Return of the Thing

Things have been quiet around here, eh? The usual excuses apply: holiday craziness, family illness, general ineptitude. Oh, and this thing:

greater sum 01 cover

What’s that? Why, that’s a literary journal called Greater Sum. (Sorry, Leyna, for not following your literary journal naming guidelines.) We’re debuting the first issue at the West Coast Christian Writers Conference, where I’m on the faculty, in just a few days.

Greater Sum is a project launched over the summer in an attempt to fuse my knowledge and skills with my desires and hopes. That’s a flimsy way of saying that I’ve been an editor for a long time and there are few things I enjoy more than talking and working with authors on revision. I love that stuff. And I’ve also felt for many years that the subset or arts that’s labeled “Christian” has an artificially low barrier to entry. Call it Christian art and you get something of a pass on mainstream standards for quality.

I don’t think that’s fair. Not to the arts, not to the artists, and least of all to God. In fact Christian art should be held to a higher standard (as it was for many centuries). My realm of expertise in the arts is writing and literature, and in that form especially there aren’t enough examples of Christian art that rise above what any objective observer would call average. That’s part of why Greater Sum exists.

Too, I’ve wanted to start a journal for a long time, but I didn’t just want to create yet another generic one. It needed to serve a purpose, have a mission, be different in some way. As it turns out, there are a fair number of literary journals that focus on Christian or religious writing. And there are a few outstanding ones (Relief, Rock & Sling, Ruminate, Image, and others). But none, so far as I could find, that focus on prose only. So I made one.

Now, my experience editing for many journals has clued me in to something: Everybody writes poetry. Poetry is a great way to fill pages and get lots of submissions. And that’s not to say that poetry is just filler—far from it. Poetry can give a journal much better pacing and flow, more general allure, and balance out the prose. But I wanted to see how prose could do that on its own. I have also been a poetry editor, and I’m simply not as good at that as I am working with fiction and nonfiction. It wouldn’t be right for me to pretend I can treat a poet’s work with the kind of care and intelligence it truly needs to be curated. That doesn’t mean we’re closed to poetry forever; I’ve spoken with some potential poetry editors about coming on board. But for now, at least, it’s just prose. That’s very loosely defined, by the way. We’re not closed to prose poems or micro-essays or experimental genre fusion. I’d love to see more of that, honestly. I want this to be a journal that pushes what art is in a religious context. I want to do readings in churches and community groups and online. I want to do workshops at conferences. I want to do virtual panels with our writers. I want to do interviews and short story videos. But for the purpose of curating art, which I, personally, will do for the glory of God.

It’s important to point out here that we do not ask for Christian writing. In fact, I wouldn’t even classify us as a religious journal. Rather, we’re interested in the idea of faith. Faith takes many forms, whether religious, secular, interpersonal, physical, emotional, political, etc. Much of the work in this first issue does deal with some form of Christianity in some way. That’s not required. I want to publish work that deals with faith from other religions, cultures, viewpoints, angles. We’re getting there. Because as a Christian, one of the best faith-strengthening exercises I can do is to hear about and try to understand the faith of other people, even (especially?) outside of my own particular religious context.

The information over at www.agreatersum.com dives into this a bit more. I encourage you to go have a look. If you’re interested in faith, art, writing, publishing, etc., please follow Greater Sum on Facebook. We’ll be posting excerpts from stories over the next couple of weeks. And if you’re a writer or know writers, please go to www.agreatersum.com/submit for submission information. The journal can’t survive without people writing and reading. Which means it’d be great if you subscribed, too. A single issue is only $7 and gets cheaper the longer you subscribe. The money roughly covers the cost of production and shipping and web hosting fees. The point of Greater Sum is not to make money, but to cultivate writing talent and then share it with the world.

We’ve got to start somewhere. How about with you?

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I look like this most of the time.

I’m a father of four kids under the age of 5, husband to my greatest blessing, and a reborn-a-couple-of-times Christian. Professionally I'm an editor, writer, and creative consultant, but my real job is trying to be a better husband and father. I started YCD because fatherhood is really damn hard, and we don’t talk about that enough. Let's change that.

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