Editor Interview: The Camel Saloon
This interview is provided for archival purposes. The listing is not currently active.
Q: Describe what you publish in 25 characters or less.
A: Top shelf stuff, 90 proof
Q: What other current publications (or publishers) do you admire most?
A: I've got a long list. Sandy Benitez always does beautiful work. Her Cherry Blossom Review is a joy. Melanie Browne has a new place called The Literary Burlesque which I like a lot. I really admire Chloe Caldwell at Sleep Snort Fuck for the courage it takes to create that space. Ross Vassilev of Asphodel Madness, Tannen Dell and his gang at Indigo Rising Magazine, and Juliet Wilson of Bolts of Silk, from Scotland. I love her presence in the world. Sara Fitzpatrick Comito at Orion headless. Definitely Shawn Misener and Clutching at Straws. And there’s G. Tod Slone of The American Dissident. He just refuses to compromise his ideals and has given a forum to so many people who might not have otherwise found a place in the world for their voice.
Q: If you publish writing, who are your favorite writers? If you publish art, who are your favorite artists?
A: The only short story writer I've ever bought a book by is Sherman Alexie. I don't know what that says about the fiction I publish. I know I'm clueless when it comes to fiction--I've never written it and I don't know what takes to make it work.
My favorite poet is Rimbaud. Then comes categories: the traditional Chinese--Li Po, Tu Fu, that gang; Russian poets, especially Bella Ahkmadulina, especially her Volcanoes, especially the verse W.H. Auden translated as What future did you assume, / What were you thinking of and whom / When you leaned your elbow thus / Thoughtlessly on Vesuvius?
I like women poets in general. Then the beats, Irish poets, and the classic Greeks.
Q: What sets your publication apart from others that publish similar material?
A: The Camel Saloon is not a publication, it's a bar, that's what sets it apart. Writers are invited to drop by, share his or her latest work, have a drink or two, see what's up with the other customers, and come back as often as they'd like. The door is always open. Some contributors really get that, that it's a bar, and become regulars. That's what the joint is really meant to be: a public place for writers to share. There's a continual conversation going on if you read between the lines. So, in short, the Saloon is not a literary journal, it's a safe house, a speakeasy. And the House Muse, Christi Kochifos Caceres, keeps the joint honest.
Q: What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to your publication?
A: Speak the truth. It doesn't have to be art, but it does have to be honest.
Write to the audience. In the Saloon's case, that would be a generous set of inebriated fellow poets. It's a safe place to experiment and take risks--but if the writing didn't cost the writer some skin, blood or tears, the patrons are going to know. So check the contrived and artificial stuff at the door with the hats and coats.
And the guidelines specifically state that the Saloon "reserves the right to bestow preferential treatment upon any patron who includes with a submission his or her or a friend's original photography of the city, farm, forest or other locale portraying the place where the contributor lives, works, plays or wanders. Please include the specific location of the scene and the name of the photographim or the photographer."
And I mean that. I want some pictures on the walls. So do that.
Q: Describe the ideal submission.
A: Something that causes the English language to shift into a different dimension. I see this a lot when writers from typically non-English speaking countries send submissions: the language is just different. A different beat. A different set of images. A different accent. El Habib Louai at the Saloon is an example, he's from Morocco. So is Amit Parmessur, from Mauritius. And Aashish Thakur from India, the English there is different.
Native speakers there's a lot of similarity in the speech patterns, not as interesting. Deranged English I like a lot--lava flows of words, lightning bolts, ululations. Those are perfect submissions. At the Saloon, J.R. Pearson is a great example of a writer getting out of the usual neighborhood.
Q: What do submitters most often get wrong about your submissions process?
A: What submitters overlook most often is the policy against simultaneous submissions. I don't accept simultaneous submissions. Submitters can expect a response from me within 48 hours. Usually, the response is quicker than that. I expect the submitter to honor the commitment of a rapid reply by refraining from simultaneous submissions. I care about this--there's more poems in the world than the world has space for them. I want to use the space at the Saloon for the poems that haven't been published before, and simultaneous submissions get in the way of that.
Q: How much do you want to know about the person submitting to you?
A: I want to know as much as possible about the person submitting. I'm running a bar, and the people matter most. Publication credits matter too--I like to see what else the person has had published and what he or she is up to in the world. Knowing where other work is can turn a rejection into a request for different type of material and an acceptance. Previous credits also matter to me, for the reader who might want to track down more of the writer's work.
Q: If you publish writing, how much of a piece do you read before making the decision to reject it?
A: I read everything to the end. It's like baseball. Anything can happen in the bottom of the ninth.
Q: What additional evaluations, if any, does a piece go through before it is accepted?
A: If I'm undecided about a particular submission, I'll check around to see what else has been published by the writer, to get a feel for who that person is. And sometimes I have to work with the writer if the format of the poem doesn't fit the blog page. Other than that, I don't perform additional layers of evaluation.
Q: What is a day in the life of an editor like for you?
A: If there's a way to say yes, I want to find it. The Camel stands for self-expression, it's that simple, along with cold beer, Irish whiskey and an open door.
Q: How important do you feel it is for publishers to embrace modern technologies?
A: The difference between electronic publishing and traditional publishing is on the same scale of difference as between a keyboard and a typewriter. The keyboard represents liberty (think of fonts, bolding, alignment) while the typewriter represents restriction. The keyboard is also more democratic than the typewriter--more people can effectively use a keyboard than could use a typewriter. Modern technology simply offers a combination of liberty and democracy that traditional models can never attain. It is important for publishers to embrace modern technology because only modern technology offers the possibility for all voices to be heard in the world, and the Camel is all for that.