By Erica Quinones
Cherry Tree at the Rose O’Neill Literary House blossomed again with the publication of its sixth issue.
Washington College faculty, staff, and students work annually to produce Cherry Tree: A National Literary Journal @ Washington College (CT), the latest iteration of which was released on Feb. 15.
The journal was founded in 2014 by former Assistant Professor of Creative Writing and English Jehanne Dubrow, and released its first issue in 2015.
CT advertises itself as a group of writers who are looking for “well-crafted short stories, poems, and creative nonfiction essays that are not afraid to make us care,” according to their “What We’re Looking For” webpage.
The magazine has kept a subscriber base of between 50 and 100 people for the past few years, according to Assistant Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House and CT Managing Editor Lindsay Lusby, class of 2008.
The goal of publishing urgent and brave pieces is first established in the issue’s cover art, which “establishes the theme and feel of the issue,” according to Associate Professor of English, Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House, and Editor-in-Chief and CT Poetry Editor Dr. James Allen Hall.
Issue 6 appears with a colorful cover piece by Hee Sook Kim, entitled “Paradise Between 1, 2016.”
It features various animals on a green and blue background depicting trees, mountains, and orange smoke. A red sun-like entity sits in the sky above the scene, all of which is covered in an elaborate, peacock-like stamp.
“It is vibrant, alive, it is sumptuous, and it is real too,” Dr. Hall said. “It is a landscape, but it is a mythical landscape, or a dream landscape. Something looks like smoke and something looks like trees and something like grass, but it is through a kaleidoscope — which is what I think art should do, it should refract our lived experiences.”
Unlike most of the pieces appearing in CT, the cover art was solicited by Dr. Hall.
Dr. Hall saw Kim’s piece at an Alexandria, Va. exhibition, followed the artist on social media, and then wrote to her asking to feature her work.
CT does solicit pieces from authors, but most of their published content is submitted by writers. They accept writing in the poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction genres, of which they received over 2,100 submissions during the two-month reading period between Aug. 1 and Oct. 1, 2019.
While screeners and senior readers work through thousands of pieces, genre editors may see hundreds of submissions come across their desk.
Associate Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House, Visiting Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing, and Associate Editor-in-Chief & CT Fiction Editor Roy Kesey, said that out of the around 100 pieces that reach his desk, he picks four to six of them for publication.
When selecting stories to publish, Kesey said that the range of fiction is “wide stylistically, formally, and dictionally; so, I am narrowing it down to what the aesthetic of the magazine is and my personal taste.”
How few pieces can be accepted into an issue of CT is a struggle for more people than genre editors.
“The hardest thing when it comes to making decision about what is included in the issue…is having to say no to a few pieces that are really, really good and that we actually would love to publish in an ideal world, but that we have just run out of pages for,” Lusby said.
The one section of CT that stands apart from the rest of the issue is Literary Shade.
“We always wanted to publish urgent, risky works that enlarge our empathy and spark a conversation, but with the Literary Shade we started really thinking how empathy can speak truth to power and dismantle oppressive institutions,” Dr. Hall said.
Literary Shade is a multi-genre section, consisting of pieces which the genre editors forward to Literary Shade Editor and Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing Dr. Kimberly Quiogue Andrews.
Whether they fit the section or not is then decided by Dr. Andrews.
When picking pieces for her section, Andrews said that she looks for critiques which are not just angry.
“I do not want to say that I do not like things that are merely angry. There are so many good things to be angry about, and people should be angry about them,” Dr. Andrews said. “What I think makes a poem less successful is when a poem just sort of tells you that they are angry about something. So, what makes a piece more successful…can do that kind of work through imagery that is surprising.”
But what is being shown cannot be the only surprising element, it must have something new to teach as well.
She said that she asks herself if the piece is “showing me something about the nature of injustice that is actually teaching me something” when looking at pieces for Literary Shade.
CT works towards dismantling oppressive structures through more than Literary Shade.
Dr. Hall said that part of his job as Editor-in-Chief is to take a “global” look at the journal. “Global,” not meaning international, but holistic, as they look at what story is being told between the selected pieces, as well as what demographics are represented in the authors.
CT does more than showcase unheard voices and perspectives, it publishes them, meaning it delivers a litany of work to both its readers and masthead members.
“[Since becoming an editor,] I am more aware of what an extraordinarily hard thing it is to do to write a good sentence,” Kesey said. “Seeing so much work that might one day be there…makes it all the clearer how hard it is and how miraculous it is that such great work exists at all.”
The editing and publishing process is not just work, it is a labor of love, according to Dr. Hall.
“My eyes get very tired [during the reading period], and it is a lot of work, but I would not have it any other way,” Dr. Hall said.