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Editor Interview: Variety Pack

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

A: A broad aesthetic

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

A: We love all sorts of publications and from all our editors, Trampset (Skyler); Peach Mag, Cheap Pop, Lightspeed, Adroit, Ghost City Press, Fiyah, Fairytale Review, Cincinnati Review, (J.B.); Split Lip Mag, Maudlin House (Ben); Lazy Adventurer Publishing, Marías At Sampaguitas, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Ayaskala Mag, Timberline Review (Asela); Riggwelter (Ian). There are honestly i think thousands of places we could name between all of our editors let alone four of our own!

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

A: Again this is something that could be a lot longer on it's own, and as a place that tries to pride itself on a variety of love for all writers this long list is a mere sampler: Prince Bush, Jason B Crawford, James Baldwin (Skyler); Matt Bookin, Breanna Twohy, Jacob Mayberry, Claudia Rankine (Ben); Moshin Hamid, W. Todd Keneko, Roxanne Gay, Hanif Abdurraqib, Kathy Fish, Richard Matheson, Noah Falck, torrin a. greathouse (J.B.); Denice Frohman, Dominique Christine, Franny Choi, Jericho Brown, Langston Hughes, G Yamazaw (Asela); Frank O'Hara, Sabrina Benaim, Maggie Stiefvater, Cassandra Clare, J.R.R. Tolkien (Ian)

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

A: I think we are trying things at the moment that I think separate us somewhat from the literary pack. Our option for when folks submit for example, is to either record their own piece, or have an actor read. I don’t think I have seen a publication that offers both as an option. It’s super important to us as we try to strive as a place that is accessible to all. We also offer something called “Mini-packs,” stand-alone features in between our issue releases, mainly for artists and writers we have enjoyed the work of, but could not find space in our main issue. In a way it gives many of our submitters a second chance to have their work featured in our publication, especially since we receive a lot of beautiful pieces we love to take as well.

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

A: Always, always, ALWAYS read the guidelines to make sure you got the materials you need to submit to any literary magazine including Variety Pack. We have had way too many either submit to us before a reading period or after one, or to the wrong email. Sometimes we give leniency, but to be honest there it does get frustrating, because we don't want to leave someone's submission deleted and unread, but as our former poetry editor and good friend Julio Montalvo Valentin always advised me on whenever we first started this publication: "It hurts to ever have to ignore and delete someone's work, but we have a precedent, like any other journal, and the submission guidelines need to be followed." Another major advice I want to give to writers is take every acceptance and rejection letter you receive as motivation to improve your craft, especially rejection letters. I know that a rejection letter can be awful to get whether it’s by email or through a site like Submittable, but instead of seeing it as a sign of giving up, view this as encouragement to improve your craft. Play with words and different forms of writing no matter the genre. Let your voice speak through your work. Although our aesthetic is broad, and doesn't aim to please one particular, it always helps to also read what we've published too!

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: (Asela) It really depends on the person’s style of writing or approach to poetry. For me, I am looking for poems that are not afraid to speak their truth. What I mean by that is a poetry submission that utilizes language and tone into their work while exploring ideas and themes that not many people are able to share like racial identity and how that affects writers of color, love, and more. I’m looking for poems that share the writer’s story and who they are. (J.B.) Although as eic and Reviews Editor I cannot be at liberty to speak for my editors, but for me specifically, there is so much to stories that find a way to make a reader feel everything at once. A story that knows how to make one jump, cry, laugh, scream, preferably all at the same time. A work that is either striking, humorous, heart-wrenching, experimental, or all of the above.

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

A: Please submit when our submissions are open! Please read the submission guidelines! We get there is a lot to read, but there is a lot that goes into submitting work, and it breaks us a bit whenever we have to ignore and delete a work that was sent outside of our reading window.

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

A: I mainly would like to know if the person who submitted to us has a history of problematic actions (for example: racism, sexual assault, homophobia, transphobia, etc.). There should be no place for bigots, abusers, and the like in the literature and arts communities, or any community for that matter, and we stand in complete solidarity with the #saferlitcommunity. As for how publication credits, it's nice but irrelevant. We are just as excited to be a writer's first, or second, or third publication to a new or emerging writer as we would be for like the 500th publication for a well-established writer. For Cover Letters, just read our submission guidelines, drop in with a little hello, your bio, and it's fine.

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

A: I do my best to read through it twice in case I might miss something important in the submission or if there was a piece that I might reconsider regardless if it’s publishing it to our issue or rejecting it. Just so that I don’t have to look back and kick myself for letting a fantastic poem get away. Sometimes the decision is depending on if we want the work for a main issue, or for our mini-packs or if it is something right for our publication.

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

A: Sometimes we will consult with each other whether through private Facebook messaging, sometimes Twitter, sometimes via email, usually via Facebook group chat, or Zoom conferences.

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

A: We all lead different lives for me, I work a full time job with a random schedule, have duties to my co-op while also trying submit my own writing into the world, however, I have my days off on Thursdays usually, and take full advantage on what needs to get done, whether that is continuing to edit our website, post away on social media, finding new and improved ways to promote our submission calls, while also building our publication! Our Poetry Editor Asela had this to say as well: "I would wake up, eat breakfast (sometimes while I’m working), and start working on projects for various online literary magazines including Variety Pack as if it’s a 9-5 work and that my day job does not conflict with my editing flow."

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

A: I feel it’s very important for publishers -- both traditional and current-- to embrace modern technologies. During a global pandemic, it has become easier for editors like me to work on projects with publishers that sometimes require in-person work or have to move to places like New York in order to follow my dream. Because of finances, I had a hard time finding my footing in the publishing industry. Hopefully, as the pandemic is over, we continue to utilize technologies like FaceTime or Zoom to encourage more creators, editors, and writers to enter the publishing industry and make it more accessible for them.

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

A: It depends on the submission. I mostly focus on grammar errors or spelling checks, but if there is a line or topic I’m not sure about, I reach out to the writer so I don’t want to misconstrue their work. We always want to make sure that our contributors have the final say in how their work is set out for publication.

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

A: Yes, we actually have nominated works just this past year for Best of Net, Pushcart Prize, and Best Microfiction. For next year, we plan to nominate Best Small Fictions, and hopefully one day we are able to have the capacity to nominate for Best American Short Stores, Best American Mysteries, Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy, Best American Essays and Best New Poets.