Interview with Conte
Author: Adam Tavel
What makes Conte a unique part of the publishing community?
As best as we can tell, Conte is the only online journal with an aesthetic focus on narrative writing, and we’ve been going strong for eight years while a lot of other lit-mags have come and gone. We pride ourselves on making each issue vivid in regards to its content as well as its design. Additionally, we take great pleasure in publishing younger writers—often graduate students—alongside an eclectic array of established and nationally recognized talents such as Norman Dubie, Bruce Bond, Andrew Hudgins, Erika Meitner, Robert Wrigley, Sandy Longhorn, Jim Daniels, Nin Andrews, E. Ethelbert Miller, and recent Pulitzer Prize finalist Bruce Weigl, among many others. Finally, we are always looking to exploit the benefits of the digital medium by featuring work that many print journals would find disadvantageous due to its layout or length.
What sort of qualities do you look for in a manuscript or piece of work that you are considering for publication?
We approach each submission with a desire to be excited by its originality, its freshness, its use of form, its calculated risk(s), and its orchestration of the English language. As writers ourselves, we certainly understand that good prose and verse have a way of startling readers, defying exceptions, and even making us uncomfortable at times, so maintaining a rigid proscriptive agenda would be folly. That being said, though, I think editors need to express more often how many submissions disclose their flaws within minutes: they trespass guidelines and/or deadlines; they suffer from basic errors in spelling, grammar, and formatting; they employ an obvious cut-and-paste cover letter, etc. In sum, all we ask is that folks send us writing crafted with patience and care, and that they send to Conte because we’ve previously published something that resonated with them.
Do you have a specific aesthetic preference? How would you describe that aesthetic?
We don’t think of ‘narrative’ as a euphemism for ‘traditional,’ or ‘linear,’ or ‘academic.’ Rather, we embrace the term in its broadest sense: writing that captures the linguistic, cognitive, and emotive power of story and thereby transcends questions of genre or literary allegiance.
What is the readership like for Conte? What do you imagine your typical reader is like?
As an online publication, it’s impossible to know the extent and limit of our reach. But we imagine our readers are as diverse as our submitters—they range from India to Indiana, from high school to retirement, from unpublished to widely known. As we fondly said in our early years, Conte is for anyone who “loves a good yarn,” so we strive for accessibility while at the same time embodying the discerning rigors of craft.
What is the next exciting thing happening at Conte?
Our most exciting development of late has been the addition of substantial “between the issues” content on our main site. Like any reputable biannual, our editors are constantly reading submissions and working behind the scenes, but we also recognize that months may pass without new work finding our readership. That’s why in 2013, we’ve doubled our energies to share interviews, book reviews, news about former contributors, digital workshops, and the occasional poem or story to keep folks coming back during those season-long gaps between