ALBANY, NY (11/28/2018) (readMedia)-- After 10-plus years of providing funding and office space to the literary journal Fence and Fence Books, the New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany is ending the partnership at the end of the year, due to budgetary constraints and a new direction that emphasizes community engagement and public humanities.
Fence is a biannual print journal of poetry, fiction, art and criticism that publishes challenging writing distinguished by idiosyncrasy and intelligence, with a progressive sensibility that is not beholden to particular genres, schools, camps or cliques. Fence publishes almost entirely from unsolicited submissions, and is committed to publishing the literature and art of queer writers and writers of color.
"While we admire and respect the literary quality of Fence and Fence Books and the vision of its founder and publisher Rebecca Wolff, the financial commitment is no longer viable in a time of belt-tightening and re-prioritizing our mission," said Writers Institute director Paul Grondahl. "It was a good, long run for Fence at the Writers Institute and we wish Rebecca and her staff all the best in the future."
Wolff will no longer be a paid staff member of the Writers Institute as she had been since 2007. She will relocate Fence and Fence Books -- www.fenceportal.org -- to Hudson, where she lives, while actively seeking a new partner for her non-profit literary press, which started in 1998 in the living room of Wolff's Greenwich Village apartment. She and friends including fiction writer Jonathan Lethem and poets Caroline Crumpacker and Matthew Rohrer published the first editions on a shoestring and for the first nine years, nobody got paid.
"It's a dream realized," Wolff told Grondahl in a 2007 article he wrote for the Times Union about Fence moving to the Writers Institute. "Having a salary for the first time to do something that I love is mind-blowing."
"I'm still pinching myself," Wolff says now. "The time that Fence has been given by the Writers Institute to continue to fulfill our mission with a sense of stability and security has been invaluable, and we will always be grateful to former director Donald Faulkner, as well as to Bill Kennedy and to Institute staff, for the kind respite."
Fence the literary journal and Fence Books gained a national reputation and major literary awards for publishing work by established writers such as Anne Carson, Rick Moody, Jorie Graham, John Ashbery, Adrienne Rich, Paul Muldoon and Robert Coover, alongside the work of totally unknown and often radical writers and artists. In 2018 Fence was awarded the inaugural Whiting Magazine Award from the Whiting Foundation, which recognized that, "This pioneer remains central to the canon."
Novelist Lynne Tillman, who lives in New York City and who has taught a spring fiction workshop as writer-in-residence at UAlbany since 2002, is a former fiction editor and board member of Fence. She is also Distinguished Fellow Emeritus at the Writers Institute and assisted in the association between the two entities.
In addition to her ongoing commitment to Fence, Wolff, a mother of two, is the author of four books of poems: Manderley, Figment, The King, and One Morning-. Manderley was selected by Robert Pinsky for the 2001 National Poetry Series. She is also the author of a novel, The Beginners, and is at work on a book of nonfiction called Show Me How You Got Lost. She earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop and has been a prominent participant in contemporary literary culture ever since.
At the same time that it is ending its association with Wolff and Fence, the Writers Institute has embarked on its own online literary journal, Trolley -- www.trolleyjournal.com -- which launched in the spring of 2018. It is a web magazine of essay, opinion, literature, culture, and politics. Its first issue focused on the Writers Institute's major fall 2017 symposium on journalism and the First Amendment, "Telling the Truth in a Post-Truth World" and featured a long essay by Wolff.
Its forthcoming edition will focus on the Writers Institute's inaugural Book Festival on September 29, a resounding success that drew 5,000 book lovers to meet and converse with Doris Kearns Goodwin, Walter Mosley, Gregory Maguire, Khizr Khan and more than 125 authors, editors and booksellers. Trolley has an open submission process and publishes the writing of UAlbany students, staff, faculty, emeritus faculty and community members.
In addition, the Writers Institute recently has begun new collaborations while re-energizing its relationship with UAlbany's English department. Trolley and its editors are beginning to work with the staff of Barzakh, a multi-genre journal with an internationalist stance published by graduate students in the English department at UAlbany. The Writers Institute also supports and collaborates with the student-focused Writing Center on campus and with a new online clearinghouse for Capital Region literary events, NY Writer's Com.PEN.dium. Created by UAlbany English major and managing editor Courtney Galligan, Com.PEN.dium provides the most comprehensive calendar of literary happenings in the region and publishes author interviews and reviews written by UAlbany students.
The Writers Institute also partners on a regular basis with the Albany Public Library, other local public libraries, Albany High School, and a variety of community organizations as part of its high-impact, acclaimed literary programming presented as a UAlbany public service and community engagement, free and open to the public.
"There are a lot of exciting new developments and initiatives underway at the Writers Institute," Grondahl said. "Our talented team along with loyal supporters, donors and volunteers are planning an exciting year of upcoming programs. We are striving to make 2019 the best yet in our 35-year history. The Writers Institute is always reaching higher."