In medias res.
That’s a Latin term I was unfamiliar with until last week, when a contributor—an English professor—taught me its meaning: “into the middle of things.” It’s a narrative technique in which a story starts smack-dab in the midst of action, bypassing the slow build up. Think Homer’s Odyssey, Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. It’s through that prism—in medias res—I see myself diving in as the new editor-in-chief of the institution that is Writer’s Digest magazine.
I envision my role as one part steward and one part soothsayer. WD published its inaugural issue in December 1920, and in the span since, such legends as H.G. Wells and Jack Kerouac, Joan Didion and Ray Bradbury, Maya Angelou and Kurt Vonnegut have expressed themselves through our pages—a lineage of literary royalty so distinguished it would make a Beefeater gawk. I plan to carry on the craft tradition that WD has so effectively celebrated, while also integrating in the future of storytelling.
To be a writer today means something distinctly different than it did 100 years ago. We’ve seen mammoth change in the past two decades alone. Books are self-published and recorded into digitally downloadable audio. Many magazines and lit journals exist only online, and web-based freelance markets outnumber print at least three to one. There are more venues to deliver your words to an audience than ever before. And in terms of our own content, an interview is no longer just an article—it’s a podcast and a YouTube video, a meme and a prompt for Facebook discussion.
A shifting world presents new opportunities, but also new challenges. At WD, we’re here to help you navigate those waters. My job will be to keep you abreast of industry trends, of the latest writers who found success and what they did to achieve it, of innovative ways to improve and empower your inner raconteur—delivered to you in a variety of mediums, all while preserving the integrity of the Writer’s Digest tradition. Of course, we will remain committed to teaching story craft across category, genre and convention, and always offering inspiration when the weight of rejection seems suffocating, or the words themselves just won’t flow.
I began subscribing to Writer’s Digest back in high school. Ten years later, I had the pleasure of serving as WD’s managing editor to Jessica Strawser, latest in a long chain of talented former EICs to successfully pursue her own writing career. So I have no illusions. I’m very much jumping “into the middle of things”: the continuum of this storied publication. And I intend to do this magazine, and its loyal readers, justice.
For more of Tyler’s insights, check out the February 2018 issue of Writer’s Digest, or subscribe today.