Letter from the editor

April 3, 2023

Yesterday, after a two hour session with my writing incubator, I caught the urge to write. I wrote and read all day until I ran out of material to pull from the bedside stack and musings to dribble on about. I didn’t complete anything, really. Nothing got filed, closed, or tied up, but I had the privilege and pleasure of allowing my ideas to unfold throughout the day. 

And while this may read as an obvious activity for a writer and an editor, days like yesterday are few and far between. Fleeting at times and beloved when they occur, moments of exploration and play not only inspire me greatly, but serve a purpose in the bigger picture. The unadorned ideas turn into the juicy bits that flavor a future piece or become the paragraphs that have to be torn down completely to make way for something much stronger. 

In my editorial work with Variable West I hope to foster circumstances where writers have the space, time, and funds to espouse arts writing and criticism as a process—even if only on an irregular basis, knowing all the things that can come between writers actually sitting down to write. I often think about what our art worlds would look, feel, and sound like if we slowed down and I want to use my editorial power to try to build this fantasy, even if on a baby scale. Although thoughtful and challenging arts writing can sometimes happen overnight—and the writing and criticism world is chock full of wizards who can crank out magic on wire-thin deadlines and literal nonexistent budgets—I believe that arts publications have a responsibility to take better care of their writers, and in turn take better care of the art and artists who live within the writing they publish

Amid increasingly fatiguing realities, I am grateful for the opportunity to employ an editorial methodology that is equally as rigorous as it is deliberate. Thank you to the spiraling web of folks, mostly Black folks and folks of color, who put me on as a strangely young and eager arts worker–teaching me how to install projectors, giving me rides home after striking warehouses, feeding me, teaching me how to negotiate my pay, and, ultimately, pushing me to write. Without all of that, I would not be in this present role. 

I am excited to reciprocate some of that care back to the arts communities in Portland and the West Coast more broadly. 

Ella Ray
Associate Editor of Variable West