The New Editor of the Paris Review
In April, Emily Nemens, then the coeditor of the Southern Review in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was named the new editor of the Paris Review. Nemens started the new position at the Paris
Review’s New York City office in June and succeeds Lorin Stein, who resigned in December 2017 amid allegations of sexual misconduct toward female staffers and writers. Nemens takes over a storied publication that is much more than a print quarterly—the magazine regularly runs online content, produces videos and a podcast, hosts events, and publishes books through Paris Review Editions. A few weeks before the Fall 2018 issue, her first, came out, Nemens spoke about her plans for the Paris
Review and her approach to editing. Are there any new series or forms of coverage for the print quarterly in the works? The guest poetry editor program is really exciting. The Winter Issue, which comes out in December, will be with Shane McCrae picking the poetry. I’m really excited to work with him. I think the magazine does so much really well, and I don’t want to close the door on that—I really just want to support it. So I think there will be incremental growth across all the sections of the magazine. I’d really like to reengage with the essay, which wasn’t always in the magazine, so making a point to reconnect with that form is a priority. I have a visual arts background, so I’d like to collaborate with the arts community to not just figure out striking covers, but to really engage with what’s going on in the art world.
After Lorin Stein resigned in December, the journal’s board members released a statement saying that they had “revised [the Paris Review’s] code of conduct and anti-harassment policies.” How do you hope to build on that?
The board did a lot of good and important work before I ever got here. I was brought up to speed on all of those new policies, and there was great workplace sensitivity training and a lot of other resources brought in this spring. So I feel like a lot of the hard work was done before I arrived. But understanding really what it means to be in a safe and collaborative and collegial work environment and emphasizing that every day—that’s where I come in.
How do you think you can achieve that? It starts and ends with respecting everyone in the office no matter what their role is or how long they’ve been here. I think it’s being sensitive and empathetic to people’s work, but also to their lives outside of work without prying. And understanding that we’re all colleagues, but we’re also people, and just having that be my baseline as a boss. I’ve been trying to systematically work my way around the office and figure out with people what they’re working on, what they want to be working on, and what their short- and long-term goals are. I think starting with that and making sure we’re having regular check-ins sets a precedent for this as a dynamic and caring place.
What does a good relationship between a writer and an editor look like to you?
I approach relationships with my writers with a lot of enthusiasm and curiosity. I’m a pretty—I’m not going to say tough—but I’m a pretty engaged editor, and I do a lot of edits. I think the only way for those to go over well is if you deliver them with kindness. And usually that works—it doesn’t always work—but usually that works. I also bring that sort of relationship on the page to conversations and relationships [in person]. And even if I don’t connect with a writer on a particular piece, I try to support the work and the person making the work. I spend a lot of time saying, “No, but please keep in touch,” and, “No, I’m not going to publish this, but I care about your work, and I’m excited about it, so let me keep reading it.”