Follow Friday: Ploughshares
Ploughshares, a literary magazine based out of Emerson College, is a notable publication, and for good reason: guest editors for the magazine have included National Book Award winners, best-selling authors, and Guggenheim fellows. Published seasonally in April, August, and December, each issue is considered a stronghold of the literary world’s best offerings. In 2004, the Ploughshares blog launched, and it grew as a space where the journal could feature the quicker, well-reasoned words and perspectives of new writers.
Ellen Duffer, the managing editor of Ploughshares, spearheads the publication’s digital projects, including an updated blog with a new direction, and the brand’s social media. Below, Duffer explains the mix of industry news and featured reads that are all shared on Ploughshares‘ Twitter and Facebook pages, as well as the blog’s growth in followers, including one viral story that’s still getting hits.
Follow Friday, at a Glance
Connect with Ploughshares on social media:
How many social media accounts does Ploughshares have, and what are they?
We have a Twitter account, a Facebook account, [and] we have a Pinterest. We’re about to launch our Instagram account.
Are the Pinterest and Instagram new accounts?
Yes, Pinterest we launched last summer. Like most Pinterest accounts, it’s pretty static. We don’t update it as frequently as we update our Facebook and Twitter.
Which would you say is the “must follow”?
The “must follow” I’d say is our Twitter account. We update it more often than any of our other accounts, and we update it with contest [news]. We just started our yearly emerging writers contest, and that’s bound by March 1 and May 15 dates, so we are constantly updating that. Sometimes we will extend the deadline of the contest, and we’ll announce that on Twitter. We announce blog posts, when they’re published, on Twitter as well. So really Twitter is the one that we are constantly pushing.
Are you the only person in charge of managing the accounts?
I kind of supervise the accounts. We have two marketing assistants right now, and they contribute to the accounts specifically, and occasionally they will delegate that responsibility to our marketing intern. Our marketing assistants right now are Mimi Cook and Erin Jones.
What kinds of things do you look for? What’s worth sharing?
We follow a lot of Twitter accounts run by other industry players, and we’re constantly retweeting or tweeting about things that they’re posting on their websites and their blogs—whether that’s other literary magazines, other publishers, or things like “Publisher’s Weekly” or “The Millions,” which are kind of industry focused websites and magazines.
How would you describe the voice and tone of the accounts, and does it differ between platforms?
It doesn’t really differ [between] platforms, we try to be consistent. We like to be friendly, and knowledgeable. We’re a good source to come to for both publishing-related news and just quality literature in general. That, I think, comes a lot from the content we publish on our blog. We want our blog to represent voices we think are the future of writing, and that’s something we strive for in our publications as well.
Can you go into a little more detail about the blog?
I manage the blog. I recently hired an associate blog editor who was one of our editorial assistants, so she helps me get posts up on a day-to-day basis. The writers are contracted for a year, and in the fall we’ll have an open call for writers, [where] they submit writing samples and pitches for posts and for series. I go through and create a good team of writers. It’s important to me that all of the work balances out and plays off each other. I look for people who have interests in writing content that will create a conversation on the blog, that will create a larger conversation in the industry and on the web. They each write about once a month.
Is there a specific way the blog’s content complements the print issue’s content?
The blog content itself has evolved a lot in the past year. When I came into this position, the blog content was very different than it is now. It was intended to be more viral; there were GIFs, shorter posts, things that were easily shared. I wanted to make the blog—while it’s still a separate platform from the print issues—something that complements it. I wanted the writing to be indicative of what you’d find in the journal. It’s a little bit more in-depth now, with more of an emphasis on analyzing the craft in writing. Occasionally there are personal essays that you’ll find on the blog, but you can think of it as an intro to the journal.
Are you conscious of having a very specific Boston focus on the blog?
[The bloggers] are from all across the country. We’ve had some international, too. I’m not sure if any of the current ones are international.
Actually, Daniel Pena—I don’t know if he’s back from Mexico—was living in Mexico City on a Fulbright [scholarship]. He might still be. He writes a lot about what’s happening in Mexico and how that relates to literature. We like to have a wide scope, just so people can be interested and can find something that they like to read about on the blog.
Are there any stories that have gone viral?
Yes! One of our bloggers is Rebecca Makkai, and she just had a book come out last year. She gets a lot of press as a writer. She’s really funny; she has a Facebook page where she has a lot of fans and she shares things with them. She writes “writer satire” for us about once a month. There was this post, “Writers You Want to Punch in the Face(book).” It was basically saying, “you know those writers you’re friends with on Facebook that publish all of those annoying writerly things on Facebook?” Then she went on to make up this person, and made fun of him. Somebody—I’m not sure if it was Rebecca or somebody else—made a Twitter account for this fake person that she’d created in the blog post, and the whole thing just blew up.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.