Sunday, November 22, 2009

Interview With Gregory Wolfe

1) The vision for Image journal is different from most other journals that have received acclaim, especially from a Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Dillon. What inspired you and your staff to create a journal with the specific focus of integrating imagination and religion?

The goal was to fill a gap in our culture -- for most of the last 100 years, both religious believers and secularists have agreed that great art could no longer be created by people grappling with religious faith. Many believers dismiss "modern art" as somehow incapable of conveying a spiritual vision. And many secularists think that faith is an escape from reality and thus cannot generate great art. We wanted to prove both sides wrong. After 20 years and over 60 issues, we think we've done that.

2) Can you talk a little bit about the history of your journal and some of the growing pains it went through to get to where it is today? What were some of the biggest challenges your journal faced or still faces today?

Well, the obvious answer is that money has always been the biggest challenge. But in a way we also struggled for credibility -- when we started IMAGE the editors had no money, no reputation, no institutional backing. We had only a single issue of a quality journal to show off, and we used that to try to convince people that it was needed. The biggest challenge we face today is the difficulty of convincing people that reading a literary journal is worth the effort. In an era of short attention spans a publication that contains long stories and essays, and challenging poems, is not an easy sell. And yet the rewards for this kind of deep reading are tremendous.

3) As you are a teacher, publisher, and editor, is it difficult to find time to write yourself? How do you make time to write?

All I have time to write these days are short pieces: four editorial statements for IMAGE each year, a few book reviews and blog posts. That's because my work for IMAGE and the Seattle Pacific University MFA in Creative Writing take up so much of my time. I hope one day soon to be able to hire more workers to help shoulder some of the workload. On that happy day, I will be able to begin writing books again.

4) What type of genre do you normally write? Do you have any works in progress?

I write nonfiction of many types: literary criticism, cultural reflections, biography, etc. I have begun research for a book I hope to write: a group biography of several Renaissance Christian Humanists, including Erasmus, Thomas More, and Hans Holbein the Younger. Also, a book of my essays will be published in about a year and I am editing a volume of selected poems by the twentieth century American poet Dunstan Thompson.

5) In ways does the novel you're currently working on "The Company of Good Letters: How Erasmus and His Circle of Renaissance Christian Humanists Shaped the Modern World" fit in to the vision statement of your journal? Or are you planning on going in a different direction?

It's not going to be a novel (work of fiction); it will be a nonfiction book -- narrative history. And yes, it is completely in line with the vision of IMAGE because I see in Erasmus and Co. a vision that is almost identical to that of IMAGE. These Christian humanists thought that literature and the imagination were extremely important as a way of bringing a balanced vision to a highly politicized era.

6) Who were some of the other writers who were important to the early part of your career?

The poet T.S. Eliot. Fiction writers like Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Georges Bernarnos, Francois Mauriac, and Shusaku Endo.

7) Finally, do you have any advice to anyone who would be interested in submitting their work to your journal?

Be patient with us -- we are a small staff with a huge workload. It can take us a while to read your submission. Don't be discouraged if you work is not accepted. Keep submitting to IMAGE and other journals. Above all, keep writing!

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