June 2024
Dear Community,

Warning: Editorial self-indulgence ahead. This month marks the 10th anniversary of Verse-Virtual as I know it. I learned after Firestone's passing that he had blessed a number of people with his watercolors of the Hebrew alphabet. This month's cover art "Zayyin" is a tribute to his artistry and generosity. I've heard that there was another iteration of Verse-Virtual before this one, but that's a bit of history I don't have access to. And I suppose you could even divide this iteration into two parts: Firestone and Not Firestone. I was introduced to Verse-Virtual in the latter part of 2015, and submitted a single poem, which was published in the September 2015 issue. Firestone didn't like the final stanza, and was rather insistent that I change it. That was a new experience for me - an editor mucking with my writing. I capitulated, the poem was published, and I was invited to submit again. I did, had a few more poems published, and quite unexpectedly, Firestone asked me to join the "associate editors" group in January of 2016. I checked and found that I first appeared in the Masthead in February 2016. To this day, I do not know what prompted Firestone to include me. Fast forward to 2019. Firestone was ill, and kept it pretty much under wraps. When he did admit it, he minimized it. By August of 2019, he was too ill to publish that month's issue, though he rallied and put out the September issue. After that, he was simply too sick to continue. It seemed to be the end of Verse-Virtual. And that's where the Firestone era ended. For reasons I could not then and cannot now explain, I was so invested in the journal that I was determined to find a way to keep it going. That was the beginning of the Not Firestone era. At the risk of boring you and sounding like I'm boasting, I want to explain what transpired. In discussion with the other Contributing Editors (Firestone had rebranded us) we decided that as a group we could continue to publish Verse-Virtual but only on a bi-monthly basis. Our first issue would be in January of 2020. Great decision, but no idea of the challenges that lay ahead. Firestone couldn't remember any of the passwords to the web server or the domain registration, making it impossible to continue the journal as it existed. I have never liked "impossible" so I registered the domain name of "verse-virtual.org" (the previous was a .com) and got to work. It is possible to download a web page, complete with the coding behind it, so I started with the June 2014 issue and one page at a time, downloaded every single Verse-Virtual web page from the existing server. Every.Single.Page. There were over 4,000 pages and it took me a couple of months to get them downloaded and arranged into a coherent structure. At that point, I had to edit every page to change verse-virtual.com to verse-virtual.org so that the links would work with the new domain. Thank heaven for bulk "find and replace"! So we published the January 2020 issue, then scheduled the next issue for March. Boy did we get negative feedback about only publishing by-monthly! I talked with Firestone and voiced my concerns. He told me "You do what you think is best. You're the editor." I decided, with that blessing and hand-off, to resume monthly publication, starting in March 2020. Firestone passed away in May of 2020. I spent the following two years trying to figure out how to be an editor, beyond just publishing the monthly issues of the journal. I felt I would never step out of Firestone's shadow. At times I cursed him for not trusting or training anyone to succeed him. I cursed my own lack of experience. I made mistakes, offended people, apologized and kept going. I've been criticized for publishing my own poems in the journal, and a number of other "imperfections". But the positive feedback and support that I get from the community in general have kept me afloat. Every time I felt that I couldn't keep doing this, the thought of letting Verse-Virtual disappear pulled me back. Over the past two and a half years, I have started to find my own editor personality and accept that whatever my imperfections, I can do this and do it well. Small changes, like adding cover photos for more color and interest. Adding monthly readings (thank you, Robbi Nester for hosting them!) Limiting the frequency and number of submissions to keep the work manageable. Consolidating the Facebook pages from three back down to one. Which brings us to this month's issue. A ten-year anniversary, which I'm told is a pretty good track record for an online journal. I am delighted to see this happen. I feel I can finally move beyond being "Not Firestone" and leave my own stamp. And with the incredible support I have felt from all of you, I am confident that this unique journal and community can continue into the future. Here's to another 10 years together! With my deepest respect and affection for each of you, Jim