Celebrating Texas Independents: An Interview with Dr. R. Mark Jackson of Concho River Review

“Although I am proud to publish good writing by any writer, it always pleases me a little bit more to be able to do that for emerging writers–the folks who maybe have never published or are just starting to publish.”

-R. Mark Jackson

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Texas has a thriving literary scene. Are you taking full advantage of the opportunities in your own state, especially in your own backyard? In conjunction with Texas Independence Day, we’re partnering with some of the state’s greatest Independents to host a series of free and open events across the state throughout the month of March.

These panel discussions will focus on the great opportunities for writers and readers that Texas has to offer, from independent presses, to journals, to bookstores, and beyond, while also answering writers’ burning questions about the publishing process, submitting to presses and journals, catching the eye of an editor, and more.

At our first panel discussion, taking place on March 2 in Odessa (details and address here), we’ll be speaking with three distinguished panelists, including Dr. R. Mark Jackson. Since 2012, he has served as the book review editor for Concho River Review, and since 2014 he also has served as the journal’s general editor. He is an assistant professor of English at Angelo State University, where he teaches introductory courses in composition and literary studies and advanced courses in early modern British literature.

r-mark-jacksonScribe: Can you share a few thoughts with us about the Texas literary landscape? What makes it unique, and what opportunities can be found here for writers, readers, and publishers?

R. Mark Jackson: I suppose this will evince my bias, but given all the colleges and universities scattered across Texas, writers have a lot of opportunities here to hone their craft, build communities with other writers, teach, and publish their work. Most of those colleges or universities have a creative writing classes, an MFA, a publishing house, a literary journal, or a writers conference—sometimes all of those. Of course, Texas is also home to one of the greatest book festivals in the United States, and there are a lot of other smaller festivals around the state where local authors can promote their books.

Scribe: What do you see as the role of independents (publishers, journals, booksellers) in Texas’s literary community, and what do you find most rewarding about the work you do as an independent publisher?

RMJ: Although I am proud to publish good writing by any writer, it always pleases me a little bit more to be able to do that for emerging writers–the folks who maybe have never published or are just starting to publish.  Likewise, as a book review editor, I always try to promote books from the small, independent publishers and university presses here in Texas, or maybe New Mexico or Oklahoma. I believe that those kinds of books rarely get reviewed in big news outlets and that it’s up to journals like Concho River Review to give them the good press they often deserve.

Scribe: Tell us a bit about one of your upcoming programs, events, or publications that you feel exemplifies the spirit of being independent in Texas.

RMJ:  The spring 2017 issue of Concho River Review is in the editing stages now and should be out in April. Our web site is here.

Additionally, Angelo State University, which publishes CRR, is hosting its 21st Annual Writers Conference in Honor of Elmer Kelton on March 23-24. Our keynote speaker is Anne Hillerman (not from Texas but New Mexico), the daughter of the late Tony Hillerman who is continuing her father’s mystery series. But along with Hillerman, we’ll have 23 other writers, almost all from Texas, reading their poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction in multiple panels. This is a free event and open to the general public, so other authors are welcome to come down to San Angelo and meet the writers, both emerging and established, who will be reading their works. This annual event is also something to keep in mind for next year. Try submitting your work; a call for papers is usually available by September. More about the event is here.

Thanks, Mark!

Join us for the first of our Celebrating Texas Independents panels on March 2. RSVP here. Visit our calendar for additional cities and dates throughout the month of March.

Are you a Texas independent (publisher, journal, bookstore, etc.) interested in participating in future event and/or learning about other opportunities for partnership and promotion? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at wlt@writersleague.org.

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