Three years ago, Exposition Review had its first editor retreat. We had broken away from our previous print iteration in favor of an online platform, and had published issues we were proud of—but we realized that there was more. We sat around a table and asked ourselves a question that, in some ways, we’re still trying to answer: Who are we? That day, we decided a few things: We would continue to be exclusively online, we would diversify our readership and content as much as possible, we would pay our contributors, and—above all—we would be a platform for writers. All of it felt like a faraway plan, with goals we knew we couldn’t reach right away, everything in the realm of “what if.”
And throughout the growth, learning, trial and error, the last five years could be considered Exposition Review’s “first act.” We’ve settled into our skin—attempted to make those “what ifs” possible. We tackled transitions, an ever-growing submission slush pile, and the language of contracts. And we have a lot to show for it: four amazing online issues expanding our inclusion of art, comics, and experimental from our print days. We’ve launched a new publication opportunity to feature flash work across genres and started paying contributors with our Flash 405 contest. Our community grew, with readers and editors coming from all walks of life, reading across time zones and messaging encouraging memes as we send to them more pages each week. Somewhere between the late-night meetings and stress over the website design and counting the pennies in our budget until they became dollars, we found ourselves.
Exposition Review is more than a literary journal. We host literary workshops, produce readings, promote contributors’ book launches, and provide opportunities for new voices and careers through our internships and work with nonprofits such as WriteGirl. This year, the big win, we are finally able to guarantee payment for all of our contributors—something we’d worked toward since this all started. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of our donors—thank you for helping to make this a reality.
As we consider this year and our theme of “Act/Break”, it’s tempting to call it a benchmark, a milestone, even an end to something we thought we might be. We’ve held on to some traditions and let go of others—we’ve tried and failed and learned. And yet, in a way, it’s all just another beginning. We’re no longer in the in-between, no longer the same journal we were when we started. With Volume V, we’ve been able to think about our value in a new way. We serve as the platform for extraordinary voices, and because of that we approached our whole process differently. We committed to giving submitters more thoughtful feedback in rejections and contributors more time to edit before publication. All of the work you’ll read or art you’ll view was either discovered while listening to an author or artist speak at a literary event or found in our slush pile, including our cover.
Then, there’s the elephant in the room. When we chose the theme, we didn’t anticipate how much the world would also be transitioning into something different. It’s impossible to talk about this year without addressing how COVID-19 has affected us all, Exposition Review included. Before the shelter-in-place took effect, on Saturday, May 9, we would have been celebrating with our local LA contributors at Skylight Books, pouring wine and listening to the pieces we fell in love with read aloud. That time will come again, and hopefully these stories we present will serve as a reminder that change is meant to challenge us, not destroy us. We are so proud of how the literary community has adapted and recognized that as writers, artists, editors, we are stronger when we support each other.
The pieces we chose for this issue often spring from similar roots—they dip into a moment, a day, or even years, and form an experience that leaves their characters changed. That transformation is divided into sections—acts, chapters, numbers, lists, genres, pictures—pieces meticulously put together to create a whole from many parts. From losing brothers to surviving the apocalypse, from breaking open wounds and healing others, to a woman who gives birth to a small primate (that’s not a typo), we sit with these characters and hear their voices, feel their feelings. We are with them in alleyways and sitting on a couch watching soap operas. We consider what it is like to be an immigrant or to feel displaced in your own body. We challenge new entry points into storytelling, following characters through interactive hyperlinks and collages. We feel them build, break, splinter, and reconnect. The beginning, the end, and the space in between—that exploration is what we wanted, and it is most certainly what we got.
These are extraordinary writers, artists, storytellers. This is their platform.
This is Exposition Review’s Volume V: “Act/Break”.