In March 1983, a group of gay male writers began meeting weekly at the Minneapolis writing center, the Loft, for the purpose of improving their skills and publishing their work. In October 1983, the first issue of The James White Review (TJWR) was published by the James White Review Association (JWRA), under the editorship of Phil Willkie, Greg Baysans, and Paul Edmond. Willkie was instrumental in the choice of name for the publication, which commemorated his friend, the local poet James L. White, and was also intended to obtain regional name recognition for the publication. The name had the desired effect and gained TJWR recognition from the local literary establishment. Six thousand copies of the first issue were distributed nationally, free of charge, to gay bookstores, newspapers, and writers. Although the first issue contained only regional materials, TJWR's wide distribution attracted over 170 submissions from throughout the U.S. and Canada.
TJWR's reputation grew throughout the 1980s, and it became recognized as one of the leading examples of the second wave of gay journals, following publications such as Fag Rag, Gay Sunshine, and Mouth of the Dragon. By 1985, TJWR was receiving submissions of 200 to 250 poems and 25 to 40 prose pieces for each issue, and was publishing an average of 25 poems and seven prose pieces. The issues were distributed to over 270 subscribers and were available at more than 70 retail locations. During the summer of 1986, TJWR conducted workshops on writing for gay men in northwestern Wisconsin. By January 1987, the subscription base had more than doubled to 600, including 25 foreign subscribers. As AIDS impacted the Gay community, TJWR provided an outlet for literary expression. In 1990, the Lambda Literary Awards recognized Willkie and Baysans with the Publisher's Service Award for TJWR's contribution to the community. In 1991, Willkie and Baysans edited and published The Gay Nineties: An Anthology of Contemporary Gay Fiction.
By 1998, its 15th year of publication, TJWR had published the works of an estimated 500 writers and artists, and had a subscription list of 1,700. On July 1, 1998, Willkie transferred publication rights for TJWR to the Lambda Literary Foundation, Washington, D.C., which suspended publication in 2004.
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Hutera, Donald J. "Changing Perceptions of Gender: Gentlemen's Quarterly." Minnesota Daily, October 14, 1985, 14-15.
______________. "Anything From Anyone:" The James White Review Aims to be a Comprehensive Gay Men's Quarterly." New York Native, January 19, 1987, 27-28.
______________. "Leading Gay Lit Mag Moves to Washington." Pulse, June 17, 1998, 6.
Kasel, Mark. "The James White Review Discovers New Directions." Equal Time, February 20, 1985, 6,10.
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Peck, Claude. "Inventing New Forms: A Gay Literary Quarterly Named for Poet James White Reflects a Range of Styles and Substances." City Pages, 1983, 21.