Wenatchee Valley’s newest literary publication — “The Shrub-Steppe Poetry Journal” — officially launched Sunday during a party at Bob’s Burgers and Brews. The project was spearheaded by local poet, writer and speaker Susan Blair.

The literary journal offers an opportunity for area poets to contribute their work to a local journal created by local editors. The poetry-only format stands alone among local publications.

The journal is new territory for Blair as well. Though she is no stranger to submitting her work to presses and publications, the journal offered a glimpse behind the editor’s curtain.

“It’s the first time for me being on this side,” She said during a recent interview.

But Blair is a quick study. With a little help, she was able to put together a proposal that won a grant from the Washington State Arts Commission, Arts WA.

The funding helped to move the project along, but there was still a lot of work to do. Once the calls closed, there were over a hundred submissions to read and consider; acceptances and rejections to communicate; editing required; and design and proofing to be completed.

Fortunately, Blair had help. The Shrub-Steppe Journal boasts a three-editor team including Susan Rae Sampson of Malaga and Ed Stover of Yakima. The lineup for the inaugural issue also included proofreaders Dianne McCammon and Cheryl Adkins and designer Bruce McCammon.

After submissions closed, the trio of editors scoured the entries for their picks.

“It was a very friendly, amicable, calm process,” Blair recalled. They each chose their favorites and then came together to discuss and advocate for their selections.

The editors weren’t just looking for pieces that spoke to them, but pieces that spoke out regardless of their personal connection.

“We were very keen to show some diversity,” Blair said. The three editors were careful to consider different styles and structures from classic formats to experimental poetry.

After the selection were made, Blair let each poet know the status of their submission by email or post before digging into the editorial process.

“We were impressed with the quality of work in the accepted poems,” She said.

After layout and proofing, the first volume of the journal is a substantial one, clocking in at 140 pages with 193 poems from 75 poets.

Individual copies cost $10 with proceeds benefiting the non-profit Shrub-Steppe Poetry. This year’s sales will help fund next year’s run. Copies are available online.

And poets, if you didn’t have a chance to submit to this volume, get writing! Blair plans to open submissions for issue two in early 2020.

For more information or to buy a copy of the journal, email sfblair61@gmail.com or visit shrubsteppepoetry.org.

— Lindsay Francis, World staff