Editor Interview: Bacopa Literary Review Contest

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

A: Unusual perspectives.

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

A: Glimmer Train, Tin House, Rattle, Soundings Review, Hunger Mountain, The Georgia Review, The Raven Chronicles, The Sun, Ploughshares, Conjunctions, Bones, Shaking Like a Mountain

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

A: Classics such as Virginia Woolf, Flannery O'Connor, Vladimir Nabokov but also the President's 2015 favorite Lauren Groff; many modern American poets (who wouldn't publish Emily Dickenson?) as well as what FlavorWire calls "Bad-Ass Contemporary Poets" including Mary Karr (mark her also for favorite memoirist) as well as such fresh new voices as Kim Addonizzio in poetry and Ta-Nahesi Coates in creative nonfiction.

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

A: Bacopa Literary Review is an established and elegant annual journal in its ninth year, with high quality and diverse contributions from around the world. We respond quickly, love our contributors, and promote their work after publication in our Editors' Blog, Facebook and Twitter pages, which we update with news of their other publications and awards.

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

A: Read the guidelines; we thought about them carefully and so should you. To see who we are and what kind of work we publish, read posts in the Bacopa Literary Review Editors' Blog.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: Short stories with depth, clarity, tight and concise writing, and a powerful, authentic voice. Prose poetry that goes to the playful and daring edge, with powerful, lyrical language and a commanding voice. Poetry that intrigues, moves, surprises readers with stunning imagery, lyricism, soundplay, structure. Creative nonfiction with a moving inner voice, work that holds to the same standards as other literary forms while remaining grounded in fact.

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

A: They don't read the guidelines carefully and send something just because they hope to get it published, not because it's what we seek. Also, we mean it when we ask for a limit of 50 words in your bio. Thanks for not giving us unnecessary work.

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

A: We like to know a little about the author, in 50 words or less. Just state the briefest facts, as requested; no need to impress with your publications -- we judge blind, so won't even know who you are; the writing will speak for itself. The professionalism of the submission (following guidelines, courtesy, coherence) and the quality of the work is what counts.

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

A: Each editor may have more or less patience, but good writers know that in fiction or creative nonfiction the first line, and certainly the first paragraph, have to grab the editor's attention. Most of us would read a short piece to the end, but maybe not finish a longer piece if the first few pages aren't promising. Poetry is different -- we read the whole poem to see if it's going to lift us out of the ordinary.

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

A: We work as a team. Submissions are read first by the Editor in Chief and Associate Editor for adherence to guidelines, then passed on to the genre editors. Genre editors make acceptance decisions but confirm with the Editor in Chief before notifying the contributor. When it's time for prize decisions, genre editors present their nominations to the team for confirmation; same with Pushcart nominations.

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

A: Being Editor in Chief is like running any small, nonprofit business, and my main job is to put us on the face of the map. In these times that means social media savvy, maintaining our Submissions page, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and promoting previous year's contributors in our Editors' Blog. The Associate Editor and I manage the technical aspects of production, and maintain good relationships with the editorial and production staff so all are included and we share a common vision. The genre editors help with upfront planning but their contribution is mostly during the submission and production phases--reading submissions, noting initial impressions, and accepting obviously superior work before the end of the submissions period so we don't lose it to other publications. During submissions weI keep a running estimate of printed page use and update the genre editors on what's being accepted in all genres, working toward a roughly fair proportion of pages for each genre. After submissions end, the genre editors complete their accept/decline choices, all editorial staff members read all accepted pieces and offer opinions on prize nominations, confirm genre editors' choices for prizes, confirm those choices with prize winners, then notify all contributors of prize winners. During all of the above, we try to respond promptly to submissions and stay in close communication with contributors. The production phase is another hard-working period of a month or two -- working with a production consultant on layout, font, sequence, etc. to insure that the work is appropriately and beautifully displayed in the print journal.

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

A: I don't think traditional and modern options are mutually exclusive. There's something special about holding a print book in your hands, whether you're one of the editors or one of the contributors. Using CreateSpace makes this possible for minimum cost, and allows print-on-demand so we don't have to buy and store large quantities of copies. E-books wouldn't work for us because they change the spacing of poetry too much. But the time is gone when promoting a literary journal depended solely on print advertising. Our print ad each year in Poets & Writers has been fruitful, but we otherwise work daily to increase our social media presence, with Facebook announcements, blog posts, Tweets, Facebook groups, free online advertising sites, and joining online communities where relevant. Our goal is to remain an elegant print journal with a contemporary online presence.

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

A: Almost all submissions have a missed apostrophe or extra space here and there, but even on minor changes we make sure the author has agreed. We accept experimental formats, and make sure those authors approve a production draft of their work.
All of our editors offer at least a small bit of mentoring where necessary, with two options for potentially publishable pieces that would benefit from minor changes:
(1) "We love this and would like to publish it; there are a few minor changes we suggest (attached) but will publish with or without the changes."
(2) "We love this and would be interested in publishing it if you're willing to make a few specific changes (attachment with suggested changes identified)."

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

A: We submit Pushcart nominations from each year's publication.