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Salt Hill journal earns national honors

November 13, 2009

Rob Enslin
(315) 443-3403

Salt Hill, a quarterly journal published by writers affiliated with Syracuse University’s creative writing program in The College of Arts and Sciences, was recently recognized by The Best American Short Stories 2009 and The Best American Essays 2009, both published by Mariner Books and edited by Alice Sebold ‘84 and Mary Oliver, respectively.

“The Killing,” by Benjamin Percy, was named one of “100 Other Distinguished Stories of 2008” in the short stories collection. The journal’s prose poetry edition was among the “Notable Special Issues of 2008” in the essays collection. Both honors came from the Winter 2008 issue of Salt Hill (No. 20), edited by Daniel Torday G’07 and Tara Warman G’07.

Torday, a lecturer in creative writing at Bryn Mawr College, says the award-winning issue reflects the staff’s growing editorial influence. “Rather than waiting for work to come across the transom, we thought the journal could be something more,” explains Torday, a former editor at Esquire and an award-winning fiction writer. The decision to focus on prose poetry, with its heightened attention to language and metaphor, stemmed largely from the presence of Chris Kennedy G’88, a prose poet who directs the M.F.A. creative writing program, and from a campus visit by Russell Edson, whom Torday calls one of the fathers of American prose poetry.

“We reached out to some young writers whose work we liked. There was not much more than that,” Torday admits, adding that he first came across Percy’s work at Esquire.

M.F.A. students Ashley Farmer and Nadxi Nieto Hall, both from the Class of 2010, are co-editors of the upcoming issue of Salt Hill (No. 24). “It’s a journal with an impressive lineage, so being part of it is a real privilege,” says Farmer, who appreciates the creative and managerial benefits of the job.

Nieto Hall agrees: “There is no way to have a cohesive aesthetic with all the new faces and voices each year. For us, the beauty is in the confluence of all these different ideas about writing and art.”

Mary Gaitskill, Phil LaMarche ’98, G’03, Terrence Hayes and Lynne Tillman exemplify the wide swath of distinguished contributors the journal has attracted in its 10-year existence.

“Salt Hill allows us to publish the best traditional narratives right next to the most experimental. That is our strong suit,” says Nieto Hall.

Salt Hill is funded in part by The College of Arts and Sciences and by SU’s Graduate Student Organization. It welcomes nationwide submissions of poetry, prose, translations, reviews, essays, interviews and artwork.

Gregg Lambert, Dean’s Professor of the Humanities and a longtime supporter of Salt Hill, calls the handsome publication one of the “crown jewels” of SU. “Salt Hill exemplifies the creative breadth and depth of our students,” says Lambert, who also serves as founding director of the SU Humanities Center and principal investigator of the Andrew W. Mellon Central New York Humanities Corridor. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for SU students to gain editorial experience, while being exposed to writers and artists who might otherwise not have a connection to the University.” Percy, for example, serves as assistant professor of creative writing at Iowa State University.

Kennedy is not surprised by Salt Hill’s success. “The students who work on the journal bring amazing talents to bear on its production, from editing to design to layout to distribution,” he says. “It’s one of the best literary journals in the country.”

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