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Editor Interview: A Public Space

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

A: The brave and unexpected

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

A: Graywolf Press, Brick, Ninth Letter, Noon, Siglio Press, Sylph Editions, Two Lines

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

A: Yiyun Li, Sara Majka, Donald Barthelme, Sophie Calle, Vivian Gornick, Amy Leach, Friederike Mayröcker, James Alan McPherson, Marie NDiaye, Dorthe Nors, Juan José Saer

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

A: We are looking for pieces that are uniquely written, and that take risks, and with every issue we are also curating to find the resonant in the collective.

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

A: Embrace your own vision. Love what you send us. Also, read the magazine; see if what we publish hits you in the gut.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: Good writing that doesn’t cater to the prevalent. We are looking for work that only one person could write, rather than work that fits into a type.

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

A: That credentials matter, or that a submission resembling work we have read before has the stronger chance, or they think too much and try to please.

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

A: We appreciate cover letters, but they aren’t necessary. It can be interesting to see where writers come from or where their work has appeared; but we are as eager to read work by unpublished writers as by those who have published extensively. Jesmyn Ward and Leslie Jamison, for example, were both unpublished when they submitted work to A Public Space. Publishing their first stories was an exciting moment for the magazine.

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

A: We consider each submission carefully. The piece guides how far we read it—we may be interested in a rough story if there is one startling or exciting line, and will follow a piece as far as it pulls us

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

A: Promising submissions are flagged, and will get another look. Editors and readers advocate for and debate submissions at regular meetings. These meetings are very lively. The senior editorial team reviews the submissions, and in addition to looking at each manuscript individually they consider such questions as: how would the piece fit in the context of the issue that is being put together; is this work that is unlikely to be found elsewhere; is the piece ready for publication, or would we want to work with the author on a revision.

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

A: The role of editor at A Public Space is part sleuth, part instinct, part persistence, part interrogator, part arranger. We are actively seeking out work and potential contributors as well as reviewing submissions. When reading manuscripts, we are looking for talent. The first few pages don’t have to be perfect, but we are looking for a spark, a mystery, a code to be cracked. We want to look forward to reading the piece five times, because if it’s accepted we’ll be reading it at least that many times.

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

A: Publishers have to operate in the way that feels right for them—whatever works best to get the art out into the world. Our primary operation is the print magazine, and we are dedicated to making it pioneering and beautiful. We also have a gorgeous online archive, so when an issue sells out the work is still available. And social networks are a valuable means of creating a community of readers and writers. As an example, writers from more than fifty countries have applied to our Emerging Writer Fellows program. The fellows have come from Nigeria, Pakistan, and Scotland as well as New York City, Los Angeles, and Mississippi; and been paired with mentors who live in some cases halfway around the world. Modern technology makes a rich network of connections between the magazine and writers possible.

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

A: Sometimes a piece doesn’t need more than copyediting. Other times, we provide substantive editorial notes in addition to line editing, copyediting, fact-checking, proofreading. Always, the author is very involved. They will see proofs, sometimes multiple sets. No changes are made without their approval.