Jamaica Plain’s creative community increased in number by one major literary presence last month when Ladette Randolph, the new director and editor-in-chief of the award-winning, nationally recognized “Ploughshares” literary journal, moved in.
“Ploughshares” is published three times a year by Emerson College and features the work of known as well as emerging writers. Stories, poems and essays from “Ploughshares” have appeared at least 135 times in “The Best American Poetry,” “The Best American Short Stories,” “Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards,” and “The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses.”
Randolph, a writer herself with a novel forthcoming in the spring, made the move from her home state of Nebraska to take the position. The decision to settle in Jamaica Plain was easy for Randolph. “My husband and I really liked JP as soon as we saw it,” she said. “There was a strong sense of community, a commitment to diversity and a lively, creative spirit that we found very attractive. We kept driving to other neighborhoods, many of which we liked, but each time we came back to JP, we felt this immediate affinity.”
Far from having culture shock at the move from the Midwest to the Northeast, Randolph said she sees elements of home in her new community. “For many years my husband and I lived in an area near the University of Nebraska, in Lincoln, Nebraska that had a lot in common with JP. I think that may have been part of the reason I was attracted to JP was that similarity to the Near South in Lincoln.”
Randolph, 50, who has won such honors as the Pushcart Prize and the Nebraska Book Award for her own writing and edited two award-winning anthologies, worked previously as associate director and humanities editor at University of Nebraska Press. She was the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a Rona Jaffe grant and the Virginia Faulkner Award, and her work has been reprinted in Best New American Voices.
Literary late-comers can take heart at hearing her account of her own writing history. Though she wrote often as a child, “I didn’t start writing seriously until I was 25, late by most standards, and even then I wrote in isolation.”
Randolph discovered that becoming a part of a “literary community” was key to her development as a writer, but it didn’t guarantee immediate publication. “What a difference that made! Still, I didn’t publish my first short story until I was 39 years old.”
As for JP’s own literary happenings like Chapter and Verse, Randolph, who also teaches at Emerson, says, “Unfortunately, I don’t know how much time I’ll have to be involved in local literary events. My work with ‘Ploughshares’ is demanding, and I’m already very busy with readings around the city and involvement with literary organizations and Emerson College events.”
Meanwhile, Randolph is getting to know the community and finding a few favorite things. “I live near Forest Hills Cemetery, and it’s quickly become a favorite place. I like the arboretum and the pond, of course. I’m a member of the Harvest Co-op. The restaurants on Centre Street are terrific. I discovered Sorella’s recently. Well worth the visit.”
A new novel in progress and editorial duties at “Ploughshares” should keep things busy, but exploring JP further is definitely on her agenda. “I’m looking forward to learning more about the community over time,” she said.