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Editor Interview: Eastern Iowa Review

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

A: Lyric prose

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

A: Bits and pieces from many journals. We're hoping to acquire the type of essays, prose poetry, and fiction we enjoy most.

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

A: Annie Dillard, Anne Carson, Ellen Meloy, Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, Gertrude Stein, Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Gretel Ehrlich

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

A: Quality, focus, and audience. We seek intelligent, thoughtful, quality lyric and experimental essays and prose poems that don't offend sensibilities.

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

A: Read Annie Dillard. Edit out graphic sexuality and profanity. Write descriptively and brilliantly. Focus on "good spaces," though not necessarily "soft places." We love lyricism and surprising (though not nonsense) word usage, nature and culture, contemporary issues and everyday topics told in a lyrical way. Incorporate thoughtful ideas. Know our preference for paragraph-form prose poetry; don't use line breaks!

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: The ideal submission to our journal is a lyric or experimental essay, a prose poem, or a piece of fiction, which appeals to a wide audience, shows aptitude in writing style and word usage, relates a strong sense of place and is rich in description, and did I mention lyricism in language? Work simply must sing. In fiction, captivation is a must. Short, punchy, language-driven works will impress us far more than credentials or long rambly prose that seems to get nowhere. Material should be smart and intelligently written. Pretend your wonderful words will be the basis for a fourth grade homeschooling class on literary writing. Pretend Dr. I. M. Learned wants to use it to demonstrate what prose should sound like in his Creative Writing workshop section on the aural aspect of literature. If your work doesn't focus on surprising language, it's probably not right for us. And it must be smart.

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

A: Most pieces don't approach the lyricism they could or should, or perhaps most authors don't understand the idea behind a lyric essay or prose poem. I've posted a few notes and links on our website to assist with that. As Joey Franklin said, "… the heart of the lyric essay is not reality, not nature, but the music of reality, the music of nature as conceived in the mind of the essayist..." In other words, if an author's primary concern has been to impart knowledge, they've not yet created a lyric essay. Also, reading publisher guidelines can take time, but it's so very essential; those who don't read ours often send material that's inappropriate for our audience. Think brilliance and honesty and great writing without unnecessary offense, though not necessarily without controversy. Lyric essays aren't constructed in a hurry. Good prose poetry is an art form. The hurried essay is the bad essay. Same with the prose poem. These genres take time to develop, and focusing on audience likewise takes discernment.

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

A: Short bios are welcome. We're far more impressed with how the actual essay or prose poem (or piece of fiction) has been handled than with a list of accomplishments. We view accomplishments as a thing of the past; please show us your incredible present.

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

A: We try to read every piece carefully and all the way through, though if the first few paragraphs are way off target, we may stop before the end. We're more than willing to work with authors to help them discover our vision if the talent is there to begin with, and if they're interested in working with us. What we don't have time to do is rewrite an entire piece or suggest the tone of an entire work be changed. The bones have to be there in the first place.

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

A: Work goes through at least two readers before I take a peek at it, and of course each reader has his or her own aesthetic.The reader votes on each submission assigned to them, and leaves a note telling me why they do or don't think it's a fit for EIR. I've been known to take pieces that were voted down if I felt that with light edits the work could be repurposed to meet our needs. I've also been known to turn down work that has been voted up for one of several reasons: sometimes the theme simply doesn't fit within the other work already chosen, or we've already chosen a similar piece, or perhaps it's a good essay but not necessarily a strong lyric essay compared to the other essays that have come in. Once in a great while, I'll simply not like a favored story or essay, but can't really explain why. I suppose when my name is on the line as editor, I have that choice, but I certainly don't take it lightly; subjectivity in selections is an element in any venture such as this.

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

A: I assign the titles that come in to our readers about once a week. I then read the readers' notes and take at least a passing glance at each piece of work before deciding whether to leave it in the running or reject it outright. The first few paragraphs, for me, are the most telling. I tag the promising works with the label, "Keep for Consideration," on Submittable, then eventually, I winnow down the list and make final decisions based on quality, theme, where it fits, etc. Often I'll reassign these finalists to all our readers so they can vote, and though I take their input seriously, I take full responsibility for the end decisions. If very small edits are necessary, we then deal with those, but I'm extremely careful not to over-edit an author's voice, yet obvious glitches will be dealt with. The fun part is sending out acceptance notices. I love that.

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

A: Essential. We began with email submissions then switched to Submittable after about six weeks; it's far more user and publisher friendly. We use POD publishing for our print issues. The diversity available today provides us with so many great options.

Q: How much do you edit an accepted piece prior to publication?

A: We do only minor editing, if any. If a piece of writing needs more than that, it shouldn't have been submitted to us in the first place. And of course the author is able to approve or question all edits.

Q: Do you nominate work you've published for any national or international awards?

A: The Pushcart, Best of the Net, Best American Essays, Best Short Stories, and maybe another one or two.