Since 2003 I’ve had the privilege of directing an MFA in creative writing program that is like no other, a program dedicated not only the education of literary artists but to community engagement and the pursuit of social justice—a program that stresses not only the refinement of craft and artistic vision but the rights and responsibilities of writers in the many communities in which we live and work. Teaching in this kind of program is a genuine joy. Our students choose Antioch University Los Angeles because they know, whether consciously or instinctively, that creative writing is more than mere self-expression—that the act of writing creatively necessarily includes engagement with others, with differences, with the problems and issues that writers and those we write about must face each day as social beings.
For all its distinctive and innovative features, until now the MFA Program has always lacked one important element: an ambitious literary journal dedicated to publishing the very best literary writing available, written by anyone, anywhere, on any subject. I’m delighted to announce that void is now filled by AULA’s new online literary journal: Lunch Ticket.
In addition to publishing the best fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, writing for young people and visual art that its editors can find, Lunch Ticket will include interviews with established writers such as Rick Moody, Natasha Trethewey, Francesca Lia Block, Susan Orlean, and Aimee Bender, as well as essays on topics that reflect the MFA Program’s special emphasis on community engagement and the pursuit of social justice, such as “Fiction and Social Responsibility” by Bellwether Prize winner Naomi Benaron, which kicks off this premier issue. Lunch Ticket is edited by selected MFA students who are supervised by MFA Core Faculty and Staff and advised by a select group of MFA alumni who live and write in places as diverse as Paris, France, Vancouver, Canada, Bologna, Italy, the Hawaiian island of Kaua`i, and a sprinkling of communities across the mainland USA.
Lunch Ticket has been in development since 2005, when its name was chosen by MFA students, some of whom now serve on the MFA Alumni Lunch Ticket Advisory Board. The name Lunch Ticket pays homage to the MFA Program’s and Antioch University’s historic focus on issues that affect the working class and underserved or underrepresented communities.
The combination of student editors and faculty mentors is no accident. Back in 1980 when I was an MFA student at Bowling Green State University I had the opportunity to conceive, design, propose, and ultimately help edit a new literary journal called Mid-American Review. The idea was to make this new journal “the face” of an already well-established creative writing program. My main partner in this venture was my friend and fellow student Scott Cairns, who served as the magazine’s first poetry editor. Although mostly student-edited, MAR would enjoy both continuity and institutional memory through its faculty Editor-in-Chief, Robert Early and other participating faculty and alumni staff members. MAR enjoyed the consistent support necessary to evolve into a respected literary journal that published work by new and established writers from all over the world. Thirty-two years and numerous accolades later, I’m happy to observe that all those goals have been achieved, through the efforts of the many students, faculty, and staff who have served that fine magazine.
Lunch Ticket will serve an equivalent role for Antioch University Los Angeles’s MFA Program and its students, alumni, and faculty. And it will serve a growing audience of discerning readers unconnected to our institution. Lunch Ticket will not only publish outstanding refereed writing and visual art by talented writers and artists from all over the world, it will engage the issues that progressive institutions like AULA were founded to address. To paraphrase Naomi Benaron, who speaks to our intentions in creating this journal, literature is one of the primary weapons with which humanity fights injustice.
At first glance, much of what you encounter in these pages may not seem to be a fight for or against anything. But, as every discerning reader knows, things are seldom as they initially appear.
Congratulations to Editor Raymond Gaston and an excellent, dedicated staff. Thanks to AULA administration and faculty for your enthusiastic support.
And welcome, everyone, to the beginning of something important and good.