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Editor Interview: The Dirty Spoon Radio Hour & Journal

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

A: food and beverage stories

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

A: Great stories and great profiles are at the heart of what I love. Right now, I'm really digging GRLSQUASH (a biannual journal), Cherry Bombe (I love their magazine and their podcast), Whetstone Magazine (and I'm excited about their forthcoming podcast!), Oxford American. I love Paris Review, especially their interviews. I'm always excited to see what Granta and STORY are publishing, and I think Southern Humanities Review is severely underrated.

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

A: My favorite writers are a mix of past and present authors. Some of them strongly influenced my own writing and editorial style, others are simply incredible at their craft. Some of my favorite current authors include Michael Ondaatje, Garth Greenwell, Solmaz Sharif, Lauren Groff, Margaret Renkl, Brandon Taylor, Jenn Shapland, T Kira Madden, Alexander Chee, Paul Lisicky, Donna Tartt, Jon Pineda, Danez Smith.

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

A: The Dirty Spoon (named after the spoon chefs keep in their back pockets to taste dishes) is meant to examine what's under the table, not on top of it. We only publish personal essays and interviews by or about the people who shape our dining experiences. Unlike other food publications, we are tightly focused on three elements: personal true stories, custom illustrations for each piece we publish, and a mixtape that audibly complements the stories we tell. We think radio-first, digital journal-second.

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

A: The best thing any potential contributor can do is listen to our archived shows. This will give you a sense of how to write a piece that will suit both radio and print.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: We love submissions that aren't afraid to push deeper. For example, say you're writing a piece about your favorite holiday meal at your favorite restaurant. It's a tradition with your family. We don't want to see a nice vignette about what you order, but rather, we want to see: who's at the table, who's in the kitchen, what conflicts are at play, how have you changed over the course of this tradition, what glimpses of the past or future can you give us to create fully-formed characters. Our ideal submission explores a very specific, unique situation to the writer but manages to open up a shared universal emotion.

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

A: Too often we get written pieces about recipes or have recipes included. We don't publish those.

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

A: Cover letters are nice because I love learning more about each author we publish, but publication credits matter very little. We've been proud to publish and produce some radio pieces by first-time authors. That's always a thrill!

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

A: Yes, we read every piece to the end, and often multiple times. I like to look at the possibility of a work so if it's 90% there, I take time to consider how I can work with the writer to make it 100% and ready for publication. We are pitched great concepts all the time, so our editorial process also puts faith in the writer to submit something clean, compelling, and unique.

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

A: We consider how a submission will be produced for our radio show. We often make comments or mark sections in a submission where it may need to be adjusted for radio (expletives, dialogue tags added, etc.). Sometimes a piece can be beautifully written, but it's in an experimental format that makes it difficult to produce for radio. I try to refer those writers to other publications who will be able to accept their work. I want everyone to succeed. Since we only publish 3-4 pieces per month, our review process is highly selective. We have to say "no" to a lot of good ideas and submissions, or we think about how we can hold onto these pieces for future issues and episodes.

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

A: The Dirty Spoon is an unpaid volunteer show and publication, so Jon Ammons (our editor in chief and co-host) and I usually work on submissions, reviewing pitches, and updating our platforms on the weekends in our spare time. You'll find me sipping coffee and reading submissions or sending back edits to an author on Sundays. It takes about two weeks to review new pitches (and say yes/no to those pitches), another week or so to get through new full manuscript submissions, and about two weeks to finalize finished submissions and produce the show and digital issue each month. We try to work 1-2 months in advance.

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

A: People are hungry for stories in any format. During the pandemic, social media exploded (even more than it had already directed our lives) and became a main method for sharing stories and for connection. Simultaneous electronic submissions are a MUST in this day and age. Publishing stories in multiple formats (audio, print, digital, photo) is a way to open your publication up for new audience growth.

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

A: Edits can range from very minor line edits to structural editing and even working with an author on multiple drafts. Sometimes, I can see the potential in a piece to be truly great and "stop a reader in their tracks"-worthy. It just needs a deeper push by the writer, or some scene development. I love editing and working with writers to bring their best work to the table. I believe in honoring and showcasing an author's voice, so it's imperative our edits keep that intact.

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

A: We do not nominate work for awards yet, but are looking into it for Season 4 and onward.