Don DeLillo. We're a small press journal but we believe
we're very high quality and think someday we'll be a genuine force in the literary
How do you market or carve out your niche in the literary journal
You just start networking. I was innocent. I downloaded Yahoo's free internet-
design program, taught myself to use it and am continuing to use it to this day.
I think the website costs me about $20/month and the ad in Poets & Writers
costs $60 every other month. I just do it.
That's what I've learned since '04 about everything in life. You just start the
thing. You take a single step in the direction of a dream and another the next
day, and the one after that. Things begin to grow. People start to hear about
you or tell their friends or post something on a blog like you're doing. You
become a kind of attractor. I'm not new age so you'll have to understand that
what I'm about to say is truly metaphoric and not a concrete belief.
I think the power of intention coupled with action creates a kind of force that
becomes bigger than you are, and everything you've ever done aligns with that
intention and becomes part of the engine of the dream.
How do the literary "powers that be" (established journals) look upon
the proliferation of online literary journals? I guess what I'm asking is
whether there is resistance/judgment from either established writers,
and/or your peers in the field?
I don't listen to "powers that be" in any of my endeavors. I don't really care
what anyone thinks about the journal other than the people who submit to it
and read it. I don't, frankly, know who my "peers" might be. I don't need to be
"recognized" by anyone. The work is its own joy.
What rules do you like to break?
All of them . . .
What writing rules do you like to see broken?
Despite the fact that I'm an attorney, I'm a born scofflaw. I don't really care
about any writing rules. I want to be lifted up off my feet and shaken. That
doesn't much happen when people are following rules.
What are some typical mistakes writers make that you see at r.kv.r.y.?
Oh, the poetry. The poetry. My ex-husband, Joel Deutsch, is a brilliant poet and
he is my poetry editor. It's too much for me. We get too much and it's mostly
too terrible to bear. People think poetry is easier to write than prose because
they think all they have to do is break prose up into lines. Prose is actually
easier to write because I think we're all genetically hard-wired to tell stories.
Even when they're bad they're bearable.
If I had to give advice to poets, I would quote Shakespeare: "A poet gives to
airy nothings a local habitation and a name." Readers need to be brought into
what John Gardner (The Art of Fiction) calls a continuous lucid sensory dream.
Poetry cannot be filled with abstractions. It's a hologram of the lived world.
Do you work with writers whose submissions are less than perfect if you
see potential? What's the editorial process like?
Joel is the most patient and generous editor in the world. If he thinks there's
potential in a poem he goes back and forth with people, tweaking the thing and
telling them what's good. I don't have the time. I pretty much take what's good
enough to publish and reject the rest (kindly I hope). My editing of the fiction
and literary nonfiction is therefore pretty minimal.
What experience do you hope writers will have working with you?
Obviously, I hope they'll feel that their work is well-respected; that editorial
suggestions are just that—suggestions for their consideration and not
mandates from on high. I hope they'll like the photography or other art that we
publish with their work. If they don't we hope they'll feel free to say, "I don't like
it, please use something else." I hope they'll be proud to have appeared in r.kv.r.
y. with other writers of like quality and that someday something we've published
will appear in Best American Short Stories or be short listed for a prestigious
Where do you see r.kv.r.y. in the future? Where are you going?
Well, I think r.kv.r.y is leading me more than I'm leading it. After all, it was the
first flag I planted in my own little Everest of hopeful achievement. I've always
wanted to go to paper and writers like to have, to touch, their published work.
But then I get notes from our writers who say they feel they have a closer
relationship with their readers from being published in r.kv.r.y. online because,
for some reason, people feel easier about dropping them a line and saying how
much their work meant to the reader.
What is it to be completely fulfilled in this work and in life?
Wow. These questions are deep. The poet Donald Hall interviewed a sculptor for
the New Yorker once. The sculptor was in his 80s and Hall asked him what the
secret to a successful and happy life was and he replied, "Choose to do
something with your life about which you're passionate but which you cannot
ever accomplish." That's what I've done. And for me, that's what being
completely fulfilled feels like. To be on the edge, like a blade of grass pushing
itself up through the dirt for the first time. The grass has already laid down its
roots, which must be a hell of a lot of work. The moment you live for is the
moment you first break through the dirt. Then, you know, my "mow and blow"
guy comes and cuts it down. You have this really small moment and then you
have to move on to the next one. It's what the Tibetan Bhuddists call the
"indestructability of impermanence."
It's all about the moment of coming into being. So there's no durability to
failure and no experience of failure because I say, "Okay, that didn’t work; let's
see what I can make up tomorrow.