Virginia Quarterly Review Old Fave in Literary World

The publication of the unknown poem by Robert Frost has raised the profile of Virginia Quarterly Review, but the publication has long been a favorite of the literary world. Respected authors regularly contribute essays and stories, and earlier this year, the VQR took home the annual "Ellie" (National Magazine Award) for Fiction. WMRA's Martha Woodroof reports.

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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

As Ted Genoways mentioned, his journal, the Virginia Quarterly Review, has a long-standing relationship with Robert Frost and also many of the best writers from the past 80 years. But chances are you've never heard of the VQR. From member station WMRA, Martha Woodroof reports that for a small-circulation academic journal the VQR has a very high profile in the publishing world.

MARTHA WOODROOF: Media relations at the University of Virginia's been hopping ever since the news about the Robert Frost poem broke. UVA's Brendan Matthews.

Mr. BRENDAN MATTHEWS (University of Virginia): We put together a real short release, and we sent that out by e-mail to a list of media contacts that we had on Wednesday, and within five minutes responses started pouring in from people who wanted more information. It's certainly been one of the biggest kind of far-reaching stories in the year that I've been here at the university.

WOODROOF: But certainly not the only big story generated by the VQR. Last May, they shocked the publishing world by winning two National Magazine Awards, or Ellies, including stealing the fiction award from the Atlantic Monthly.

Unidentified Woman: The Ellie goes to Virginia Quarterly Review.

WOODROOF: Relatively new editor Ted Genoways accepted the award. Even newer managing editor Kevin Morrissey says the magazine was in exalted company that night.

Mr. KEVIN MORRISSEY (Managing Editor, Virginia Quarterly Review): After the National Magazine Awards, for the photo shoot Ted was standing next to Louis Lapham of Harper's and David Remnick of The New Yorker and the editors of New York Magazine and Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone.

WOODROOF: Kevin Morrissey says that kind of notoriety has upped the VQR's clout.

Mr. MORRISSEY: If Ted is going after a big-name writer and we have to approach his or her agent, before we used to have to explain what VQR was, because they had never heard of us, you know, nine times out of 10. But now we get those calls to sort of powerful agents returned a lot quicker because of the awards we've won.

WOODROOF: The magazine's generously supported by the University of Virginia. Its content has always been interesting, but since Genoways took over, the VQR has gotten visually inviting as well. Peter Carlson's the long-time writer of a column on magazines in the Washington Post.

Mr. PETER CARLSON (Washington Post): The look of it compels you to look in it, and it's got cartoons, it's got photographs, it's got comic strips, and it makes you look at it. So I've been looking at it...

WOODROOF: In this next issue, along with Frost's poem there will be work by Tony Kushner and Michael Chabon, as well as graphic fiction by Art Spiegelman. Paul Collinge, owner of Heartwood Antiquarian Books in Charlottesville, says editor Genoways has a rare combination of talents.

Mr. PAUL COLLINGE (Heartwood Antiquarian Books): You know, he's very much into design and layout and appearance, and the magazine reflects that. You know, that's a kind of an unusual combination to get. You can get some guy who's a big poetry expert but, you know, ask him how the page layout looks, and he'll have no meaningful opinion.

WOODROOF: Genoways's design approach is generally acknowledged to have given the Virginia Quarterly Review increased curb appeal. Right now, to tempt folks to pay the $25 subscription cost, they're offering a special supplement, called Writers on Writers. It's a slim volume of short stories by such authors as Joyce Carol Oates, Jonathan Letham, Ron Hansen and Christopher Tillman. In each story another writer appears as a character.

The print run for the VQR is under 10,000 copies. They have no money for traditional marketing, so they rely on buzz. No problem there for the issue that goes on sale tomorrow. For NPR News, I'm Martha Woodroof.

SEABROOK: Robert Stilling shares the story behind his discovery of the new Frost poem in an essay we've posted on our Web site, npr.org.

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