Journal Spotlight: Whale Road Review
Written by: Katya Cummins

I am very excited and pleased to invite Katie Manning of Whale Road Review to Niche Features. I want to take this opportunity to thank her again for taking the time to conduct this interview and giving our readers and submitters an insight into her lovely magazine.

Katie Manning is the founding Editor-in-Chief of Whale Road Review and an Associate Professor of Writing at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. She is the author Tasty Other, winner of the 2016 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award, and four poetry chapbooks. Find her online at

NICHE: What role have literary magazines played in your life, and what are some that may have inspired Whale Road Review?

KATIE MANNING: When I first encountered Poetry and other literary magazines in college, I was stunned by poetry that was recently written and newly published. I still feel a thrill when I read brand new work. I was further shaped by the magazines I worked on in graduate school: New Letters and Rougarou. I knew while I was working on Rougarou that I’d like to start an online journal someday, and some of the journals that especially inspired Whale Road Review were Boxcar Poetry Review, elimae, The Pedestal Magazine, Stirring, and THRUSH. I love that online literary journals reach readers who might not otherwise seek out print literary magazines.

NICHE:  What are some of the differences–if any–between working for a mag like Rougarou vs. Whale Road Review?

KATIE MANNING: The most important difference for me is that Whale Road Review is mine. I dreamed it up, named it, funded it, and built it from nothing. That’s been a much different experience than taking on an editorial role for a magazine that’s already established and in motion. I’ve got much more creative freedom with my own journal. At the same time, I was on Rougarou‘s staff with two of the people who now work with me on Whale Road Review, and our ways of logging submissions and doing peer review haven’t really changed.

NICHE: What is the concept behind the Teachers’ Lounge?

KATIE MANNING: The idea is to have a curated space where teachers of creative writing can share and find ideas for exercises, assignments, activities, and more. I used to love the pedagogy forums at the annual AWP conference, and I wanted to channel some of what was great about them: interesting ideas, brief presentations, and good-natured sharing.

NICHE: What can a poem do to distinguish itself?

KATIE MANNING: That is a wonderful question. As a writer, I wish I knew the answer. As an editor, I guess I’m glad that I don’t know the answer because poems keep surprising me. No matter how well-written they are, poems have to find the right reader at the right time, so part of what distinguishes a poem is completely outside of the poem itself.

NICHE: The prose section of your submission guidelines details that Whale Road loves “this messy place where genres collide.” Can you explain a little more what you mean by colliding genres?

KATE MANNING: Yes, I love how genre boundaries get blurry with very short prose. Is it a short story, a prose poem, a micro-essay, or something else? People tend to think the lines between poetry, fiction, and non-fiction are clearer than they are. When short prose is given a genre label, what assumptions do we make about that genre before we even read the text? How do we read short prose differently if we encounter it without a genre label shaping our expectations? This fascinates me.

NICHE: Writing a piece of prose that is under 500 words is extremely difficult. What advice would you give writers seeking to accomplish this task?

KATIE MANNING: Read a lot of great writing, especially short-form writing that is memorable and makes you wish you’d written it. Write a lot of short prose and expect that much of it will not be good, but trust that some of it will be.

NICHE: What do you hope readers will gain from reading Whale Road Review?

KATE MANNING: I hope readers find rest, humor, beauty, and new ideas to try in their own writing and teaching of creative writing. I also hope that they find things that trouble them and make them think. I hope readers will be haunted by something they read in Whale Road Review in a way that might make them more compassionate and engaged people in the world.

NICHE: As an Editor, what has surprised you the most about starting a literary magazine?

KATIE MANNING: One of the biggest surprises has been the quantity and quality of submissions we’ve received in these first two years. I didn’t expect that writers would trust a new journal to be the first home for some of their best work. One writer just told me this week that his poem we published is his favorite poem that he’s ever written. The other big surprise is that some brilliant writers have agreed to spend a substantial portion of their time and energy to work on Whale Road Review with me. I’m so grateful for their thoughtful, thorough work.

NICHE: Is there anything else about Whale Road Review that you want our readers to know?

KATIE MANNING: You can follow us on social media if you’d like to get announcements about our issue releases and submission windows:


Twitter: @whaleroadreview