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Editor Interview: Open: Journal of Arts & Letters (O:JA&L)

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

A: Good writing & art

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

A: We like Abstract Magazine, Contemporary Haibun Online, Haibun Today, Rattle, Drunken Boat, 3 a.m., Word Riot, Whiskey Island, Gambling the Aisle, DMQ Review, Belle Reve Literary Journal, concis, The Virginia Normal, Modern Haiku, Ginosko, haiku Presence, The Chaffey Review, MPT, and many others.

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

A: In no particular order of preference, our favorite writers are Hemingway, Faulkner, Dickens, D.H. Lawrence, Lawrence Durrell, James Joyce, William Gass, Cormac McCarthy, Elizabeth Strout, Paul Harding, Anthony Doerr, Chinua Achebe, Alice Munro, Mo Yan, Sir Walter Scott and many others. We also have a long list of favorite poets.
In art, we like Expressionists of all varieties, especially Egon Schiele and Franz Marc and their counterparts working today, the Impressionists, especially Toulouse-Latrec and those who are today working in the mode, and painters working in the pure abstract. And we are also fond of William-Adolphe Bougereau, the academic painter. We admire many printmakers and lithographers and several collagists, textile artists, ceramists and sculptors, experimental photographers, digital artists, and watercolorists, as well.

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

A: We think we understand better than most publications how to build a large audience on behalf of our contributors -- an international audience that is culturally broad and multigenerational that hopes for a way to celebrate together a wide spectrum of art and the valuable literature available in English (and in Russian)-- and we promote the interests of our writers with our readership better than most publications.
In service to this position, we use a screening rubric that identifies content our screeners are instructed to decline at once:
• All previously published material, including some content in the public domain (ask your editor)
• Advocacy on behalf of any criminal organization or illegal activity
• Erotica/gratuitous, graphic sex
• Agitprop, including but not limited to the following types:
o Conspiracy Theory advocacy
o Personal Cause advocacy, including activism for or against abortion rights, animal rights, climate change, euthanasia, etc.
o Political advocacy, including activism for or against any particular candidate, party, or public policy issue
o Racial advocacy, including activism on behalf of or against the interests of any specific race of people
o Religious/sectarian advocacy, including activism for or against any religion, denomination, or system of belief
• Slanderous or potentially libelous ad hominem attacks on individuals, including public figures
This list of disqualifying content may be revised at any time.

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

A: Follow our guidelines and send us your final drafts. Too often we find careless errors in otherwise interesting manuscripts.
Since approximately 40% of our content is solicited, only the most unique among the open submissions are offered an opportunity to edit for acceptance.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: Our ideal submissions are clearly described in detail in our submission guidelines for each category and for our annual themed calls for submission.

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

A: We publish many categories of work. Some submitters make their offering in the wrong category, sending it it to the wrong screeners. This delays our process and results in longer wait times for submitters watching their inboxes for our responses.

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

A: Although it contributes little to our decision of whether to accept or decline a submission, for us the cover letter is important. We ask that the cover letter from both writers and artists contain a short professional third-person biography (up tp 100 words) for publication with the submission in the event it is accepted. We also ask that submitters include in the cover letter any links to personal and commercial sites where their works are available in order that we might more effectively promote them. We ask our artists to include a description of the submitted artwork, including title, medium, size, and date of completion.

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

A: We use a detailed evaluation rubric to give every submission a fair and objective reading, but it's often very easy to identify unpublishable content without reading to the end. The difficult readings are those that are competently, even beautifully written but which never come to a point or which never deliver a comprehensible message.

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

A: All editors may vote on submissions in all categories, and we have a designated "expert" in each category whose decision breaks a tie. Each piece sometimes has three readers, sometimes as many as five.

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

A: Our project publishes continually, usually 20-30 pieces per month, to insure high readership/viewership for every published work. As Associate Editor, I take up the slack for all the others. I usually average about 2-5 hours/day at work on the journal.

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

A: 80% of our audience accesses our content on handheld devices. Without modern technologies our readership would probably number in the dozens. In January of 2019 (our fifth quarter of operation), we count 15,000 unique visitors/month at the website, 32,000 followers on instagram, 42,000 followers on twitter, and through my personal account, 13,000 followers on LinkedIn. We also maintain a presence on Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and in eastern Europe on VK. O:JA&L also has a dedicated Youtube channel for our artist and author interviews and for our performance artists.

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

A: We provide editing services for a fee as several specific, separate options for writers (see our submission guidelines). For our open submissions, we provide virtually none. Writers who require substantial editing are declined for publication and/or are referred to third-party providers.

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

A: We nominate for the Pushcart Prize, for Best of the Net, and for the Vestal prizes. We are considering additional nominations.
We publish an annual limited-run print chapbook of our Pushcart nominees, to be released each November.