Editor Interview: BALLOONS Lit. Journal

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

A: Inspiration for the young

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

A: Targeting at young people, I like Cricket Magazine and Cicada Magazine. For more mature readers, I think ARMCHAIR/SHOTGUN, The Sierra Nevada Review and Rattle are excellent reading materials.

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

A: There are many outstanding writers I admire. But if I have to pick one for fiction, John Steinback will be my choice. For poetry, Seamus Heaney of course. As for artists, I am currently quite fond of the Irish painter Sam McCready's impressionistic artwork.

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

A: I think BALLOONS Lit Journal (BLJ) is different from the others in the way that, first of all, we are formed by a group of experienced and expert educators, and thus the entries are chosen with consideration on both aesthetic and education values. Also, we are the only publisher freely serving the younger group of the literary audience by designing an online magazine with appealing page layouts. Readers can flip the magazine online and/or print out the issues for their own enjoyment and enlightenment. Furthermore, audio recordings of most of the pieces are available online for everybody. As far as I know, no other publishers, past or present, target on this group of readers with this extent of production for free.

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

A: If you consider submitting to BLJ, I hope you are serious about it as it will be clear from your submission package how much attention you have paid to this journal. I am definitely looking for submissions with a "human touch". I am also looking for people with the same vision as mine in terms of promoting modern art and literature to young people all over the world.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: An ideal submission would at least be the one that follows our guidelines. As to the content and/or style of work, it is almost impossible to say what sort of work we want because actually we wait for the work to surprise and impress us every time. We do not look for any particular work against a set of criteria - we wait for good pieces which we simply cannot forget for weeks, if not even months.

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

A: A lot of young submitters refuse to write a cover letter and send me an empty mail with the attachment alone. I do not consider that a wise submission habit. Some do everything our guidelines require but the content of their work may not be very suitable for teenagers. I hope submitters consider BLJ's market before submission.

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

A: The cover letters are not decisive, but I would love to know people all the same. I prefer receiving tailor-made letters rather than those one-size-for-all. Submitters do not need to have previous publication credits at all. But if they do, we will make sure that we acknowledge them should we accept their work.

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

A: We read every piece. The higher the quality of the work, the longer the time we spend to read it. Of course, we will need to compare the pieces against each other for the final decision. But in some cases, for instance for pieces which are overtly obscure, we know right away that they aren't for BLJ.

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

A: We may conduct some degree of Internet search in the end to make sure that the piece hasn't been published. But we only do it when we are very interested in accepting the piece.

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

A: I see my editorial work as an escape route from my teaching and other school duties. As the Panel Chair of English at a Primary School, my days are packed with challenging tasks. Reading submissions and thinking deeply about them actually relax me. It is a way of balancing my life! And every time when I think of the happiness my work brings to people, young and old, readers and contributors, I know my effort will pay off.

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

A: Technologies embrace people these days and there is no easy way out. No matter how traditional you are as a publisher, you cannot avoid setting up websites and/or social networking accounts. I am not a fan of hi-tech stuff myself but I believe that in order to reach my readers, it will be useful to make BLJ an online magazine. The audio feature of BLJ also makes technology very relevant to our production.

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

A: We do basic proofreading to correct typos. But we try to keep the accepted work as it is because that is the reason it was accepted. Entries that need a lot of corrections will not have been taken in the first place. All contributors will be given the chance to approve the proof before the issue goes live.

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

A: Why not? If there are awards relevant to BLJ's entries, we are happy to do nominations.