by Lauren Eggert-Crowe
On my first visit to a Women Who Submit submission party in 2015, I ended up sitting across from Tisha Reichle, who was deliberating on a hiring announcement from BorderSenses. They were looking for a Fiction Editor. Even with her busy schedule, she decided to take a shot. It was a perfect example of the WWS spirit. She has now been Fiction Editor for a year.
From their website: “BorderSenses is a non-profit organization located in El Paso, dedicated to promoting the literary arts through various community projects and an annual print journal publication. Our mission is to provide a voice to visual artists and writers of this region and beyond and to promote cross-border exchange in the arts. We provide a venue of artistic growth that helps improve the quality of life for our communities.”
WWS: I remember the WWS submission party where you were thinking of applying for the job as fiction editor at Border Senses. What went into your decision to apply for the job? A year later, how does the job match your expectations?
Tisha: We were sitting around talking about Literary Citizenship and how as women who submit, we would understand the process better if we were on the other end, women who edit. I didn’t have any new stories to send out at that monthly party, so I used my time at that meeting to find other submission opportunities. I specifically looked for some feminist or cultural journal because I wanted my work to fit with my mission as a socially conscious writer/teacher. As a person who was born on the US-Mexico border (in El Centro, California) and has lived along cultural, linguistic, and now socio-economic/educational borders, the mission of Border Senses seemed to fit well with my personal ideology. I also realized an opportunity to expand the concept of the border beyond the El Paso/Juarez area. To further that end, I solicited book reviews and essays from California-based writers who also had some affinity for the border region. I also interviewed a writer (our own Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo) whose poetry collection reflects some of the political concerns of the border region in Arizona. While I was hired as the fiction editor, the managing editor and the director of Border Senses allowed me to take on more responsibility. When the issue is published in January, we are hoping to have a release event here in LA and maybe other California cities.
As a fiction editor, what are you looking for in the pieces you publish? What sets really good submissions apart from the others?
Since I’m new to the journal, it was important to me that the pieces reflect the border region and the unique culture that resides there. We had so many submissions that were examples of quality writing, but didn’t really fit with that theme. I like work that makes me forget I’m reading a story and that usually happens because the sensory details surround me and I become immersed in the world the writer has created. There were two stories in particular that I loved, but didn’t respond to right away and the writers withdrew their submissions. After a conversation with my managing editor, I felt more confident about making the selections and accepting them immediately. I also tried to offer comments to one writer when I rejected her story because while the piece submitted was almost double the length of our maximum word count, the writing was gripping and I thought the young writer had a lot of potential. What was frustrating about the process is that so many people ignored the word count, didn’t send a proper cover letter, and in a few cases addressed the letter to “Sir or Madam.” Since we, at Women Who Submit, teach how to properly approach a lit journal, I feel like I’m extra sensitive to the not following of the rules.
I know you also teach full time. As an editor, I’ve sometimes found it difficult to manage my editor work and my full time job. What are some things you do to manage your time?
Because of my control issues, managing my time gives me great joy. A few years ago, I decided to confine my teaching to Monday through Friday and use weekends for my writing-related tasks. In the same way that I schedule time for my own writing submissions, I calendared one Saturday morning a month to read the fiction sent to Border Senses. I sat and sipped my tea and logged each submission in a designated little notebook. I work better on paper than electronically, so it helped me to make notes about each story as I read it to determine whether I would tag it yes, maybe, or no. Sometimes I would make a note about my uncertainty for the managing editor to review and that delayed my acceptance/rejection emails. Over the year, I became more discerning and am excited about doing a more effective job in 2017.
The new President has promoted horrible racist policies that obviously go against the “cross-border exchange of arts” thatBorder Senses upholds. How do you envision the work of Border Senses during the next few years of a political climate that is increasingly hostile (and maybe also energetic with activism?)?
I’m optimistic about the role we can play in the upcoming years. While the print journal is only published once a year, Border Senses is a larger organization that facilitates youth programs and humanitarian partnerships in El Paso, Texas. As we promote the journal in California, other people might be inspired to form similar collaborations. I also feel like the very existence of organizations that promote a positive image of borderculture is a way to combat the hatred that has been brewing in our country.
Tisha Marie Reichle is a Chicana Feminist and former Rodeo Queen. Weekdays, she teaches socially conscious literature to teenagers. On weekends, she writes. Her stories have appeared in 34th Parallel, Inlandia Journal, Muse, Santa Fe Writers Project, The Acentos Review, The Lunch Ticket, and Ghost Town. She’s the fiction editor at Border Senses. Learn more at her website.
Lauren Eggert-Crowe is the author of three poetry chapbooks: The Exhibit, In the Songbird Laboratory, and Rungs (co-authored with Margaret Bashaar). She is the Reviews Editor of Terrain.org and her work has appeared in Witch Craft Magazine, Angels Flight Literary West, Horse Less Review, The Rumpus, Salon, and The Millions, among others. She has an MFA in Poetry from The University of Arizona.