Silk Road Assistant Editor: Kyle Southard
Graduation Year: 2017
Hometown: Corvallis, Oregon
What impact have Pacific University’s English Professors had on you?
I actually decided back in 7th grade that I wanted to pursue creative writing when I grew up, and that was one of the driving forces behind me coming to Pacific. So in terms of deciding on my major, Pacific’s English department didn’t play a huge part—it was set before I even knew the university existed. Where it has had an impact is in solidifying the direction of my creative pursuits, on top of convincing me that using creative writing as a springboard for my career is not, in fact, an absolute effort in career-suicide, as many naysayers would have us English folk believe.
The English professors here are easily some of the friendliest and most invested people that I’ve met, and I can honestly say that they have done so much more to help me plan out my goals and set myself up for the future than any other group that I’ve encountered. Keya and Kathlene have provided me with invaluable insight into my stories, and it was specifically through Keya’s Monsters and Demons class my first semester of college that I realized the full potential of my writing abilities. That same class also set me on the path of fairy tale-retelling that I have been on for the past two years, and I’m proud to say that it’s a path I have found compelling enough to pour countless amounts of time and thought and effort into.
How do you think your time spent at Silk Road will transfer into the “real world”? What have you learned/hope to learn?
Honestly, I never expected to be involved in a literary magazine’s review process. That always seemed like such a high-tier job to me that it never even crossed my mind as something I could do. So just being on the fiction review team this semester has already enlightened me to the fact that life can give you some really great and unexpected opportunities if you give it a chance.
And, of course, there’s a lesson in humility to be learned from being in that kind of position. I’d be the first to admit that many writers—myself included—have a bit of an ego going, and so it’s really easy to fall into a mindset of, “I’m the best, and I’m the only one who knows how to write.” And in some ways that’s true—no one can write your ideas like you—but when you’re giving a pass or rejection on a story, it really makes you realize that not everyone thinks in the same way as you. Your story could be out there, in the middle of some other group, and they could be scoffing at the same ideas that you and your friends absolutely love.
It’s fascinating—really makes you think. And that’s what’s most important.
Due to the popularity of digital media and e-books, what do you think might happen to book and magazine publishing in the future? Is there anything you would like (or are afraid) to see happen?
For the past few years there has been a lot of talk about how hard-and-true paper books are going to become a thing of the past and that everything is going to go digital and all of the stuff. I definitely think there is some truth to it, but I don’t think it’ll happen anytime soon—for all of the ease and convenience of e-books and such, along with concerns about environmental sustainability, there’s too strong of a sentiment today in favor of physical books continuing to be a thing. I suppose I could see the majority of magazines going the way of the Internet, considering that they generally have a narrower audience, but there are definitely a few that would stick around. If nothing else, novels aren’t going away anytime soon, for better or worse.
As far as what I would prefer to happen to novels and magazines—I’m very middle-road on the discussion, if I’m being honest. On the one hand I would love to one day get a book published and have a physical copy for myself. I just think that would be the most bizarre, surreal, and wholeheartedly fulfilling thing that I could do—if I could get a single book published and hold it in my hands, I could die happy knowing that I had accomplished one of my life-long goals. At the same time, I recognize that trees are important and it’d be very detrimental to the world if we ran out of oxygen, so that really calls my priorities into question: Books, or life as we know it?
It’s a conundrum.
What does Silk Road embody to you? What words would you use to describe Silk Road to someone who knows nothing about it?
I definitely see Silk Road as a sort of “The problems of our people” deal—a collection of stories focusing on common issues that most, if not all readers can relate to, without stepping too far outside of the frame of realism and believability. In my experience there’s nothing terribly fantastical about anything that gets published in Silk Road, even within the fiction section, so you don’t wind up with super crazy existential explorations of human morality framed around zombie apocalypses or anything like that. Probably because of that, there’s a very anchored and grounded feel to the magazine that helps the reader empathize with the various narrators and poems and such that come and go throughout the various issues.
All things considered, “realistic” is probably one of the best words I could use to describe it. Possibly not even just in the sense of, “This is something that could or has happened”—take off the “ism”, and you really just have a magazine that feels “real.”