In 1997, English Professor Mitch Wieland approached then-Provost Daryl Jones with the idea to start a new literary journal at Boise State University. The journal was envisioned as a precursor to Boise State's upcoming MFA Program in Creative Writing. While a graduate student in the MFA Program at the University of Alabama, Wieland had served as fiction editor of The Black Warrior Review. Provost Jones funded the new journal and chose its name. Over the next fifteen months, the entire first issue was edited and produced by Professor Wieland and Quinn Pritchard, a Master’s student in the English Department. The inaugural issue was published in late 1998. Of this first issue, NPR’s book commentator Alan Cheuse wrote:
“The first issue is so splendid an inaugural, I don’t know that I’ve seen, in fact, a first issue of a magazine or journal with such a high-quality list of contributors, and such good work by them, since the old early days of some of the best magazines we know, Partisan Review, Paris Review, and such. Congratulations.”
Esquire editor Rust Hills wrote a personal letter to Wieland that said, in part:
“ . . . a nice lot of fiction to read. Congratulations on the magazine.”
From the six short stories in the first issue, three of them made the top 100 stories of the year list in The Best American Short Stories 1998. These stories were “In Irons” (Ann Beattie), “Voices from the Other Room (Richard Bausch), and “The Air Above the Ground (Robert Olmstead). As a result of these Best American citations, the journal received a flood of submissions for its second issue.
After Boise State’s MFA Program started in 2000, Wieland began producing the issue with the help of an annual MFA Graduate Assistant and Wieland’s graduate class in publishing and editing, which he teaches each fall. Past Graduate Assistants (Associate Editors) to the Idaho Review are:
- Tamara Shores
- Alex Kiesig
- Malia Collins
- Patti Knox
- Brad Cook
- Matt Crosby
- Reggie Townley
- Torii Grabowski
- Beth Goldner
- Lacey Daley
The current GA is Sean Frede.
Boise State MFA faculty member Brady Udall joined the journal in 2008 as fiction editor. In the 2009 issue, Professor Udall put together a moving tribute to his late editor Carol Houck Smith.
Over the years, the journal has published emerging writers alongside of established writers. The Idaho Review featured some of the early stories from Jennifer Haigh (2001) and Ben Percy (2004). In 2002, two Boise State MFA students (Bill Pettitt and Wil Miller) championed a manuscript from an unpublished writer in the Idaho Review slush pile. The story, “Bleed Blue in Indonesia” by Adam Desnoyers, appeared in that year's issue and was reprinted in the 2003 edition of Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards. In that edition, two of the twenty stories reprinted in the O. Henry Awards were from The Idaho Review.
Past fiction contributors include: Joy Williams, Ann Beattie, Richard Bausch, Rick Bass, Madison Smartt Bell, Ron Carlson, Lee K. Abbott, Edith Pearlman, Stuart Dybek, Frederick Busch, Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Stephen Dixon, Melanie Rae Thon, Anthony Doerr, Doris Betts, David Huddle, William Kittredge, Carol Bly, Alan Cheuse, Carolyn Cooke, Padgett Powell, Alyson Hagy, Percival Everett, Pam Durban, Bret Lott, Kelly Cherry, Cary Holladay, Deirdre McNamer, Stephen Minot, John McNally, Gordon Weaver, Allen Wier, and George Garrett.
Past poetry contributors include: Robert Wrigley, John Kinsella, Debora Greger, Larissa Szporluk, Brendan Galvin, James Harms, David Citino, Kelly Cherry, and Michael Blumenthal.
In 2009, the Idaho Review published a special tenth anniversary issue. From its first ten issues, the journal has had ten stories selected for reprint in the following national prize anthologies: The Best American Short Stories, Prize Stories: The O. Henry Award, The Pushcart Prize, New Stories from the South, and Best of the West. The journal has had another nineteen stories short-listed for these same prize anthologies. For a full list of these stories, please see our Awards section.
Check out a Boise Weekly article on the Idaho Review.