Pity poor Susan Shafarzek. This recent-ly relocated Virginian (she moved from Albany, New York, in 1999) was just settling into her position as fiction editor at Streetlight, Charlottesville’s venerable local lit mag, when word came down that Editor-in-Chief Susan Williamson was stepping down to focus on her work at the Tupelo Press. For many small, under-financed journals, such a loss would be tantamount to a death knell—but the Street-light staff wasn’t ready to give up. “We sat around for a couple of days and went ‘oh woe is me,’” Shafarzek admits. “But then we put the word out, and people were saying, ‘Oh yes, I can do that.’ So suddenly we have a staff, and people are working.”
They’d better be. Due to a generous in-kind printing donation from LexisNexis and T&N Printing, the magazine has a can’t-miss deadline looming, and has only just begun to receive submissions for their latest issue.
“Streetlight is different, because it’s regional,” Shafarzek explains. “Any other magazine I’ve ever worked on, you put a little notice in the International Directory or Writer’s Digest, and suddenly you have thousands of contributions. But we’re trying to keep regional, so we have to get the word out. But it’s one of the things that makes the magazine exciting: It’s not just another literary magazine, it’s the voice of a community of people.”
And Shafarzek is optimistic that her current call for submissions will yield grand results. “This is our fifth issue,” she points out. “That’s very unusual for a small magazine with a small budget. We’re proud of that, and we’re really working hard. Our primary anxiety at this point is to get contributors.”
Of particular interest to the magazine, she says, is creative nonfiction, including essays, memoirs and personal reminiscence—preferably of a regional nature. But, while the magazine’s focus is on local and regional writers, Shafarzek promises that no submission will be dismissed out-of-hand. “If we get something that’s really hot, we’re going to feature it,” she promises. “Regional doesn’t mean that we exclude people who are here as students, visiting faculty, whatever. If you’re here, you’re here.” The bottom line, after all, is quality. “We’re looking for diversity,” Shafarzek says. “We’re looking for anybody who’s got something interesting to tell us.”
Streetlight is currently accepting submissions for the 2006 issue. Visit www.streetlightmag.org for more info.