Who Does the Math? Introducing VIDA Counter Robin McCarthy

The people who count for VIDA count because they love literature. It would probably be an understatement to suggest they prefer reading over math. We wanted to learn more about what drives the individuals who make the annual VIDA Count possible. And because we are so grateful to these interns for so generously volunteering their time, we’ve launched a fundraising campaign to pay our Counters.


Tell us a bit about yourself. 

I’m a prose writer currently earning my MFA in fiction at Northern Michigan University in the oft-overlooked upper peninsula of Michigan. I am one of two managing editors for Passages North and teach composition and creative writing. While I live, write, and work in the Midwest these days, I was born and raised in Maine and feel very much a part and product of both the central and coastal parts of the state.


Why did you decide to become involved with the VIDA Count?

A big part of loving something for me is the desire and drive to make it the best it can possibly be, and I love literary magazines; I love reading them and working for them and sending my work to them. The VIDA count helps magazines become better, but its reach extends far beyond the journals it counts. VIDA’s numbers spark conversations about gender in unexpected spaces and they encourage writers at all stages of their career to consider what kind of citizen they want to be in the literary community. Matters of equality and justice are really, really big, and it can be daunting to consider the need for feminism with too big a lens. But smaller acts within the communities we love are essential, and working on the Count has helped contribute to an incredibly effective feminist tool among the people and art I care deeply about. One day, I hope I can support VIDA by writing big fat checks, but for now, it’s a pleasure to give my time.


Do you have a favorite book / poem / novel / short story?

I don’t naturally bend toward favorites. I’m not a poet, and maybe that’s why it’s much easier to name a favorite poem than to rank my most beloved novels and stories against each other. I have just really loved Alice Walker’s “How Poem’s Are Made” since I was young. Prose is much, much harder for me to narrow down, but Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge was a formative novel for me at a pivotal moment, and I think everyone should read Laird Hunt’s Neverhome.


What literary journals would you suggest readers be on the lookout for?

There are so many! I’m as drawn to good design as I am to interesting and high quality content, so The Pinch and Gulf Coast are always favorites to have stacked up on my bedside table. Both those journals never fail to make me want to be a better writer. I’m just discovering Quarter After Eight, and there’s some great innovation in those pages. I appreciate NANOfiction and OneStory for consistently interesting fiction that carries well in a fanny pack. The saddest thing in the world is a lit mag I can’t find the time to read, and that never happens with those slim little volumes. My online journal diet usually involves generous portions of Brevity and SmokeLong, and some friends of mine have been working to bring the world some pretty fabulous hybrids in Threadcount.


Robin McCarthyRobin McCarthy studies fiction in the MFA program at Northern Michigan University, where she teaches composition and is a co-managing editor of the literary journal Passages North. Robin’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Green Mountains Review, The Rumpus, and NPR. She is a Mainer at heart, but endlessly grateful for the opportunity to be educated in Michigan’s wild Upper Peninsula.