In a short piece published in July 2012, The Paris Review editor Lorin Stein responds to a query from an anonymous aspiring writer looking for places to submit their work. Stein’s response is worth quoting at length:
We get asked this a lot. It’s a reasonable question, but it always makes our hearts sink.
Here’s the thing: no matter how many classes you take, no matter how much time you spend at the keyboard, you cannot write seriously unless you read. And that means, partly, reading your contemporaries. Their problems are your problems; you can’t write—that is, you can’t write for serious readers—until you know what the problems are. I could give you the names of some good journals, but—supposing they take your work—what’s the point of publishing in a magazine that you don’t already read?”
Under Stein’s editorial gaze, The Paris Review seeks to find and support new voices in modern and contemporary literature. As an industry expert, Stein observes a worrying trend where unpublished writers are more concerned with seeing their own work in print than in beginning a meaningful relationship or dialogue with fellow writers.
Stein suggests that this trend might be connected to the explosion in MFA Creative Writing programs convened at university institutions throughout the world. Writing, in this case, becomes more than creative outlet or cultural expression: it becomes an entrepreneurial business enterprise. He states:
“Whatever its defenders say, the M.F.A. system has created a surplus of would-be writers and a deficit of habitual readers—and I’m afraid it shows in the work submitted to us here at the Review.”
The emerging figure of the entrepreneurial creative writer risks being cut off from their peers within the broader literary community. But Stein doesn’t end on a sour note. He ends by assuring the ‘Newbie’ that their is a simple solution for the career-driven wordsmith: “This trend is easy to reverse, at least in your own life. Join the writing community for real: become a reader.”