A writer and illustrator, Nemens had served as co-editor of LSU's Southern Review along with Jessica Faust. After college at Brown, she received a writing MFA at LSU. Her web site cites her roots "in Brooklyn and Baton Rouge."
Nemens' selection at the venerable New York journal founded by George Plimpton and others was a surprise. After former PR editor Lorin Stein was booted for sexual harassment allegations, the PR sought a woman as editor, but it was believed that some well-known East Coast writer would be chosen.
The committee was looking for a fresh new talent to lead the journal, known for its interviews with famous writers and discovering new writers who go on to bigger triumphs.
At Southern Review, where she handled prose work, Nemens gained a reputation for developing new writers. She and Faust took the LSU journal founded by Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks to new directions, breaking from its lingering strains of provincialism. To longtime readers such as myself, the results were mixed.
The news brought back memories of my LSU days when I subscribed to Plimpton's PR, puzzled by its more experimental fiction and poetry, but lapping up the wise words from augustan interview subjects.
Best wishes, Ms. Nemens. May you bring a bit of the Baton Rouge sensibility to the Paris Review.
(Photo originally ran in New York Times.)