“Afterward, pain shadows my every move. Whenever I stop, the dull ache in my tailbone grows until it consumes each waking thought and pursues me into my dreams.” —Changeling
The inaugural issue of the Eastern Iowa Review is scheduled for an early May release. I’m delighted that a personal essay I wrote on intersex, will be included.
The literary journal’s founding editor, Chila Woychik, was gracious enough to drop by and chat about her new venture.
Lianne: Welcome! The EIR submission guidelines say, “Show us the good and glorious respites between the hurt; show us those good spaces.” I love that sentiment. Tell us a little more about your vision for the magazine. What drives you?
Chila: Coming from a non-faith childhood to an evangelical young adult and middle life experience, then to a more general faith perspective has led me to believe that there is true beauty and balance in this world, and it’s not that hard to find, especially if we approach life with a nonsectarian mindset. Further, having a child of my own has helped me grasp the importance of appropriateness in reading materials, viewing materials, etc., on impressionable minds, and how often “adult” materials are pretty worthless in the overall scheme even to adults. My goal is to try to bring that kind of truth and beauty to the world.
Lianne: If you would, give our readers a bit of a preview—what are some of the special things in this issue?
Chila: Besides your fantastically open and honest essay, we have creative writing ideas from a Pushcart Award winner, stories and nonfiction from MFA’s, MDs, those with little published writing and those with a CV as long as your arm. Of course, I’m grateful for each and every contribution but am extra pleased with our nonfiction and fiction special contributors: one is an English Language Fellow with the US State Department in Russia, and the other has been published numerous times simply because her writing is top notch literary.
Lianne: When I started sending out queries for Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite, my assumption was that I should seek an agent who represented Christians. But even ‘edgy’ Christian Fiction didn’t include novels with an intersex main character.
It was about that time, I think, that I ran across an article you’d written on the issues with Christian Fiction. (Indeed, my novel has a few of the problems so prevalent in the genre.) Has the situation improved much over the past two or three years?
Chila: I just finished judging a group of middle grade / YA samples for a West Coast Christian writing contest, and I was amazed to find about half the entries were quite decent. Yes, there were the usual too-overt religious elements, but overall the good pieces were really quite good. Of course, these were only samples, the first ten pages or so, so who knows how those stories resolved and how they moved toward that resolution. I seldom read Christian fiction anymore; I don’t have time to waste on what has too often been bad writing teamed with an attempt at redemption through in-your-face preachiness. I’m still waiting for the day when serious writers who also believe in God will seek to address universal truths in a way that everyone, of faith or not, will sit up and take notice.
Lianne: A few of the agents that I met face to face—some of whom praised my writing—lost all interest once I explained that I was intersex. The Lord has called me to be more transparent. So I don’t hide what I am any longer. But that makes me more vulnerable.
On a previous occasion, you offered me a contract on a short story. While writing Changeling, I kept reminding myself of that. Yet I worried you might not want to risk publishing what I wrote. My essay seemed well outside what most literary magazines would print. Even given your statements regarding Christian Fiction. Would you share a bit more about your thoughts on determining limits for content?
Chila: I think your story is an important and poignant one. I also think many literary magazines would gladly publish it given you maintain a general, not-overly-religious, stance. For the Eastern Iowa Review, I sought strong nonfiction that was true and still beautiful with redeeming value for the general reader, the homeschooling mom and her brood to the college professor seeking something a little less traditional, a break from the norm. I guess I don’t consider “intersex” a tough topic as opposed to, say, a graphic story with sex scenes or brash profanity or crude jokes. To me, the truth of an intersex birth is a far cry from themes some would consider “adult.” Also to me, I would have gladly (though carefully) explained to my young son about genetic differences; their reality; it’s where we live. We learn about, learn from, and love people, period. There is no distinction, or should be no distinction. It is not unbiblical to be born intersex, so why should people hide it or discriminate against it?
Lianne: You’ve recently become a literary agent. Port Yonder Press publishes books. Eastern Iowa Review prints poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. You’re an editor and a prolific writer. How do you find the time to remain healthy and happy, let alone sane?
Chila: A few things changed earlier this year, primarily that Port Yonder Press will no longer publish material, though a few of our books will remain on our sales lists for the next year or two. Also, as of now, EIR is only an annual thing, if that. Re: editing – most of my work as an editor was for Port Yonder Press, so that will no longer apply. I had also managed the Zero Bone Poetry Prize, but this is our last year for that as well. I’ve trimmed my life out of a compelling desire to write, so for now I’m focusing on my personal writing journey, this new literary agenting gig, and possibly the journal. This is very doable and will allow me to follow my dreams at last. I also have a small farm full of animals, an awesome Jeep, and a few hobbies that I adore, such as hiking, boot & book shopping, and keeping up with friends and relatives: these things bring perspective and keep me grounded.
Lianne: I’m really excited about the release of Eastern Iowa Review. Where can people purchase a copy? How much of the content will be available online? When will you be open to submissions again?
Chila: Our goal is to have a link here by May 1st. If you purchase off our site, you’ll save over an Amazon purchase, so we’re hoping many folks will avail themselves of that opportunity; it will also net more proceeds for us and for the cause of good literature. Online content will be very limited, perhaps one-sixth of the total number of stories. “Changeling” will be one of the stories available online as will a couple more essays and a piece of fiction or two. We want people to read some of the best we’ve included so they’ll be encouraged to want the rest. All the stories are good, of course, but I feel we’ll have a good cross-section of styles and topics free online.
Lianne: Thanks for stopping by. May our dear Lord richly bless you. And thank you, dear lady, for your friendship.
Chila: The honor is all mine, Lianne, and your friendship has become special to me. Best to you as well!
[edited September 26th, 2015] Changeling is here.