Editor Interview: Agave Magazine

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

A: Contemporary narratives

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

A: The Junket, The American Reader, Poetry London, The Paris Review, The New Yorker (among many others)

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

A: Mario Vargas Llosa, Lorrie Moore, Haruki Murakami, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen, Wallace Stevens, Derek Walcott...

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

A: Agave Magazine is a print and online publication showcasing contemporary literature, art and photography from around the world. Mixing literary genres and incorporating fine art pieces creates a magazine in which various modes of expression intersect and diverge. The look and feel of the magazine is streamlined and sleek without being intimidating. There is a great deal of white space, and entire pages and centerfolds dedicated to giving the individual works room to breathe. All of the literature, art and photography is brought to the fore and presented in an accessible format that we feel is engaging for a modern readership. Many of the pieces are accompanied by insights from our contributors discussing creative process, how they seek inspiration for their work, and behind-the-scenes information on the actual creation of the pieces themselves.

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

A: I think the very best advice I can give is also the most intuitive advice: read through issues of our magazine before submitting. Every issue is available for free and in its entirety on our website. Have a read through and see if it is the kind of publication that appeals to you and the audience you wish to garner.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: The ideal submission contains all the essentials —no more, no less. Restraint. Quiet fortitude. Skillful turns of phrase that take you to another place...
We also look for a contemporary narrative: does the author or artist weave a story or show us a new take for a modern audience? Do they have something valuable to contribute to the discussion? We avoid works with overt symbols and ideologies, experimentalism for the sake of pushing the envelope and not investigating form or genre, or anything that we feel is geared mainly toward antagonism or angst.

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

A: Given the volume we receive, all of our submissions are handled through Submittable, an online submissions manager, and we are very specific on our website about how to submit and format your work. The things that go awry usually have to do with basic errors, which is unfortunate because usually they are preventable issues. For example, we allow for simultaneous submissions, which can often be a double-edged sword, because if you don't act quickly enough, you can lose pieces to other publications. Oftentimes cover letters we receive will be addressed to some other editor at some other publication, which then prompts us to contact the submitter to verify if indeed they had intended to send work to us.
Another frequent problem, and I must say it is an absolute pet peeve, is when I or any of the other editors receive literary works that are copied/pasted in the body of an email, particularly poems which lose their formatting. We are clear that we do not accept any submissions via email, and so those end up being pieces that we must dismiss. Similarly, we receive a number of submissions that have been published elsewhere, even though we only accept original, previously unpublished work.

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

A: Cover letters are required from our online submissions manager, and we appreciate letters that are coherent and concise. We also ask submitters for a short paragraph or blurb detailing their creative process or the inclusion of any other relevant information. I tend to review submissions starting with the piece itself, then the creative process, and finally the cover letter. If a submitter wishes to include previous publication credits, they may, but it is most certainly not a requirement. Sometimes we receive these great long lists of publication credits, but personally I'd prefer just a short list of the most recent ones. We publish new talent alongside seasoned veterans of the industry, so all in all, the work should speak for itself.

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

A: We accept all literary genres so we get quite a mix in terms of submissions. I read through the literary submissions along with our Editor-at-Large. In the case of poetry, we accept up to five (5) poems and usually I will read every single one. This is especially relevant because style and form can vary so much from poem to poem. A poet is able to to showcase variations, depths and experimentation, or use their poetry submissions to provide a continuity of style. As for longer pieces, unless something is particularly glaring, I will generally read the piece in its entirety. Even if we have the general impression after a few paragraphs that something won't be for us, we try to be as diligent as possible. If the particular content is not for us but the writing style is strong, we will often ask the author to re-submit.

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

A: Both the Editor-at-Large and I read through our submissions and I would say that for the most part, we generally agree with each other about which to accept, and which to decline. But, there have been times when we really haven't, and in those instances, we fight for those pieces, and try to convince the other why it is essential that we include it. We also check (to the best of our abilities) that a piece is original and unpublished, as per our submission requirements.

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

A: My days have had to become very compartmentalized in order to fulfill my dual roles as an editor and a work-at-home mother. I've put up a rather firm, but flexible, wall if you will, between personal and work obligations so as to minimize conflict between the two. This often means extending my hours by rising earlier and going to bed later, a bit tiring but it does allow a greater degree of focus. In raising four children, it has become clear to me that assigning time slots to submission reading is the only way to give it my full and undivided attention.

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

A: We started out as an bi-annual online publication and have since expanded that to a quarterly online and print publication. For us, embracing current technologies (as well as being relevant and accessible) is a must; our online submissions manager makes our work possible, and allows us to coordinate as a team. I live in Southern California and the rest of the staff is located in Toronto, Berlin and Stockholm. We use social media, but I think if we had more time we could also use it more fully as well. Agave Magazine can be found online through our website, Facebook page and Pinterest. Every issue of the magazine is available for free and in its entirety online. We have a blog and each week our blog manager interviews contributors, or presents what is new and exciting in the art, literary and photography spheres. It has been a fantastic way to reach out and to interact with our readers. On the flip side, we transitioned to print as well because there still is, and will always be, a demand for it. In this digital age, print is now perceived as somewhat of a luxury good. Nothing can quite beat the feel of a print publication in your hand, flipping through the pages, and then housing it on your bookshelf to re-discover again or share with someone else. The digital sensory experience can't quite compare, at least in my estimation.