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New TriQuarterly Online Makes Web Debut

Online journal is same yet different from premier literary magazine founded in 1964

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August 10, 2010 | by Wendy Leopold
PARADE by Audrey Niffenegger

EVANSTON, Ill. --- TriQuarterly, the magazine that The New York Times once called “perhaps the preeminent literary journal,” has made its Web debut with a new name -- TriQuarterly Online -- at http://www.triquarterly.org, garnering “hits” from readers in 60 countries in its first four weeks.

TriQuarterly (TQO) Online 138 was launched July 5 after a partial “soft launch” in April. TQO 138 includes new writing by eminent American fiction writer William Gass; admired contemporary American short story writer Antonya Nelson; PEN/Hemingway Award-winning novelist and Oprah Book Club author Jane Hamilton; Cuban-American writer and translator Achy Objejas; emerging poet Hannah Sanghee Park and others. The cover was created by writer and visual artist Audrey Niffenegger.

TriQuarterly Online is at once the same publication and a very different one from the national literary magazine founded at Northwestern University in 1964, according to Reginald Gibbons. Gibbons, professor of English in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, served from 1981 to 1997 as TriQuarterly’s editor.

One of the big differences is the access that the online format provides for an enormous potential readership around the world. “If back when I was editor I had thought we could have easily attracted readers in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and other parts of the globe, I’d have been thrilled at what the magazine could accomplish,” said Gibbons, who also co-directs Northwestern’s MA/MFA in creative writing program in the School of Continuing Studies. So far, nearly 3,000 unique visitors have come to the site, with 16,000 page views. Most foreign visitors are from Germany, with multiple readers from the U.K., India, Brazil and Kenya.

The online magazine now boasts a mobile site -- located at http://m.triquarterly.org/mobile -- that’s “slimmed down and buttoned up” to look good on a smartphone. Readers of TQO can easily e-mail stories, essays and poems to friends, post them to Facebook or Twitter, and download an e-book or the full issue to read on a Kindle, iPad or other e-reader device.

Less than a year ago, Northwestern announced that TriQuarterly would move from a print to an online format. Now, as TriQuarterly Online, the magazine will publish issues of new fiction, nonfiction, poetry and drama twice a year (in January and July) and post monthly reviews, interviews, essays about writers and writing, and art.

“Print literary journals have been under huge pressure because of production costs, the difficulties of distribution, the nationwide loss of independent bookstores and other calamities of present-day publishing,” Gibbons said. “We’ve given TriQuarterly a platform for the future.”

A new and recurring TQO feature called “Firsts” was part of the early launch. Reintroducing the work of writers who between 1964 and 2009 made their publishing debuts in TriQuarterly, “Firsts” provides readers with the exact image of the debut work as it originally appeared in the print magazine.

“Firsts” often will include an essay or an interview with the author about what it meant to receive that very first acceptance letter. For example, Rosellen Brown discusses the acceptance of her story “What Does the Falcon Owe?” which was published 40 years ago in TriQuarterly 18.

Today the author of 10 books, Brown recalls in TQO: “I was in the hospital, having just delivered my second baby in 1970, when my husband showed up...with the galleys of my first story to be published...In the hospital, [I] corrected the galleys, and thought, this must be an augury of the fact that, yes, I will be able to go on writing.”

Along with the transcribed interview and the story itself is an audio file of the interview with Brown.

Referring to Brown and the contents of TQO in general, Gibbons said, “Works by the best writers will continue to add to the distinction that TriQuarterly has won since its beginnings.”

Using hyperlinks, a blog, Facebook, e-mail and more, TriQuarterly Online has the capacity to build a broader dialogue around its contents and broaden the context of new writing in ways that a print-only magazine cannot.

“You might read, for example, a recent interview with an author, then go to an excerpt from that author’s forthcoming book and move on to a blog post discussing his or her works,” said Chris Wallace, who led the TQO Web development team. Wallace is also a short story writer and filmmaker.

There’s a multi-layering of information that digital formats allow, Wallace added, a digital media specialist in Northwestern’s Department of Academic & Research Technologies (A&RT). A&RT is developing an archival system to ensure TriQuarterly Online’s longevity in the face of changing technology.

Yet another TQO project, already under way at Northwestern University Library, will digitize all 137 print issues of the literary magazine. That initiative will make entire issues easily available to readers affiliated with Northwestern and will allow TQO to provide readers around the world with a continuing selection of the best from TriQuarterly’s whole history.

TQO -- which now boasts an easy-to-use online manuscript submissions system -- is edited by graduate students in Northwestern’s MA/MFA in creative writing program. They are supervised by faculty who are experienced editors and who teach the journal editing course in the MA/MFA program. This summer, due to the number of submissions, the editors have stopped reading new work and will open submissions again in the fall.

To date, journal editing course faculty have been novelist and editor Gina Frangello and Susan Harris, editor of Words Without Borders, a literary website devoted to translation
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