The Woman Behind the Journal, Interview with Shay Rahm

Professor Shay Rahm is the Publishing Director for New Plains Student Publishing, but sometimes we just call her “Empress.” Shay is motivational, inspirational, encouraging, and all around a great teacher. We owe her a great deal for her patient coaching and tireless leadership. Read on for more about the woman behind the journal.

Kelsey Smythe (KS): To start off, can you introduce yourself?

SR: My name is Shay Rahm and I am a lecturer of English at the University of Central Oklahoma. And I have multiple other titles, including Publishing Director of New Plains Student Publishing, Executive Editor of New Plains Review, Executive Editor of 1890: A Journal of Undergraduate Research, and Executive Editor of the Central Dissent: A Journal of Gender and Sexuality.

KS: That’s a lot of titles.

SR: Yeah, it is. And I do more, too, but those are my main ones.

KS: So, how long have you had your current role of executive editor and how did you come about the job?

SR: I have been at UCO for 17 years and I have been in charge of New Plains Review for 9 or 10 years. After doing that for several years, starting last year, working with some graduate students and very kind faculty, we developed the New Plains Student Publishing Group which encompasses three journals, not just New Plains Review. I’ve had my role as executive editor for 9 or 10 years and have been publishing director for the last year or two years that we’ve been working on this bigger project.

KS: So, what would you say drives you when it comes to teaching and leading New Plains Student Publishing?

SR: Oh, students! I don’t know, I’m old, and I’ve done a million things, thankfully. I was a corporate trainer before I was a member of the faculty here at the University. I just like students to come up with ideas and let’s just see if we can make it happen. And we might have to circumnavigate some issues and do some other things, but that’s what drives me. They’re interesting and amazing ideas and I’ve been very fortunate that people have allowed me to do the things that I’ve wanted to do, and so I want to give that back. I think that I’m selfish, obviously, and I like to learn new things all the time, and that’s why I teach, right? I think that’s in part why a lot of people teach, because they want to stay in the loop and stay caught up with things. I have students now who have gone on and are in the publishing industry or they’re professors at other places or they’re something completely different, but knowing that I gave them a chance, that they would come in with an idea and I gave them a chance to see it to fruition… I like that the most. Of anything. That’s what I like the most.

KS: So, what are you most proud of with New Plains Student Publishing?

SR: Well, I think the fact that we have it. Because no one said we could, and we did anyway. And so every time we were told “no” or “there isn’t funding” or “well, you can’t really” or “why would you?” or “how was that going to be possible?”, we just kept going forward and so then we just said, “well, we’re going to do it anyway.” And then it just became, because we were doing it anyway. I think that’s one thing I wasn’t afraid of, even when I was told no, I wasn’t afraid to just find another way to do it. And not against the college or department or university, they were all very supportive but it was more just red tape here and there and just finding a way around it, and saying, “well, we can do it this way instead of this way.” I think the fact that every day I walk into the office and there’s multiple students, as you know, in here and around, working with me or working on projects that we all started together at one point, that makes it worth it all and that’s what I’m proud of. I feel like we are an entity of ourselves now, and whether everybody else feels that way or not, I don’t care, cause that’s how I feel.

KS: In regards to looking forward, what are you most excited about accomplishing in the future with New Plains Student Publishing?

SR: Well, I want it to blow up. And I want more students from different departments involved. I really want to get some sort of business or marketing class involved. Poor Michelle [Art Director & Production Chief] needs a whole team of graphic designers and other art people involved. I’d really like to see, across the campus, every college, that there’s people involved in all those areas. Ultimately, I want to become a University Press and that’s a huge thing, and so you gotta take those little steps along the way.

KS: I know you tell your students a lot to read more, so what does your reading life look like?

SR: To be honest, right now, my reading looks more like BBC News or Salon or NPR, just apps on my phone. I get up really early in the morning when it’s still quiet and dark outside and I pull up an article or something and then I do that whole, you know, follow the rabbit down the hole and try to find the most obscure, random articles I can, about things like hot air balloons or something random, because of a very short opportunity to read in that case. When I have more time, I do read fiction. I read a lot of speculative fiction, I read a lot of Sci-Fi stuff, I’m big into Charles Yu, Ken Liu, just look at my bookshelf. Daniel Wilson. I’m really big into futuristic. Anything that involves a robot, I’m most likely going to read it. I’m really into AI, understanding that. And half of it I don’t understand because my science side of my brain doesn’t necessarily work. But for some reason when I’m reading fiction, I feel like I really understand what’s going on. I read a lot of short fiction, not a lot of novels anymore. Partly because of time and partly because I like to read stuff by a lot of different people, so if I can do some short fiction I can read various authors.

KS: So, if you had to pick one favorite book?

SR: Charles Yu. I would say Third Class Superhero is one of my favorites. If we’re talking about what I’m currently reading, Charles Yu is one of my favorite authors. Evelyn Waugh, A Handful of Dust, is probably the novel that made me become an English major. I was a physical therapy major, now I’m an English professor.

KS: Those are pretty different majors. So what’s the next book on your TBR [To Be Read] list?

SR: On my TBR list… I’m going to have to reread some short fiction for a presentation I’m giving. It’s a collection of short fiction, sort of sci-fi. So that’s next on my TBR cause I have to do it. But it’s all good, it’s not a bad thing. It’s all by Gen X authors, people my age, including Third Class Superhero and Sorry Please Thank You: Stories by Charles Yu.

Kelsey Smythe
Kelsey Smythe

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