Alumnus revitalizes lit mag

Carve Magazine | Courtesy Matthew Limpede, who graduated in 2006, serves as editor-in-chief of Carve Magazine, a literary fiction publication that focuses on “honest fiction,” along with managing editor Kristin vanNamen.

College students search high and low for a job after graduating. Few find one so quickly and in an area they love.

For Matthew Limpede, who graduated in 2006 with a Bachelor of Arts in art and performance, working for a small literary fiction magazine was his calling, but not as a writer. He went straight to the top as editor-in-chief of Carve Magazine soon after college.

Carve Magazine publishes short stories and poetry for lovers of contemporary literature. Melvin Sterne created the magazine in 2000 and named it in honor of the literary great Raymond Carver. But in 2006, Sterne left Carve Magazine to start his doctoral degree.

As Limpede reached the end of his college journey and Carve Magazine faced termination, Limpede’s creative writing professor and mentor, Kristin vanNamen, stepped in to bring them together.

Limpede’s friendship with vanNamen started when he returned to his home state of Texas after leaving for college in New York.

“It was a really crucial time in my life when I took her class,” Limpede said. “I had just transferred from NYU’s dramatic reading program. I was miserable there, and I was sort of lost when I came back.”

Soon, the pair began spending time outside of class editing Limpede’s writing.

“We had a good working relationship going, and it just progressed from there,” Limpede said. “She’s always been very nurturing of my writing and of pursuing writing in literary arts as a career and not just a hobby.”

As a TA at the time, vanNamen used to invite her students for study groups. Once, as she graded papers and her students studied and read short stories aloud, vanNamen said she heard Limpede say something that would prove prophetic.

“He just randomly said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could just do this for a living? If we could own a magazine like Carve Magazine and this could be our lives, and I remembered him saying that, so when Carve became available about a year later, I contacted Matthew,” she said.

vanNamen also thought of Limpede as a good fit for Carve because of his respect and understanding of Raymond Carver’s work. She said writing was innate to Matthew, who was sought after as a peer editor at UTD.

“There was a core group of students who were writing and publishing, and he was very quickly accepted because of the quality of his work as a writer and editor,” vanNamen said.

Taking over an online literary journal was no easy task for Limpede, but he managed to do it mostly by himself for the first three years.

“I quickly became overwhelmed with each progressive year,” he said.

After putting the magazine on hiatus for several months, Limpede teamed up with vanNamen and recruited her as managing editor of the magazine in order to bring Carve back to life in 2010.

The publication has recently grown to provide more than just good stories. Carve Literary Services provides a place where writers are matched with consultants in order to work on editing or MFA applications.

Another branch is Carve in the Classroom, where lesson plans correspond to short stories in Carve Magazine in order to aid teachers in bringing contemporary literature into their high school classrooms.

Limpede and vanNamen run Carve Magazine full-time out of their homes to keep costs low and meet via FaceTime or Skype every morning.

A typical day can consist of completing agendas, thinking up new services to provide or brainstorming how to increase product circulation.

“Some days I’m reading submissions and deciding which get published and some days I’m actually putting the issue together,” he said.

Carve Magazine | Courtesy Carve Magazine's Spring 2014 issue
Carve Magazine | Courtesy
Carve Magazine’s Spring 2014 issue

Carve Magazine’s audience consists of avid readers who take pleasure in reading contemporary short stories and poetry.

“We have this image of people reading our stories at their cubicle during lunchtime and kind of being sucked into our magazine and the different stories that we have,” Limpede said. “We try to choose stories with strong openings to really draw people in because it’s hard to keep people’s attention online, so we’re really cognizant of that.”

From a survey Carve conducted a couple years ago, Limpede discovered that the magazine’s audience skews towards older, more educated people from all over the world like Australia, India and Africa. Carve’s premium print circulation is currently just over 3,000.

As for submissions, Carve Magazine is always looking for a good story, regardless of age, education level or background.

“We’re really fortunate that our submissions come from all over the world and all ages and background,” Limpede said. “We love a good story.”

Stories are more often character driven fiction and tackle topics that include, but are not limited to, grief, natural disasters, family relationships, as well as the odd, bizarre and quirky, Limpede said.

Carve Magazine’s tagline, “Honest Fiction,” is indicative of the values the magazine strives for.

“Honest fiction is what we like to think of as fiction where the power of ordinary language really comes through,” said Limpede. “Raymond Carver’s writing was honest. He wasn’t afraid to peer into the lives of his characters in a way that was simple and direct, yet very powerful. And those are the types of stories we go for.”

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