Two Purposes: An Interview with Founder Ed Tedeschi

How did you come up with the idea for the Roanoke Review? What goals did you have in mind?   

Our intention, framed mostly by Henry’s thinking, was to begin developing a high quality, “small” literary magazine. Resources at the college would be the launch framework, but material would be sourced, over time, from around the country. Had it not been for Henry Taylor’s contacts and initiative, the odds of this effort succeeding would have hovered slightly above zero. 

As the editor of the Review, what kind of content were you seeking?   

There were no hard and fast content criteria…we simply wanted to publish the work of a range of writers, and we wanted the body of work in the magazine to be engaging. As it turned out, Henry’s contacts, most of them luminaries in the literary world, were generous in providing us with great work.   

What did you learn from your time as editor?   

My time as editor was a lesson in how to appreciate the work of gifted contemporary writers; it was a lesson in working with masters of their art and craft, Henry T at the forefront of that experience; and it was a lesson in gratitude for having good fortune that dwarfed any I could have imagined for myself. There were also some instructive moments I’d rather have avoided. Among them was the huge embarrassment/humiliation/frustration of misspelling Malcolm Cowley’s name on the cover of the first issue of The Review.  

What place or purpose does a literary magazine have in the writing community?   

Two purposes. A literary magazine helps writers working in a broad range of forms and styles find an audience…great work must be seen to be appreciated. And, of course, exposure to a range of writers and styles helps audiences better appreciate creative talent. Those are the vital functions of a literary magazine.  

Can you tell us about the atmosphere at Roanoke College while you were a student?  

My own experience reflects the atmosphere at Roanoke…where faculty went to extraordinary lengths to help students succeed. The college and its faculty gave me the opportunity to be included in the founding of the Roanoke Review. Henry T generously drove that process and tutored me as we went along.   

Maybe more indicative of the atmosphere at the college were the events surrounding around a day in December of my senior year. The Dean’s told me that I was short one course credit, and could not graduate. I don’t need to describe the impact/implications of that meeting.  My faculty adviser was Dr. Matthew Wise, chairman of the English Department. His solution was to create a new English course specifically for my final semester as a senior. It consisted of three professors from the English Department…and me. I was assigned four novels to read. For each, I had to write an analysis and participate in a discussion with the group of professors, who would collectively determine my grade.   

Those two experiences frame my view of the atmosphere at Roanoke College…an atmosphere where faculty and administration extended themselves to students in extraordinary ways. 

What have you been working on since your time with the Review?   

A lot. I spent many working years in the advertising business, inventing ways to make folks believe they needed stuff. I then spent a few more years as a marketing strategy consultant. Then I wrote a novel. A thriller…scary, spine tingling, inventive, frightening. And unpublished. I am certain that credit for a major motion picture based on that work will never appear as an entry in my bio.  I’ll let you know when the second book is finished.