Editor Interview: Bellingham Review

Q: Describe what you publish in 25 characters or less.

A: Palpable Writing

Q: What other current publications (or publishers) do you admire most?

A: Fugue, Tin House, Burnside Review, Willow Springs, AGNI, Shenandoah Press, Crab Orchard Review

Q: If you publish writing, who are your favorite writers? If you publish art, who are your favorite artists?

A: Poets: Rae Gouirand, Nina Lindsay, Chloe Honum, Robert Hass, Rae Armantrout, Carl Phillips, Rita Dove
Fiction: Susi Wyss, Ingrid Satelmajer, Irene Keliher, Michael Chabon, Sylvia Plath

Q: What sets your publication apart from others that publish similar material?

A: We are known for out personal responses to authors' work, and we have an excellent track record of publishing first-time writers.
The creative works that find their way into the Bellingham Review are characterised by their love of language and motifs that dance across the page.

Q: What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to your publication?

A: This is true for any publication, but read the submission guidelines carefully, and read sample work to make sure your peice would be a good fit.
In fiction peices we tend not to be interested in the broken home/substance abuser story. It is probably the most common kind of story we recieve, and will not set you apart from other submissions. We like stories with intrigue that doesn't require a lot of backstory, something that will raise our eyebrows and leave us with at least one lingering question once we're done. Further, although our word limit is fairly high at 9,000, bear in mind that the longer a story is, the better it has to be to justify its length.
In poetry: dazzle us with fresh language! Give us the little moments in life and don't try to explain away the world. We publish mostly free verse poetry, but are willing to look at traditional forms. As editors, we find that the "turn" of a poem--usually the last several lines--are the make or break point for a work. End it strong!

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: The ideal submission comes in a 9 X 12 clasp envelope, NOT folded in a small envelope. The ideal submission shows an awareness of the Bellingham Review. We are not dazzled by an author's publication credits, but we do enjoy a good cover letter.
The ideal submission is formatted in a readable manner. This is often overlooked, but font matters! If the words hurt our eyes, we aren't going to want to read it. Use standard font types and double space the pages please!
The ideal submission knows not to overstay its welcome, and that it's better to leave the reader wanting more rather than getting bored. In other words, just because our maximum for poems is five, we remind you that it's better to have three strong poems than five so-so poems. Trust us, if we want to see more, we will ask.

Q: What do submitters most often get wrong about your submissions process?

A: During our contest, authors often do not follow the submission guidelines very carefully.
Generally, authors will neglect to include an SASE (we try as hard as we can to respond to all submissions. Submission open/close dated are often ignored as well.
The big one, however, is content. We get a lot of work that simply does not fit our aesthetic. Many of them are even good peices. We assume this is true for many journals, and we are sympathetic to how time-consuming the submissions process can be for authors, but we cannot stress enough how important it is to familiarize yourself with a journal before submitting.

Q: How much do you want to know about the person submitting to you?

A: I think I answered this a little in a previous question. The work really does matter the most to us. That said, we like fun and friendly cover letters. We don't like cover letters that try to summarize the enclosed story. We do look at publication history, but we advise submitters to be careful with this. Don't give us your whole history, give us the highlights, or give us your most recent publications.

Q: If you publish writing, how much of a piece do you read before making the decision to reject it?

A: It depends. In some works it is apparent almost immediately that a story isn't going to work, while others have me interested until I'm let down by a "tidy" ending.
The most common trait of rejected manuscripts, for us, is too much exposition too early. Authors are told by everyone that they have to grab the readers attention in the first two pages, so they try to do just that. They'll let a scene play out for about two pages, and then decide it's time for the backstory. We usually reject right at that moment. A short story shouldn't need much backstory, and any relevant character traits should come out of the story. Try not to break the narrative.
With poetry, we'll cringe at the first cliche and stop at the second. Generally we read to the end though, because we consider it the make-or-break point for most poetry.

Q: What additional evaluations, if any, does a piece go through before it is accepted?

A: Every submission starts with our readers, who will offer their initial feedback. Our genre editors will then read those submissions--even the ones our readers rejected. This ensures that everything gets two pairs of eyes on it. If an editor like a peice but is unsure, they will share it with another editor. The works that make it through this process end up on the desk of our editor in cheif.
Every year we ask several to revise and resubmit works that we think are strong, but not quite there yet.

Q: What is a day in the life of an editor like for you?

A: Depends on the time of the year. But most days are a combination of responding to messages, logging/reading submissions, and maintaining public relations. In the fall/winter of every year our next issue goes into production, which is wonderful (but time consuming) experience.

Q: How important do you feel it is for publishers to embrace modern technologies?

A: I think it's very important, and the next few years will see the Bellingham Review moving towards online submissions systems, online-exclusive content, and more of a social networking presence (follow us on Facebook!)
The Internet can be an overwhelming place, but if one stops to looks around there is already a wealth of wonderful creative works and writers who are able to promote themselves in new and exciting ways. Poetry is everywhere on the net, and a lot of it is very good. The concern I think most journals have regarding new technologies is how to make money in a medium that gravitates towards free content. I don't have the answer to the money question, but am still enough of an idealist to say that the art is more important than the money anyway.
My guess is that electronic media will not kill print, it will just change it. I think the music industry is figuring this out faster. In 2008 Radiohead released an album essentially for free on their website. Surprisingly, when the physical (CD, vinyl) version of the album was released, it sold incredibly well. If people like a work of art enough, they're going to want a version of it they can hold. In my opinion this puts the impetus on the author to produce quality content. Even today, even if it's free, if it's good enough people will buy it.