For the first time since I moved to Berlin, I’ve missed my favorite social event of the year: SAND’s new issue launch party. Yes, sure, you might say I was gallivanting around Colombia, eating fried mojarra and drinking fresh-pressed juices, so what did I want with one evening of readings, of dancing, of congratulatory back-clapping? But for those of us who’ve spent six months putting it together, the launch party is our first chance to hold the new issue in our hands – this beautiful physical object we produce in an age where “print is dead.”
It’s been an interesting issue for me in any case, my first as retired editor in chief. It’s an odd feeling, somehow, to have worked my way from copy editor to managing editor to poetry editor to editor in chief and then to suddenly find myself with an honorary senior editorship and the hoary post of keeper of old history. I know the intricacies of the journal inside and out – after six years, you become something of an expert. But it’s more than just having knowledge. I feel like I’ve helped SAND grow from a small and maybe slightly ramshackle passion project to a fixture in the Berlin literary community and beyond. It’s well-organized and structured, the team is so so dedicated and talented, and the journal is ready to blow up. Which is ultimately why I decided to step down as editor in chief.
Like any empty-nester, I had plenty of projects lined up for when the birdie flew. There’s The Wolf & Peter, a food venture the very talented Anna of Anna’s Kitchen and I are launching, where we host supper clubs and workshops and kitchen takeovers. And I’ve been writing a cookbook that is slowly but surely nearing completion. It’s been exciting to have the energy to start something new, but I haven’t always been successful at letting go. I’ve left the journal in extremely capable hands (thank you, Jake), which makes it easier to step back. But it’s hard, too, to no longer have the last say on what is done and when and how. Is this what parenting is like, when you watch your children become their own humans?
So it felt poignant to miss this launch party – Issue 15’s – because I was no longer needed to give the welcoming speech, hadn’t made sure the readers were in place, the events team good to go, the draft off to the printer’s, the issue paid for. For the first time in a long time, I was an expendable member. And while that sounds like a miniature pity party, it actually feels like my greatest success. I’ve helped to build a thing that can survive beyond me. Because more than anything, I want SAND to thrive. I want all of the systems I’ve put in place, the people I’ve hired to feel like the journal is something they own – that it’s not just one person who makes it what it is, but that every single person plays a crucial role in keeping the journal running. It’s the philosophy I preached as editor in chief, and it’s amazing to see that the proverbial raft floats.
In any case, I haven’t left completely – that would be too hard. I’m still helping to edit drafts and get the new website up and running and going to meetings, partly to give my input and mostly to drink the wine. And of course I still get all the emails – because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about running a literary journal, it’s that there are a lot of emails.
Like all good literature-loving folk who spend too much time thinking about highly specific questions, our email banter frequently devolves into wordplay and puns. Each issue seems to have its own recurring theme, and this year, “peas” – inspired by a story we published with the word in its title – provided ample fodder. Of course, for me this also resulted in an intense craving for that bright and vibrant food and this summery green pea dip with lemon, mint, and dill whose relevance I know you’ve been anxiously waiting for me to explain. So they are related, really, SAND and this pea dip, though maybe only in the part of my brain where tenuous connections bud, and I use a thing I ate as a loose cover to write about what I really want to write about, which in this case, is what it’s like to give up a thing you love.
Full disclosure, I turned thirty this year, and society seems to think this is a prerequisite for reflection. What is success and am I achieving it? What is a career and do I have one? Why is my Facebook feed overpopulated with babies and does that mean I need one?
But upon reflection, it seems to me that thirty is less about proving you have the answers and more about finding the right questions to ask. And maybe figuring out that feeling confident about what is constant means you’re not so obsessed with knowing it all.
I do know that whatever I do, I want to grow. Stepping down as editor in chief means giving myself more space – for The Wolf & Peter, for freelance work, for writing poetry again. And though I miss being the boss, I’m excited to see what comes next.
For now, I’ve slipped the new issue onto my shelf, and it’s beautiful. A work of art and energy and really good words. Can I plug it here and say, you should get a copy of your own? I feel I can – I know how much goes into making each issue, and I’m confident about the quality and professionalism of this thing we produce.
I always like to read the issue few months after it has gone to print to give myself time to forget a little, to stop obsessing about the consistent spelling of “okay” and proper Oxford comma usage. So soon, it will be the height of Berlin summer, and I’ll sit out in the park with a copy of this wonderful thing – and maybe a bowl of mint and dill sweet pea dip with carrot sticks and fluffed up Turkish bread, just to bring this post full circle. And this time, maybe, it’ll almost feel like I’m experiencing it with the same sense of wonder as any stranger discovering something inspiring and new.
Mint & Dill Sweet Pea Dip
This vegan dip is the perfect little thing to bring along for picnics – it’s super springy, brightly-colored, and light. It’s lovely with toasted baguette, pita, or veggie sticks.
3 cups (450 g) frozen peas
1/3 cup mint leaves
2 tbsp. dill
3 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. tahini
1 clove garlic
¾ tsp. salt
Blanch peas in boiling water for 2 minutes, drain, and dunk in ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain again.
Blend peas with mint, dill, lemon juice, olive oil, lemon zest, tahini, garlic, and salt.