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Editor Interview: Pennsylvania Literary Journal (PLJ)

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

A: Variety: all genres/forms

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

A: I prefer publishers and publications from the nineteenth century, especially in Britain and France. I think the middle of the nineteenth century saw the peak of world literature. My current research is into eighteenth century satire and early novels, and I admire these as well.

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

A: Charles Dickens, Sir Walter Scott, O Henry, Flannery O'Connor, Anne Rice, Alexander Dumas, Robert Stevenson, Robert Paltock and most other classical writers.

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

A: Unlike most other publications, PLJ expands if more worthy projects come in rather than rejecting works to fit in any specific page count. If you submit a good project to PLJ, it's very likely it will be accepted. The general policy is to be welcoming and to help writers find readers, rather than picking out what makes for better art than something else. There are no reading fees or other hurdles to jump through. Just write your best work, and it's my job to house it.

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

A: PLJ makes all of its content available on EBSCO, ProQuest and other platforms that are highly accessible. So think about it this way: if your work is accepted and you find it via a search for your name on one of these and spot typos or other errors you left behind, how would you feel? In other words, proofread your work for yourself rather than for anybody else. And if the topic you are covering or the manner of covering it is distasteful or poorly done if you saw it coming from another author, also refrain from submitting it. Most importantly, just do it, submit your work to PLJ/CCR, it is most wanted.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: It should be proofread for noticeable grammatical and spelling errors. The writer should indicate that they are submitting to PLJ in their letter and should include their bio (and abstract for academic pieces) at the top of the Word attachment with the submission. I always hope to find the next classical writer, or a brilliant gem, but just good writing with an interesting story is a reasonable goal to have.

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

A: A lot of writers forget to include their bio because many other publications ask for it to be excluded. Some writers are also surprised when I respond with a yes or no on the same day as when a submission comes in. It is my policy to always keep up with the emails I receive by responding on the same day, unless I'm away at a conference or the like. This promptness surprises some writers: because most other publications need months to respond. Don't be concerned about my speediness: time should not be wasted to procrastination.

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

A: We usually publish biographies of about 200 words, and artist's statements that are around 200 words. Some high school and college students submit their work to PLJ: in these cases the biographies cause a rejection of these works (unless the writing is extraordinary). In general, PLJ is for mature writers who have had at least one previous publication or have at least finished college, or are a few years into a career (plumbing is a good enough experience for PLJ). Some writers that fail to mention that they are submitting to PLJ in their cover leave me confused, as they can also be submitting to Anaphora or to CCR. The letter should basically be a sentence that says you're submitting to PLJ and your third-person paragraph bio.

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

A: I have a very liberal view of publishing as a medium that connects writers with readers. I do not have any moral, religious, grammarian, or stylistic boundaries. Writers need to know libel, hate-speech and other relevant laws, so that they do not violate them in the works they are submitting for publication. Outside these censorable violations, I leave judgement of the works to readers, rather than picking out what I enjoy or dislike. Some issues are over 300 pages because too many projects came in and none of them had any major censorable problems. The only thing I dislike in the works I review is simplicity, repetition, and other variations of... lack of originality and thought. Given these parameters, I screen all incoming works very quickly and do not read all of the content. Bowker has placed Anaphora on its list of self-publishers across the past 5 years or so: it is in the top 18 top self-publishers in the US. Dickens and Scott were self-publishers: I embrace the title full-heartedly. Writers need minimum barriers in their way: it's within the rights of all writers to reach readers and to share their voice.

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

A: No special secondary evaluations are engaged: it's a brisk and simple decision.

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

A: As at this very moment, whenever I evaluate submissions: I'm siting in my swivel chair with my feet up on a secondary pillowed chair. I'm staring at my double-wide computer screen, typing, reading etc. A new email comes in with a "bing". I open the email, read the submission, and immediately send either a "yes" or a "no" response. There are no committee meetings or objections, as this is a sole proprietorship, for-profit, small, woman-run, home-office business of which I am the only employee. There is no magician behind this curtain: just imagine yourself on the other side, and interact with me accordingly. PLJ is not run with hope of making a profit, but rather just to help writers connect with readers. I only do ad exchanges with other journals (there are no ads). I don't attempt to make it commercial, nor to sell it via mainstream bookstores. I don't receive funding from any institution that might have swayed my agenda or style. Unlike perhaps everybody else: this is a publication that exists for the sake of my love of writing.

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

A: I am always exploring new technologies. I improve the website. I develop better book design elements. Every time I learn a new technological trick, my contributors and customers see an improved product. I make PLJ available via EBSCO and ProQuest, post updates on social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter), and print the journal POD to lower the production cost. So, yes, I think publishers must learn about new technologies. Of course, some technologies prove to be unprofitable, so I discontinue these after experimenting with them.

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

A: I do some minimalist proofreading while I format an issue. By that point, it's too late for the writer to review any edits I make. So, all writers should proofread and edit their work prior to submitting it, with the assumption that it is likely to be printed nearly as-is. Occasionally, I ask my editing interns to help me edit PLJ, and they might make heavier edits, and these also would not have sufficient time to return to the writer for a double-check. PLJ and CCR are released on a tight tri-annual schedule, so that when content is ready, it's time to release it: there is no time for an added check from the 20-50 writers involved in each issue (who have different schedules, and might need a month or more to double-check the work).

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

A: If I am notified of awards by the award's organizers, I inform writers of the opportunity, and help them with the application. There are a few awards that I automatically apply for annually. I invite writers to inform me of any awards they are interested in applying for, and I help them with the application process. PLJ has won a CCCC award and several essays from it have been reprinted in Gale's collections (at a $200 per article profit to the author).