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Editor Interview: The Gutsy Great Novelist Page One Prize

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

A: Opening pages of novels.

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

A: I love The Hot Sheet by Jane Friedman; C. Hope Clark's Funds for Writers newsletter; The New Yorker; The Paris Review . . . so many others!
I've had a blast watching the hybrid She Writes Press take the publishing world by storm, and love presses like Algonquin.

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

A: So many favorite writers! Currently, I'm loving John Boyne, Donna Tartt, Elizabeth Strout, Stephen King, Scott Turow, Maggie Stiefvater, Kazuo Ishiguro, Adrian McKinty, Greg Isles, Julie Orringer . . . I could go on and on!

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

A: Honestly, I'm not sure. I focus solely on novels, and more specifically on how to open a novel's first page and first chapter in order to grab your reader from the get-go. I love that experiencing of falling into the world of a novel, feeling immediately relaxed in the prose of a capable writer—there's nothing like it!

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

A: Write the very best piece you can possibly write, have someone else carefully proofread it, and follow the submission guidelines to the letter. It's such a shame when I get submissions with Word track changes comments in the margins, or loaded with typos and errors of grammar. Put your best foot forward to give your work a real opportunity to shine.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: Ideal submissions follow the submission guidelines to the letter so that nothing stands in the way of the writing itself. I'm always looking for clean, clear writing, a sense that the story is going someone interesting, scenes I can immediately envision and experience as if I were there, and characters who are fully developed. I also want to feel that the story itself takes precedence and the author recedes so far into the background as to be invisible (unselfconscious writing that doesn't draw attention to the author).

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

A: They don't take the necessary time to make sure their submissions follow the stated guidelines—I'm constantly astonished that people don't follow directions! I get submissions with track changes comments and edits in them, incorrect spacing and fonts, writing full of typos, grammatical errors, incorrect punctuation, etc. Such a shame that writers will dash off a submission like this, and be disqualified before their work can even be considered.

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

A: The work stands alone! I don't need to know anything about the person submitting, I just want to read the work.

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

A: I can tell within the first page if the submission is worth reading in depth. If the first page contains sloppy writing, incorrect punctuation or grammar, undeveloped characters, scenes, or dialogue, or anything else that indicates the writing still needs a lot of work, I don't read on.

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

A: Winning work usually goes through several rounds of reading in comparison to other excellent work under consideration before a final decision is made.

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

A: Reading, reading, reading, reading . . . break to walk or eat . . . reading, reading, reading, reading. The moment I get bleary-eyed or fuzzy-headed, I stop reading in order to ensure I'm giving keen attention to each submission.

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

A: I think it's crucial to keep up with technology, in part to cut down on the use of paper and the energy it takes to deliver paper via the mail, and in part because writers are submitting all over the place, to various publishers, agents, and contests, and making that odious process as easy as possible feels like a simple way to demonstrate respect for writers.

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

A: For the purposes of the contests I administer, I look only at proofreading, since the piece has to already be edited and highly polished to be selected as a winner or notable piece.

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

A: No.