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Editor Interview: Five South

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

A: Good poems/fiction/flash.

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

A: Alaska Quarterly, Arts and Letters, Beloit Poetry Journal, Cutleaf, Diagram, FRiGG, Georgia Review, Granta, Greensboro Review, Jellyfish Review, Joyland, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Los Angeles Review, Milk Candy Review, Missouri Review, Narrative, New England Review, New Yorker, North American Review, Okay Donkey, Paris Review, Passages North, Pithead Chapel, Raleigh Review, Willow Springs, and X-R-A-Y – to name a few.

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

A: Fiction writers: Margaret Atwood, T.C. Boyle, Jason Brown, Leesa Cross-Smith, Stuart Dybek, Kathy Fish, Lauren Groff, John Irving, Raven Leilani, Carson McCullers, Joe Millar, Ottessa Moshfegh, Stuart Nadler, Flannery O’Connor, Frank O'Hara, Heather O’Neill, George Saunders, Mary South, Amber Sparks, and John Steinbeck.
Poets: Kaveh Akbar, Ellen Bass, Nickole Brown, Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Victoria Chang, Andrea Cohen, Ross Gay, Emma Hine, Richie Hofmann, Ilya Kaminsky, Donika Kelly, Dorianne Laux, Phil Levine, Larry Levis, Ada Limón, Karyna McGlynn, Morgan Parker, Carl Phillips, Alberto Rios, Nicole Sealey, Sarah J. Sloat, Danez Smith, and many, many more.

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

A: We’re a collective of writers and individuals with varied tastes. We’re not pigeonholed from issue to issue. We’re always looking for new and surprising writing with a lot of heart. One of our editors, Jessica Willingham, sums up our uniqueness this way:
Funny but not flippant
Wacky but not silly
Wry but not cynical
Hopeful but not saccharine
Imaginative but not absurd
Dark but not gory
Optimistic but not shallow
Sensitive but not whiny
Tender but not polite
Rich but not dense
Thoughtful but not political
Resonant but not preachy

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

A: Besides reading previous issues, the best advice we can give is to remember the adage: “When you think you’re done, you’ve just begun.” In other words, avoid sending us something that feels like a first draft, or that has flaws, needless backstory or sidelines that distract us from the story or the meaning of the poem. We want third, fourth, or better yet, final drafts only.
For poetry submissions, we’d encourage writers to send more experimental or visual poems. We don’t see enough of these and instead get too many narrative and lyric-heavy pieces.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: The ideal submission is clear, nuanced, and efficient. We like writers who use economy to their benefit. Each work has to flow well and feel effortless. The ideal submission will rivet us and make us want to finish reading it.

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

A: We ask for multiple pieces (either three flash or five poems) to be placed in one document. Several writers divide each piece into its own document – please don’t do that.
We do not ask for cover letters, yet some submitters insist on squeezing them into the section marked “Bio.”

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

A: We simply want a brief bio and your Twitter link. There is nothing else we require.

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

A: This really depends on the piece but in general we ask our team to read as much or as little as they need to in order to know whether they want the piece to move forward. In other words, we stop reading as soon as a piece loses our attention.

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

A: This also depends on the story or poem. If a piece really captures our imagination but needs work, we'll contact the author and workshop it. Most often, however, we try to work with pieces that don’t require significant edits. We want to respect the author’s intentions and, to do so, we most often select the pieces that are closest to completion.

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

A: This depends on the team member. We are parents, students, full-time workers, and we have other responsibilities that impact our time commitments to the journal. Each of us has varied levels of experience and we are spread across four time zones. We lead our hectic, busy lives but we always endeavor to find time for Five South.

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

A: As an online journal, this is obviously extremely important. New platforms and programs are always coming available and we try to stay on top of these, rather than simply relying on the dominant programs everyone else is using. We recently switched from Submittable to ClickUp and we are finding it suits our needs very well; ClickUp is also more affordable. To allow team members to communicate with each other we’ve also begun using and we are quite happy with their service.

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

A: This varies greatly. Most of what we receive is in good order and requires little to no developmental editing. We've been very lucky.

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

A: Yes! We publish great work and want to celebrate it by nominating for everything we can. Here is a partial list of the prizes and awards that are currently on our radar: Best Small Fictions, Best Microfiction, Best New Poets Anthology, Best of the Net, Best American Short Stories, Pushcart, Best American Poetry, O’Henry Prize for Short Fiction, and Best Short Fictions.