Welcome Back Copper Nickel

Managing Editor Wayne Miller discusses the literary journal's future

April 21, 2015
Copper Nickel is reborn
Wayne Miller and the staff of Copper Nickel at AWP. Photo credit: Nicky Beer
The staff of Copper Nickel, the national literary journal housed at the University of Colorado Denver, thought that, at most, 150 people would come to their re-launch party at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference in Minneapolis. Fifteen minutes before the party was scheduled to start, there was a line of 20 people waiting outside the doors, and, by the end of the evening, the head count was 450.

“Yay! You’re back!” a woman squealed to a student editor as she walked into the party. “You were always one of my favorite journals. So glad to see you again.”
Join Us!

Come celebrate with the student and faculty staff of the Copper Nickel today, April 21, 6-8:30 p.m. at Syntax Physic Opera. There will be heavily discounted subscriptions and free fancy snacks (like rabbit-stuffeddates!). All are welcome.

Copper Nickel was started in 2002 by Jake Adam York, associate professor in the Department of English and founder of CU Denver’s Creative Writing Program. His sudden death in 2012 left a community of students and fellow writers devastated and Copper Nickel, without a managing editor, in hiatus. Two years later, Copper Nickel is back, and the staff of CU Denver student and faculty editors threw a party at the AWP Conference to celebrate their brand-new re-launch issue. The 450 attendees and their genuine excitement were proof that, even after two years, people from across the country remember Copper Nickel and are thrilled to see it back.

Wayne MillerOn Tuesday, April 21, the staff of Copper Nickel will continue celebrating its re-launch with a party in Denver, and everyone is welcome. In preparation for the party, new Managing Editor Wayne Miller (right) talked about Copper Nickel and its future.

What is a literary journal?

“Literary journals are a kind of hybrid form—a collection of poetry, fiction, and essays that looks like a book but is made up of submissions like a magazine. They’re strange because most people don’t know that they exist, but then you get into the literary world and they’re so central, especially for emerging authors. If you want to see what was written 10 years ago, you pick up an anthology that’s published this year. If you want to see what was written five years ago, you pick up a book that was published this year. If you want to see what was written this year, you pick up a literary journal. It’s the most contemporary work, and there are hundreds and hundreds of them across the country.”

If there are hundreds of literary journals, what makes Copper Nickel special?

“What makes Copper Nickel unique is that it has an interesting dual mission that sets it apart from a lot of literary magazines. We’re both a national magazine and a student-run magazine.”

Copper NickelWhat does it mean to be a national magazine?

“Well, we are external in terms of the work we are publishing and our ideal audience. If you are on this campus, you can’t publish in us. Our content comes from writers around the country that will then be read around the country. We have a distribution agreement with Publishers Group West (PGW) through Milkweed Editions, one of the largest not-for-profit literary publishers in America, which put 350 copies of our re-launch issue in bookstores across the country. We did an email campaign that went out to a bunch of independent bookstores and within 10 minutes, the owner of Powell’s Books in Portland, one of the largest independent bookstores in the country, wrote back to say that he had heard of us, never carried us before, but was excited to.”

Copper Nickel is staffed by undergraduate students. What does that student involvement look like?

“There are 22 students currently working on various aspects of the magazine: reading submissions in conjunction with myself and the other faculty editors Nicky Beer, Brian Barker, Teague Bohlen, and Joanna Luloff, working on marketing projects, and even doing nonprofit work like grant writing. Students who are interested can get involved in three ways: you can take the publishing class, you can work as a volunteer editor, or you can do an internship.”

And why should students work for Copper Nickel?

“I think that there are several ways that working on Copper Nickel prepares students for a post-grad future. One of those ways is important but not exactly quantifiable: for young writers, reading for the journal and making evaluative judgments regarding work that comes in makes you a better writer. It gives you a sense of what you’re up against; it helps you develop your critical antenna. The second thing is that it’s practical, hands-on experience working on a national publication. For those students who want to work in publishing or even just enjoy literature, this is an excellent experience on a CV before you’re even done with your undergraduate degree.”

What’s in the future for Copper Nickel?

“Practically speaking, we have a designer building a website for us that will have a lot of work that supplements and draws attention to what’s in the journal in the period between publication dates (since we come out twice a year). Our students will do interviews with the authors in the journal and do short-form book reviews—more experience for our students and more interesting content for our readers. Beyond that, we’re just growing our presence and trying to draw attention to our existence in the literary world, which is always expanding. We’re on a three- to five-year plan to make Copper Nickel one of the top literary magazines in the country, and we’re going to get there.”

Copper Nickel is reborn