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Editor Interview: Muzzle Magazine

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

A: Astonishing voices

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

A: To name a few: Rattle, Union Station, decomP, Word Riot, Write Bloody Press, Cypher Books, Pudding House Publications

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

A: In no particular order: Terrance Hayes, Marie Howe, Nick Flynn, Richard Siken, Patricia Smith, Lynda Hull, James Wright, Audre Lorde, Gwendolyn Brooks, Natasha Trethewey, Philip Levine

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

A: MUZZLE aims to bring together the voices of poets from a diverse array of backgrounds, paying special homage to those from communities that are historically underrepresented in literary magazines. Many (but not all) of the poems we've published have revolved around themes of sexuality, gender, race, class, and difference. Notably, our past issues have included many tender and gorgeous poems from Cave Canem Fellows and Slam Poets.

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

A: Read the submission guidelines and read our former issues.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: The submission guidelines have been followed; the language is fresh and inventive; the narrative is new or at least being told in a new way; the weight of the piece hits me at a gut level; I feel lucky to have gotten to read the piece.

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

A: Submissions need to be attached and copy-and-pasted into the body of the email.

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

A: The poems matter much more than the cover letters do. As the Editor in Chief, I am the only one who actually sees the cover letters. The other editors view submissions blindly. However, I do have a couple pet peeves about cover letters:
1) Listing more than 10 journals you've been previously published in.
2) Not bothering to write a cover letter.
3) Including quotations from other poets and/or family members about your work.
4) Not proofreading.
5) Addressing letters to "Mr. Stevie Edwards" (I am a Ms.). Also, addressing letters to other magazines (yes, this has happened more than once).

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

A: All of it.

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

A: I personally read every single poem that is submitted to Muzzle. For this past issue (Fall 2010), I had the distinct pleasure of reading a little shy of 800 poems. I sift through all the poems and choose the 10-20% that are my favorites. Submissions that ignore our guidelines and/or contain numerous typos and grammatical errors generally do not make it into that batch. I periodically (usually every other week) send batches of my favorite poems to our fabulous team of assistant poetry editors for review. When I send the poems out to the other editors, they are completely anonymous. I create an electronic form using Google that each of the editors has access to. For each poem, each editor ranks the piece on a scale of 1-5 and provides careful feedback on why they chose that ranking. All the information gathered by the form is channeled into a nifty spreadsheet. When making the final cuts, I meticulously consider all of the feedback given on each poem. Ultimately, I do have the final say on everything, but I have no intention of going rogue with that responsibility; I greatly respect the opinions of the other editors.

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

A: For most of the reading period, my schedule is pretty manageable. I go to work from 9-6, spend an hour or two evaluating submissions after work, and devote my Saturday and Sunday afternoons to catching up (if needed). However, we tend to get flooded by submissions close to our deadlines. Around deadlines, I can frequently be found reading submissions for 8-hour stretches of time (this usually involves lots of cold coffee, ice cream, night walks, cursing, and hot showers). I apologize to humans I interact with during those periods of time.

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

A: Embracing modern technologies has been very useful to our magazine. We use Facebook and Twitter to help get out our calls for submissions and to publicize new issues. I think creating a "Call for Submissions" event on Facebook for each issue has been incredibly helpful because it constantly reminds writers to get their work in. We also utilize Google Sites and Google Docs (particularly Google Forms) to help streamline our editorial process. I think accepting electronic submissions certainly boosts our number of submissions. Personally, as a writer who submits to literary journals fairly regularly, I am a whole lot more likely to submit to a journal that accepts electronic submissions than one that requires postal submissions, and I think this is probably a trend for my generation of writers; submitting electronically is much more convenient and economical.