Editor Interview: Mid-American Review

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

A: imagery, language, quirk

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

A: Brenda Hillman, Anne Sexton, Anne Carson, Mary Ann Samyn, Jane Austen, Wilkie Collins, P.G. Wodehouse...and on and on. I also have a wealth of friends and colleagues who are superb writers, like Seth Fried, Matt Bell, Larissa Szporluk, and on and on!

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

A: Mid-American Review strives to establish a friendly relationship with writers, readers, and editors. We want writers/submitters to know that there is always an alert, invested person on the other end of the submissions manager. We want readers to know that we are excited about what we're publishing. We want editors to know that we love comparing notes and contributing to the literary publishing industry. Our "friends of MAR" attitude sets us apart.

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

A: We take your work seriously, and so should you. I find that it helps to look at some of the people we've published and see where else they've been published. You can make a sort of "affinity set" of people whose work seems to have elements in common with your own, and that can give you new places to submit, as well as telling you if MAR might be a good fit. We have a staff with a wide range of tastes, but we do tend to look for things that are a little off center somehow.

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

A: We don't have too much trouble with things going wrong. I do appreciate it when folks wait to query until 6 months, at least. I know it seems a long time in an age of shrinking response times, but response times are averages. If we get backlogged, we work hard to catch up, and I am sometimes taken aback when we get queries after even 4 months.

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

A: I tend to read cover letters after I've read the submission. I do care; I like to know where the person is and at what stage of career he or she is. A list of, say, 4 recent publication credits for journals, and books if applicable, can round out that basic biographical information. If a writer is unpublished, I like to see that mentioned--editors love discoveries!
I do like to hear if a piece from a previous issue of MAR particularly reached out to a writer, and in what way. That is part of the relationship-building we like, and of course we enjoy hearing about the fruits of our labor.

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

A: Our individual staff members each do things differently. Some of our assistant editors read a few paragraphs, some a few pages, some the whole (which is why we always have more than one set of eyes on a work). I have a (bad) tendency to read too much of a story. I might skim through parts of it if I'm pretty sure it's not a good fit for us, but even so I feel like I have to read the end. I'm a mystery fan and I don't like unsolved puzzles. I like to see how things are put together. A lot of times I end up reading the whole thing. I can't help it; especially when I am the person with the final say on whether or not a piece is declined, I want to make a well-informed decision. In poetry, I tend to read much more quickly--I read each piece, but my reading process is faster. I just love reading, and I get excited when it's time for that part of my role as chief, so I really dig in.

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

A: Usually we have 2-3 people read a piece before it is declined. If there is some interest in a piece, it gets more readers, and if response to those perusals is favorable, we make sure everyone on that genre staff reads the piece. The work is then discussed with the genre staff and I weigh in as chief. Only the lead genre editors can do a "one and done," declining a piece with only one reader.

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

A: I set my own hours, so I usually work a 10-6 day at the office. My day consists of correspondence with writers and other emails, meetings with campus offices, discussions with my editorial staff, and assigning/overseeing intern projects. I also teach classes. My managing editor and I work on setting accepted work and other business tasks. My staff as a whole meets for 3-4 hours a week, reading work and talking about potential pieces to accept, but a lot of the staff put in outside time reading work in our submissions manager.
So, much of my daily life is business/operations work. I do most of my reading and commenting on stories and poems in the evenings when I can focus for extended periods.

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

A: MAR likes to bridge the older methods and the newer technologies; we accept both postal and electronic submissions, for example. We accept checks, but also have online payments set up. In keeping with our relationship-building, we like to bring in as many writers and readers as we can, so we provide options.
I think it is important for editors/publishers to be aware of technological possibilities, but also to examine what is right for their publication and staff. Our print editions are a marker of MAR's personality. We do use social networking, but while we plan to expand into the blogosphere, and we're undergoing website changes with our university, our infrastructure does not extend to e-publishing, nor would I want it to at this time. That may change in the future (hence the importance of being aware), but right now we really believe in our printed product.