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Editor Interview: HerStry

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

A: Women's Stories

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

A: I have deep admiration for the other little indie lit magazines trying to grow a following. I particularly love The Mark Literary Review. Jessica, their editor, is fantastic. Little indie magazines not supported by schools or large endowments are publishing really important stuff and giving voice to so many writers who are doing unique stuff. Other magazines I've been enjoying lately are: Salt Hill Journal, Midwest Review, Hell is Real, Ekstasis Magazine, Survivor Lit, and Amplify.

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

A: I have so many favorite writers. It's hard to choose. I've always been attracted to stories written by women about women. Which is probably why I ended up creating HerStry. I have a deep love for LM Montgomery and the Anne of Green Gables series. But not just that series. LM Montgomery wrote some amazing poetry. Other writers that I've loved over the years: Elswyth Thane, Rufi Thorpe, Chelsea Beiker, Lilly King, Paulette Jiles, J. Ryan Stradal, Ann Napolitano...I could go on and on and never really come to an all time favorite.

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

A: Our mission. We're on a mission to empower women through storytelling. That doesn't just mean the writer who tells the story, that means women who read the stories as well. Our goal from the beginning has been to get women talking and sharing their stories. We don't shy away from hard stuff. We talk about pregnancy loss, abortions, sexual violence, faith, grief, and other subjects that are so often deemed taboo because we want women to read those stories and see that they are not alone. That there are other out there who can relate. We want women to read the stories on our site and maybe, just maybe, find their own voice.

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

A: Just do it. Don't worry about rejection. It's hardly ever because work is "bad." Rejections for us happen because we only have so many spaces to fill. So when we have five open slots for grief stories and get 125 submissions, rejection is going to happen. But don't let that stop you from telling your story.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: One that follows the guidelines. I know that might not be a sexy answer, but it's true. We set guidelines for a reason. It helps all of our editors read submissions quickly when they are formatted correctly.
In terms of an ideal submission that I like to read: One that shows instead of tells. I want to be dropped into a story, immersed in it. Surround me with the sights and smells of your childhood, don't just tell me about it. Like me be on that first date with you, don't just tell me what happened. I want to be in the story.

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

A: It's surprises me how many people write third person bios in first person. And then amount of people who turn in PDFs. And occasionally there are folks who send us interviews or profiles of other women. That isn't what we are looking for. Our guidelines state specifically that we're looking for stories that are true and about you.

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

A: Nothing. If you submit a cover letter, I do not look at it. I don't even look at bios until I am done reading. We don't ask for cover letters because we are not interested in MFAs or previous publications. We are only interested in the quality of the work you've sent us.

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

A: I can usually tell my the first page or two if I'm going to accept or reject it. If I'm not interested in a piece by then, I'm not going to keep reading because I know that readers of our site won't be interested either.

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

A: We divvy our pieces between editors. We don't have a big team, so individual editors choose pieces. They then get edited and put on the site.

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

A: For me personally, I do a lot of things besides editing. I created HerStry and built everything myself from the website to the marketing material. So I often do web updates or make new graphics. I also do most of the planning of our online events, so a good amount of my time is spent doing that. I also take on private editorial clients. So I tend to dedicate my Fridays to reading submissions to HerStry.

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

A: I think for small magazines, like HerStry, it's very important. We grew because of social media. We were able to find a following because we built up an email list. And because we don't have physical location, having electronic submissions has saved us.

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

A: We do line edits. We check for grammar or spelling errors. Nothing we accept ever needs huge edits. If it does need something beyond a few line edits we consult with the author. But because we are a small team, we tend not to accept things that need big edits. We just don't have the capacity to make those changes.

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

A: Yes! 2020 was the first year we nominated for the Pushcart and Best of Net. It was really fun to go through as an editorial team and choose some of our favorite works.