Interview About The Journal
What makes The Journal a unique part of the publishing community?
With an all-graduate-student staff, The Journal is constantly evolving. The genre and managing editors change annually or bi-annually, so we’re always accepting slightly different work. The changing staff also means that new ideas get implemented regularly and rapidly; each new editor leaves his or her mark on the magazine and its processes. We’re also particularly proud of the dual online/print nature of the magazine, which allows us to choose the best format for each piece we publish. That means we can publish elaborate art features in a variety of media, audio recordings of selected writers, a wide range of interviews and reviews of new books, and more.
What sort of qualities do you look for in a manuscript or piece of work that you are considering for publication?
I’ll let the genre editors respond to this one, as they make all final publication decisions:
Nick White, Fiction Editor: First and foremost, I look for stories that are confident. I am not sure what that means exactly, except to say that I know it when I see it. Stories are a bit like magic tricks – the good ones allow us to forget we are reading and transport us into what John Gardner calls the “fictive dream,” and the great one, I will argue, hold the power to change our lives.
Michael Marberry, Poetry Editor: I’m most intrigued by work that surprises me in some way — whether it be on the level of language, image, line, form, sound, subject-matter, etc. etc. etc. I put a lot of value in technical proficiency, of course. However, at the end of the day, I’m looking for something that knocks me back a bit, something that I want to read again and again. That’s all very subjective obviously; but that’s part of the fun and the challenge of working with any literary publication.
Silas Hansen, Nonfiction Editor: The three main things I look for in an essay are (1) an interesting tension, or an exploration of conflicting ideas, or conflicting traits in a character, (2) a strong narrative voice that makes me want to keep reading, and (3) a structure that adds to the story — whether it’s a more traditional structure or something that plays with form, I want it to add to my experience as a reader.
Do you have a specific aesthetic preference? How would you describe that aesthetic?
More from the genre editors:
Nick: I’m open to anything really. Jane Smiley in her book 13 Ways of Looking at a Novel posits that she no longer thinks of creative work in terms of “good” and “bad,” but now sees each piece as a chance in which to inhabit a new world. If I have any aesthetic whatsoever, then it is geared toward how inviting and successful writers are at inviting me into their created worlds. Other than that, I will consider just about anything. Bring it on.
Michael: Yes…I think that I do have my own personal, aesthetic preferences. As a human being, it’s probably impossible for me to fully escape that. But I don’t want to talk about my preferences because I don’t want to discourage folks from sending us poetry that may be operating in a different mode, tradition, purpose, etc. I’m very fortunate to work with some superb writers and readers — each of whom brings something different and important to the table. They challenge me to constantly re-imagine the potentiality of poetry as a means of expression, exploration, and preservation of the human experience. That’s a long way of saying that I really want The Journal to be a home to lots of different types of poetry.
Silas: I am interested in any type of essay that has those three things above, but I have a particular weakness for essays with beautiful language, as long as the language doesn’t serve to trick the reader into thinking there’s more there than there really is.
What is the readership like for The Journal? What do you imagine your typical reader is like?
We’ve got really great readers, who are always interacting with us on our blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc—plus submitting their work. Nothing’s better than submissions from our readers. Just thinking about my interactions with subscribers and fans of The J via email, social media, and of course in person at readings and at AWP, I know that they’re smart, sophisticated, voracious readers who are as eager as we are to find the most exciting and bold literary writing being done today.
What is the next exciting thing happening at The Journal?
Our fall online issue, 36.4, should be out right around October 1st. It’ll be packed with audio, interviews with contributors, a really delightful art feature, and of course stupendous writing. We’re also thrilled that our contest winners, Emilia Phillips, Suzanne Richardson, and Leslie Parry, will appear in our winter print issue—you can check out the titles and judges’ comments on their winning pieces already on our blog at http://thejournalmag.org/archives/2045. Finally, the submission period for the OSU Press / The Journal Poetry Book Contest opens on September 1st. We are incredibly excited to start reading submissions, and to pass the finalists along to this year’s judge, Kathy Fagan. For more information, visit https://ohiostatepress.org/.