Stepping Down as Editor of Prime Number Magazine

Prime NumberIn the fall of 2009, just as my first book was coming out, I had an idea for a new project. “What if we started a magazine?” I said to Kevin Watson, Publisher at Press 53 as we drove across North Carolina to a reading. As it turned out, Kevin had been thinking the same thing, so on the rest of that drive we came up with a plan.

In July 2010, our first issue appeared. One of our ideas, given the name we’d selected, Prime Number Magazine, was to use only prime numbers to mark each issue. We didn’t mind that many people were confused that our first issue was No. 2. Readers caught on eventually, when 2 was followed by 3, 5, and 7. We brought on Val Nieman as Poetry Editor and initially I did all the prose–fiction, nonfiction, and book reviews. That got to be too much, so we found editors in each of those genres, too, leaving me to be Editor in Chief (and managing editor and webmaster).

We produced new issues every quarter, added updates between issues with flash fiction and single poems, and also did a print annual with “editors’ selections”–representative samples from the online magazine. We published a lot of good work and earned a few accolades for the magazine. We nominated authors for prizes. It was a good run.

But last year, after five+ years of producing the magazine, I began to get tired. The magazine was supported entirely by volunteers–none of us got paid a dime because if we’d had any revenue we’d have put it toward paying contributors–and I began to be somewhat resentful of unpaid time spent on something other than my own writing. It’s bad enough to work for less than minimum wage as an adjunct college teacher, but at least they get paid something. Volunteerism has limits! The editorial work that I had enjoyed so much at first had become a burden.

So I talked to Kevin Watson at Press 53 about it. Kevin was completely understanding of my need to step away, and together we came up with a plan for a transition. Instead of a permanent editorial staff, he would take over management of the magazine and would recruit Press 53 authors to serve as guest editors in fiction and poetry, eliminating nonfiction and book reviews. He could promote his own authors and at the same time continue to support new authors whose work was selected by the guest editors.

And that’s what has happened. Beginning with Prime Number Magazine Issue No. 83, which appeared this week, I am no longer Editor. The magazine has reopened for submissions (we’d been closed for several months), and the next issue is under preparation by Kevin and the Guest Editors. I’m very excited that the magazine that I worked so hard on will continue to exist!

One last thing. Kevin didn’t let me get too far away. While I’m not on the magazine staff, I agreed to stick around to help in whatever way I could, including helping to run the magazine’s 3rd annual contest, which, by the way, is now open for submissions: Prime Number Magazine Awards.


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  1. I am glad that I’ve “gotten to know you” (virtually) because of a piece that was picked up by Prime Number. I support you focusing on your own work. Art is such an ebb and flow, that way, supporting one another and then remembering to support ourselves. You have certainly lent me moral support, and for that I thank you, and wish you all the best with your writing. Bon Voyage!

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