Every Book Is a Bridge

By

I’ve spent nearly a decade of my life with The Rumpus—it is hard to condense the weight of what’s happened in those years into coherent sentences.

In January 2017, when I took the helm as owner and editor-in-chief, I wrote:

I sometimes believe in luck and I definitely believe in timing. But I don’t believe in fate, or destiny, or even (especially) God. Still, every now and then a series of coincidences lead to a conclusion that may in hindsight seem like fate. You look back, and it may feel like a force was guiding you toward a future you did not plan for but also marched directly toward. A future you did not foresee but also embraced, in small but meaningful ways.

Today, this rings even truer. These last five years have been at turns joyful and inspiring, difficult and demanding, hopeful and hard. I am grateful to have remade and re-envisioned this space, alongside a cohort of tremendously talented colleagues. I am grateful for what we’ve dismantled, intentionally, and how we’ve rebuilt. I am grateful for the community The Rumpus has brought me into—for the editors, writers, publishers, readers, and books my work at the magazine has connected me to, and how they’ve each and every one changed the shape of my life.

I am, at heart, still the child who found escape and solace in words. In books. As an adult living in a broken and divided country, amid a pandemic, writing to you the day after my town suffered historic flooding only a week after our last extreme weather event, I believe more than ever that literature’s power must be wielded to share necessary truths. I believe that by interrogating and investigating language, we can imagine new futures. I believe that every book is a bridge to a possibility its reader might not have otherwise considered.

I am writing today to share that one of the dreams child-me held close is coming true: I am making the transition into book publishing. On Tuesday, I begin as Senior Acquisitions Editor (trade) at Northwestern University Press. While I’ll work remotely at first, I’ll be relocating to the Chicago area in the coming months. I’m eager and excited for this new adventure—a new city to explore, a new team of brilliant minds to collaborate with and learn from, and a new way to make space for the powerful literature today’s moment calls for.

Of course, it won’t be easy to step away from The Rumpus. The magazine has been my second child; I’ve truly given it more blood, sweat, and tears than I care to admit. But that’s taken a toll: I’ve worked fifty-to-eighty-hour weeks, for free, for five years now. Literary magazines often exist on the backs of this kind of free labor, and the model is not a sustainable one. Certainly, it’s no longer sustainable for me; more broadly, I am exploring a new and more solvent future for the magazine, and I’m energized by what The Rumpus’s future might hold.

That future is still hazy. For now, I will remain owner and publisher of the magazine, and my capable, wonderful friend and Rumpus senior features editor Alysia Li Ying Sawchyn will step into the role of editor-in-chief. In the upcoming weeks, I’ll be in conversation with our editorial team about the best path forward for the magazine. When I have a plan to share, you’ll be the first to know—and I sincerely hope you’ll be ready to support The Rumpus in its next iteration. Because just as I believed in 2016 that The Rumpus should not close, that its unique platform had too much important work yet to do, I believe now that The Rumpus is still a necessary space within the literary community.

Thank you for the support you’ve given me through my journey into owning a business, and as I’ve navigated the magazine’s complicated and sometimes fraught history—and our world’s complicated and often fraught present. Thank you for trusting me with your time, and with your words. Thank you for believing along with me that our stories matter.

I can’t wait for the stories yet to be told, and am thrilled to help bring you the books that will tell them.

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Rumpus original art by Dara Herman Zierlein.


Marisa Siegel lives, writes, and edits near NYC. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Mills College in Oakland, CA. Her essay “Inherited Anger” appears in the anthology Burn It Down (Seal Press, 2019) and her debut poetry chapbook, Fixed Stars, is forthcoming from Burrow Press in 2022. She is senior acquiring editor for trade at Northwestern University Press, and owner/publisher of The Rumpus. Follow her on Twitter at @marisasaystweet. More from this author →