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Editor Interview: Swing: New Writing that Moves You

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

A: Lit with crackle & sprawl

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

A: Salamander, Zoetrope, the Paris Review, Copper Canyon Press, Copper Nickel, Ecco, Ecotone, Subtropics, Acre Books, Cincinnati Review, VQR, Kenyon Review, Red Hen Press

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

A: Ada Limon, Ann Patchett, Victor Lavalle, Mary Miller, Mark Strand, Terrance Hayes, Celeste Ng (many many more . . .)

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

A: We are devoted to excellent work in print, so we are committed to a design that speaks to the contents within. The look and feel of our issues will always reflect the natural world and human hands that made them. And then there's the regional roots and national sway of the poetry, fiction, essays, and comic art inside. The editors at SWING approach their work of selection as one of mapping the cultural zeitgeist, which begins in the American South, a place of contradiction and complication, difference and dialogue. We might begin in Nashville, but who knows where our writers will take us. The first issue reached into Canada, Texas, Alaska, England, and the other world of speculative fiction. SWING's editors and staff are nearly all writers themselves.

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

A: We want to hear your voice, your complex, messy human voice, in our ears as we lean back. Then we want to be pushed. We read for that moment of flight, where we have no idea where we are going, but trust the hand on our backs pushing higher. NUTS AND BOLTS: Keep an eye on our open reading periods. Follow our guidelines. And be patient, as we're still new and finding our sea legs.

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

A: They send their submissions to the contact email address for SWING or to me as the Editor. This throws a wrench in our organization and will certainly delay a response to their work. Submit all work through Submittable.

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

A: Brief cover letters are helpful later in the process. The first read-through is always anonymous, but after that it is helpful to have a little background.

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

A: Because every piece gets three or four readers, there is little chance that it has not gotten read all the way through by at least one SWING staff member. And even with rejections, our readers are asked to express why they made the decision they made. I am trying to carve out a space for me in the literary periodical world as the "rejection artist." What this means is that I strive to give the most constructive rejections possible; I do this with the help of very astute and sensitive readers who give great feedback, which I pass on to writers.

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

A: Every batch of poems, every story, every essay, and every piece of art gets read by three to four readers at SWING, which includes one of the two main editors of the magazine. Occasionally, if we are having trouble deciding about a piece we will get an "outside" opinion from one of our advisory editors.

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

A: I worked for more than a decade on one of the oldest literary magazines in the country. All submissions were SASE's through the post. If you don't know what an SASE is, you are probably under 30 and that is cool. As tightly as my editor (I was the managing editor) held on to the traditional way of doing things, I knew those ways had to end. We were losing submissions right and left, authors were getting angry, and we were killing so many trees! And yet, I am committed to SWING's existence in print as, I believe, a more physical and whole experience of reading. Publishers have to embrace and explore all forms of social networking: it's onerous but it can also be fun, especially if you've got some of those under-30s managing the ever-changing scene.

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

A: I started SWING with The Porch because I love to edit. I love the one to one connection with a promising writer and the opportunity it gives to engage with art. So the answer is yes, we at SWING provide substantive editing if need be, and most certainly line and copy editing. After acceptance there will be a round of sometimes developmental editing, sometimes tweaking, with me or with Susannah Felts; the author will get to review proof; and the entire issue is read by a proofreader outside of the office with fresh eyes.

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

A: Yes, absolutely: Best American, O. Henry, Pushcart.