- This project was about visibility of underrepresented artists and narratives. Not JF.
- We have a desire for inclusive literary spaces and are questioning literary journals and the publishing industry. What happens when editors change out every two months, when they are asked to question where their tastes come from? What happens when work is considered under a blind submission process?
It seems to us at The James Franco Review, that more needs to be done than just make a commitment to diversity. We need to reimagine literary spaces. The whole publishing system needs to be queered. So a queer living in Seattle took a leap. The journal is managed by a staff of artists who all have a stake in the mission and curated by a cast of editors who change every two months.
This project exists ONLY in time capsule and is not and will never be active again in the way it once was. But considering this ran from 2014-2016 it is a powerful historical record during a moment where writers and editors demanded more from the industry. And still do.
When we started seeing James Franco’s name in magazines, and then saw his book of poetry from Graywolf, we joked: let’s submit some fiction under James Franco’s name and see what happens.
This joking was more out of curiosity than jealousy. In the New York Times Book Review article “James Franco, Poet,” David Orr put it this way:
“This book wouldn’t be published by Graywolf (I hope) if James Franco weren’t ‘James Franco.’ For that matter, James Franco wouldn’t be getting reviewed right now if he weren’t ‘James Franco.’ In fact, if James Franco were just another MFA student struggling to catch the attention of the two part-time employees of Origami Anthropod Press, he’d probably be reading this piece and fuming about all the attention being given, yet again, to James Franco.”
Harsh words, but here’s the opportunity I saw: what if we were all James Franco? How would this address the bias of editors, the flawed publishing industry, and what door would that create for underrepresented writers? It could be that certain phrases would have to be questioned, such as the one which, as a former mediocre MFA student, I heard more than a dozen times from literary agents and editors: “The great work rises to the surface.”
At the James Franco Review, we don’t know why some stories and poems get published while others don’t, or what it means for something to be right for a magazine.
We do believe that editors tastes are culturally formed, and that something powerful can happen when editors question their tastes, read actively from the place of bringing underrepresented stories into literature.
At this time work is considered without names or cover letters, as if we were all James Franco, which means having the clout for an editors attention. The blind submission process is only as effective as the editors using it, which is why the editors who work with the journal are writers and editors who have a personal stake in the mission.
What we are looking for:
“Create dangerously for those who read dangerously.”—Edwidge Danticat
We want the story, poem, or essay you wrote that you believe in the most, or that hasn’t found the right home. We aren’t looking for work that imitates James Franco’s work or satirizes. Think of this as the open door where you studied, and where you’ve been published doesn’t matter. If the guest editor likes your piece, they’ll take it, and if they don’t like it, remember that it’s subjective and keep writing. And submit when the editors change out.
Things the James Franco Review editors are told to consider before they read:
Allow room for what isn’t supposed to happen, characters you don’t always get to see. Be brave. Read dangerously.