State of The Rumpus


This January marks the start of my fourth year at the helm of The Rumpus. Looking back at what I wrote to you in 2018 and 2019, I can’t fully process how much has changed—and how much hasn’t.

The Rumpus remains in the black, though just barely. Our four subscription programs—Letters in the MailLetters for KidsThe Rumpus Book Club, and The Rumpus Poetry Book Club—along with sales of merchandise from our online store and at events, keep our lights on. Holiday sales of merchandise and program subscriptions were again robust, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for this. We are also deeply grateful to everyone who supports and donates to The Rumpus, because, truly, every dollar makes a difference around here.

While we’ve been consistently earning enough to keep publishing, paying contributors who opt in a token payment, and offering all Rumpus content for free to our readers, I still haven’t been able to take a salary. This is a choice I remain privileged to make but it has been an especially challenging choice this past year. However, our primary goals remain paying all contributors a flat rate and raising the funds to become a 501(c)3 organization.

So, it would still be accurate, three years in, to say we are scraping by—emotionally and financially. But we remain afloat.

This wouldn’t be possible without the help, support, and talent of my Rumpus crew. My store manager/programs administrator/bookkeeper Wendy Rutkowski remains an indispensable piece of the puzzle. My outstanding volunteer editorial team remains as dedicated as I am to making The Rumpus a platform for marginalized voices, for work that stretches the boundaries of genre and pushes against tradition, and for powerful stories that bring us closer to our humanity. In this upcoming election year, we believe that these voices and stories are that much more important and necessary.

In the last year, we’ve grown our editorial team significantly. Nicholas Nichols joined poetry editors Cortney Lamar Charleston and Carolina Ebeid as an assistant poetry editor, and the team continues to curate a staggering selection of beautiful and important work for our Original Poetry series. Chelsea Leu came on as our new books editor, and Zain Aslam as our new poetry reviews editor. Together, they work tirelessly to provide the excellent, inclusive books coverage we want you to expect from us. Our features team has expanded most recently to include senior features editors Claire Rudy Foster and Lisa Factora-Borchers, features editor Lauren J. Sharkey, and assistant features editors Kate Branca, Katherine D. Morgan, T.L. Pavlich, and Michelle Zamanian. And just last week we announced that Rosiee Thor will be joining us as our new children’s correspondence coordinator.

But I’ve saved one big announcement for today. We’ve been without a managing editor for over a year now. With the incredible support of my team, that’s been workable, though barely. I’ve been stretched too thin, and a bad bout of pneumonia this fall really gave me pause about how hard I push myself. I’m thrilled to share that the brilliant Marissa Korbel will be taking the role of managing editor, effective immediately! Many of you are already familiar with Marissa, who is the author of the monthly Rumpus column The Thread and curated our October 2019 theme month, On Monsters. If you’d like to learn more, Marissa will be introducing herself to our readers in tomorrow’s Rumpus newsletter—including photographic proof that we are not the same person! (Our weekly newsletter is free, and if you aren’t already subscribed, go ahead and sign up now!) I’m excited for Marissa to come aboard and help me keep the Rumpus ship sailing smoothly forward. Like all Rumpus editors, Marissa will be taking this role unpaid.

To be very honest, my own small world, and the larger world around me, continues to feel unremitting and overwhelming. I often feel like I’m about to hit a wall. But then I look at the top thirty most-read Rumpus posts of 2019, at our editors’ picks for favorite pieces of the year, at a list of all the book reviews we published, and at this list of marvelous books to be published in the first half of 2020, and I am buoyed. I think about the stories women and non-binary writers have shared in our weekly column ENOUGH and I’m motivated to push on. I remain ferociously committed to the power of sharing stories and to our ability to build bridges with language.

I hope it’s apparent that I also remain vehemently committed to transparency. As I wrote last year, with a government that actively promotes false information and denigrates the institutions that protect our first amendment rights, I believe that we must emphasize facts alongside story. Language has power, as it always has, and it is the job of editors and writers to use it carefully, thoughtfully, and truthfully.

This includes being transparent about the business of running The Rumpus and the politics of participating in the literary community. If you ever have a question or concern about what’s up at The Rumpus, please email me at [email protected]. Keep up with the latest Rumpus news by subscribing to our weekly newsletter, following us on Twitter, and liking us on Facebook.

We are here because of you. Rumpus readers and contributors aren’t just an audience, you’re a community—and we value, and remain deeply committed to, this community you’ve helped us create and sustain through the last decade. Together, we will make it through this upcoming year.



Rumpus original art by Briana Finegan.

Marisa Siegel holds an MFA from Mills College in Oakland, CA. Her essay "Inherited Anger" appears in the anthology Burn It Down and her poetry chapbook Fixed Stars is out now from Burrow Press. She is senior acquiring editor for trade at Northwestern University Press, and editor-at-large for The Rumpus. Find her online at More from this author →