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Editor Interview: Defenestration: A Literary Magazine Dedicated to Humor

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

A: The funniest stuff ever.

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

A: To list a few: McSweeney's, Happy Woman Magazine, Andromeda Spaceways, MonkeyBicycle, Word Riot, The Onion.

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

A: Prose: Terry Pratchett, Edith Wharton, John Hodgman, Douglas Adams, Truman Capote, David Sedaris, Edgar Allen Poe, Carrie Fischer, Oscar Wilde, and Mark Twain.
Poetry: Frank O'Hara, e.e. cummings, John Ashbery, William Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe (again). I'm also going to be daring and say Shel Silverstein.

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

A: We started Defenestration because there weren't many all-humor markets out there. One day humor markets will outnumber the serious ones. We just hope our minds have been implanted into undying robot bodies by then.
We publish everything. Poetry and short stories are published three times a year in an online magazine format, and artwork and nonfiction pieces are published weekly. We also have regular columns and a weekly webcomic. We like to blur the lines between fiction and nonfiction, as sometimes fictional material comes our way that can't really be classified as a story in the traditional sense. Over 50% of the nonfiction we publish is, in fact, completely fictional. "Fake nonfiction" isn't an established genre yet, but it should be. We're working on it.

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

A: Read some of our content to see what our collective sense of humor is like. We also take bribes.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: A submission that has me laughing within the first page. A submission that's so funny I have to e-mail it to the other editors so they can have a laugh, too.

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

A: We still get a lot of folks sending us non-humorous poetry and prose. I don't mean they're sending us stuff that attempts to be funny and fails--I mean they're sending us pieces that aren't intended to be funny in the first place. I can only imagine that these folks either 1) haven't read our submission guidelines, or 2) enjoy reading our rejection letters.

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

A: I like cover letters. I like to know who you are. That being said, all I'm really looking for is a 100-word or less biography--the sort that would accompany your submission, if published. I don't mind if this includes a list of publication credits, but the list should be short. The amount of publications you have isn't going to affect your chances any more than the quality of those publications. Also? Your biography can be one big lie for all I care, because lies can be entertaining. But don't lie about your publication credits, because there's nothing adorable about that at all.
One other point: Don't send us rude cover letters. Even in jest. Being rude in an attempt to be funny isn't adorable at all, either.

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

A: I can usually tell if a story is going to work after the first few paragraphs, but I'll keep reading until at least the second page, just to be sure. If I start laughing early on, I know I've got something worth holding on to.
A good tip to take away from that is to spread the humor out. I don't want to have to read through ten pages of prose before I get to the humorous bit holding on for dear life at the end. Punchlines work for poetry and flash fiction, but longer pieces need to be funny throughout. And since all we publish is humor, it's hard to pull off a serious-sounding piece that ends in a humorous surprise ending. Our readers are going to be anticipating something funny happening before they even start reading.

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

A: Each reading period lasts a little over three months, and during that time we hold any poems or short stories that grab our attention. At the end of the reading period, we take a few days to reread everything we've collected, and from there decide which of those pieces are going to be in the next issue. We usually respond to stuff in our in-box within a week, but if we've held on to a story for consideration it could be up to three months before a final decision is reached.
The same isn't true for nonfiction, fake nonfiction, and visuals. If we like it, we'll accept it on the spot.

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

A: Me and the other editors (many of which are fake) alternate weeks. So I'll read everything that shows up for one week, and then Eileen will take the next week, and then--I don't know--Bigfoot will take the week after that. And so on. We often forward stuff to one another to get second opinions. But not too often, as that makes us look indecisive. It's a constant power struggle here at Defenestration, and there's no room for the weak.

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

A: Electronic publications are the way of the future. As one of our editors is, in fact, a tree, we take wasting paper very seriously.