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Editor Interview: The Chamber Magazine

This interview is provided for archival purposes. The listing is not currently active.

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

A: dark fiction and poetry

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

A: I admire almost any well-respected and professionally made literary magazine: Ploughshares, Granta, Zyzzyva, The Paris Review, etc. I do have a particular fondness for Poetry, which has been around for a very long time and consistently publishes great works.

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

A: I have eclectic tastes in my favorite authors. I majored in German and Russian in college, therefore many of my favorites are German and Russian authors of the 19th and early 20th centuries: Pushkin, Gogol, Sholokov, Goethe, Schiller, Jeremias Gotthelf, Hesse, etc. My favorite authors in English also reach back some distance in time: Poe (of course), Lovecraft, King, Clive Barker, Michael Crichton, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Hunter Thompson, etc.

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

A: The material The Chamber publishes is very eclectic. My main criteria is that the works are well-written and have something dark about them, even if it is only a tinge of darkness. Other than that, I try to respond quickly to submissions and to be very professional, polite, and encouraging to contributors. I can't pay anyone anything now, so I try to do as much as I can for them, even if that is just not treating them like a number or the faceless source of a submission. One benefit I give to contributors who have published a novel is to carry their works in the new bookshop (powered by bookshop.org) on the website. Hopefully, they will get a few sales out of being in The Chamber. The Chamber also uses a lot of colorful graphics, including with each story, to grab the attention of readers.

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

A: Read several of the stories and poems to get a good idea of the quality I am seeking. Also be professional in your formatting. Try to use the standard manuscript format or at least a common manuscript format. These copy and paste well into WordPress thus saving me a lot of time and effort. The easier it is for me to paste someone's story into the magazine, the better the chances they will be published. I prefer either having the paragraphs together with the first line indented or flush left with the paragraphs separated.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: Powerfully written with language so beautiful that a reader loses himself/herself in reading it and loses track of time. Something that hits hard with a completely unexpected twist at the end, but an ending so logical yet subtle that one can review the story and think, "Of course! Why didn't I see that?"

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

A: The submissions process is fairly easy, but often contributors will forget to include a short bio. Then, if they're accepted, I have to take the time to ask them for one. This isn't a big deal. It is just a petty annoyance.

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

A: I used to not care about cover letters, but now I like to see them, especially with previous publication credits. Sometimes this helps me make a decision about who should be published. Of course, the bottom line is whether the work is good quality writing and whether it fits into the magazine's style. For example, I have published a couple of high school students, for one whom The Chamber was his first published work, but the writing in both cases was exceptional. I would much rather publish a high school student for his/her first time if the work is spectacular and fits in than someone with a so-so story that doesn't quite fit, even though he/she was published by The New Yorker or The Atlantic.

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

A: Usually, I read every piece all the way through before rejecting it. There are exceptions, particularly when the voice is terrible, cliche-ridden, boring, or any other negative quality that loses my attention after about a page.

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

A: None, really. If it grabs my attention and won't let go, it will almost certainly be published--so long as the grammar, voice, storyline, etc. are all good.

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

A: I read submissions as time allows with my day job, errands, my own writing, etc. This is usually sporadic. I don't have a schedule. If I can grab some time, I will start with the oldest submissions first and then progress to the newer ones. I don't like to keep people waiting to hear back from me. Sometimes, if I open my email and see a couple of short works that just came in, I will read them to clear out as much of my backlog as I can as quickly as I can.

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

A: My whole magazine is nothing but modern technology. It's all online and all submissions are via email. One has to stay abreast of the times. The public will. The public is always experimenting with the new and the latest. Eventually, the new (whatever it is whether magazines, cars, airplanes, governments, etc.) will leave the old behind. If a publisher doesn't want to be relegated to the dustbin of history, he/she will need to embrace new technology. If we didn't, we would still be using the manual presses that published Poe and Hawthorne.

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

A: I try to edit very little. I want to hear the author's voice not mine. I hear my voice enough. I want to experience new voices, new attitudes, new viewpoints. There have been a few times, when I was starting out and had only a few submissions, when I found a good story and would work with the author to refine it. However, with increasing submissions, this is becoming a luxury for which I have little time. If I do edit, it is usually to fix something technical, like when an author uses a comma splice instead of a period or something is misspelled.

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

A: I haven't so far, but that is only because I slipped up on the timeframe on submitting for the Pushcart prize. I intend to start submitting works for the Pushcart later this year. I will submit to other competitions too if I can find some. As I mentioned, I can't pay my contributors, so I try to do as much as I can for them. If a contributor wins an award, I feel it is a kudo to both the writer and the publisher, who had the good taste and savvy to recognize an award-winning writer in the making.