Interview With Jersey Devil Press
Author: Laura Garrison
Tell us more about the beginnings of Jersey Devil Press. When was it started and how did you come up with the name for the press?
Eirik Gumeny and his then-future wife Monica Rodriguez started the magazine in New Jersey, publishing the first issue in October 2009. It is named for the Garden State’s most kick-ass legendary creature, a cloven-hoofed, leather-winged demon with a horse face and glowing red eyes who lurks in the Pine Barrens. Eirik’s authoritative take on the legend can be found in Issue One, in our archives.
What are some of your favorite fiction and poetry pieces published in Jersey Devil Press?
We get a high volume of submissions and can afford to be very selective; this is rare for an online magazine, especially one that publishes twelve issues a year. Based on straight percentages, you’re more likely to be accepted by Harvard than by Jersey Devil Press. I’m attempting to dazzle you with trivia so you won’t notice I’m avoiding the question, because we’ve published hundreds of stories and poems. Scoop any random handful of tadpoles out of that pool, and you’ll likely be holding five pieces we are proud to have in our virtual pages. If there’s one extra-large barnacle clinging to my heart, it’s the special issue our previous online editor, Mike Sweeney, orchestrated for Eirik and Monica last year while our illustrious founder was waiting for his (successful!) double-lung transplant, to which several writers we admire generously contributed.
What has been the most challenging part about being an editor?
I don’t enjoy sending rejections. I know they sting, and I’m not a sadist. We usually send form rejections, which I know have a bad reputation, but I like them for two reasons. First, we try to respond quickly to submissions; most writers hear back from us within a day, which would not be the case if I had to explain why each particular piece was not a good fit for us. Second, I don’t think knowing what one magazine thought was wrong with your story or poem is a particularly helpful piece of information; I have seen a few stories I personally rejected show up later in other publications, which is a clear indication that people have different tastes. And I strongly suspect we’ve accepted many pieces other editors declined.
What type of work would you hope to see less of?
Can I tell you what I’d like to see more often? Stories about characters with interesting, hands-on jobs. I am fascinated by accurate details about the life of a sanitation worker or a dry cleaner or an entomologist. We get so many stories in which the main character is a struggling writer. We also see a lot of relationship dramas and stories written in the second person, which is rarely an effective stylistic choice.
If you could publish any living writer, who would you publish and why?
We exist to publish people who aren’t famous yet, so I don’t know the answer to that question. The element of discovery keeps this job exciting. That being said, if Karen Russell sends us a story, we will definitely publish it.
What is the next exciting thing happening at Jersey Devil Press?
We’re very pleased with our sixty-fifth issue, which will be out in April. Actually, if you’re reading this, it’s probably out now, because I am speaking to you from the past. October 2015 will be our sixth anniversary, which is an eon in the online literary magazine world, so we’re pretty stoked about that as well.