Editor Interview: Paper Nautilus

This interview is provided for archival purposes. The listing is not currently active.

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

A: Powerful, honest writing.

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

A: Current favorites include, in no particular order: Copper Nickel, Hayden's Ferry Review, Booth, Cincinnati Review, Stone Highway Review, Bateau, Connecticut Review, Gulf Coast, Crazyhorse, Noctua Review, Knockout, and Naugatuck River Review. Some presses we also love are Greying Ghost Press, CavanKerry, Tupelo, Black Lawrence, Carnegie Mellon University Press, Antrim House, and Hyacinth Girl Press. I'm probably forgetting a couple dozen more; there's so much good stuff out there.

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

A: Fiction: Amy Hempel, David Foster Wallace, Stuart Dybek, ZZ Packer, Aimee Bender, Lorrie Moore, Milan Kundera, Kurt Vonnegut, Lydia Davis, Jhumpa Lahiri, Steven Millhauser, Brock Clarke, Josh Russell, Brad Watson, Tim Parrish, and Robin Troy.
Poetry: Mark Doty, Nikki Finney, Dean Young, Alan Michael Parker, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Jack Bedell, Vivian Shipley, Jeff Mock, Mary Ruefle, Margot Schilpp, Edwina Trentham, Brian Brodeur, Enzo Surin, Charles Rafferty, Leah Nielsen, and Sharon Olds.

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

A: I'd like to think of Paper Nautilus as especially "writer friendly." What I mean by that is I try to make it a very approachable magazine: our guidelines are fairly simple and streamlined, we offer feedback and encouragement if a piece came very close but didn't quite make it into the magazine, we welcome questions and are always excited about creating an open dialogue with the writing community. I sometimes get a vibe from some publications that they want to maintain a certain separateness from their submitters because it can be so time-consuming to develop, but I'm really interested in building a sense of community for the writers who send us work or are published in Paper Nautilus.
I also try to make it very "reader friendly," as in people who aren't writers themselves are able to enjoy just about every piece in the issue as much as someone who has a few Pushcart Prizes. It's important to me that the work be well-crafted, but still accessible to someone who's not interested in analyzing craft and only wants to read it for enjoyment.

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

A: We adore new writers - a handful of folks made their very first print debut in our last issue, so we're not evaluating you on your credentials. Honestly, I think my advice most of the time is to send it over, and if we're not interested, we're at least very thankful that your trusted us with your work.
If you're not sure what to send, you may want to pass on works that could fall into the genre fiction category. While there's plenty of quality writing that could be identified as or linked to erotica, sci-fi, and fantasy, we're really looking for work that, if not character-driven, says something meaningful about the human experience.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: One of the best things is opening up someone's work and being remarkably surprised by where it goes. I really value versatility, and there are a number of pieces I select that are way outside my personal tastes, but I can objectively recognize the strength of the writing and how it achieves what it sets out to do.
I like writing that takes risks, whether it be in form, or with its honesty. Sometimes I'll be reading a poem or a story, and just feel how genuine and vulnerable the writing is, and I don't mean confessional or over-the-top. There's just something in the tone or the language that this writer is earnestly wrestling with some thorny issue on the page, and it has this huge payoff of being authentic and very moving.

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

A: We're pretty laid back, so this isn't much of an issue for us. We frequently get submissions with names on the submission itself, when all identifying information should be removed.

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

A: I'm a little on the fence about cover letters. They're a great way to get a feel for who this writer is, and I'm always curious about the people who send us work - I'm a bit nosy in general. But I don't think they're necessary, and I don't use someone's publication history as a way of trying to determine something about the work they sent to me.

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

A: About 90% of work is read from beginning to end, but there are some pieces that I can tell without reading the whole submission. I always give every piece a fair shot, though - for example, even if the first poem in a set of five doesn't work for me, I'm still going to read the next four with an open mind.

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

A: We try to eliminate any excess processes. If we love it, we accept it.

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

A: I'll log into the submission manager and see there are any comments on submissions from the staff; most of the time I agree, but sometimes I don't. Because I founded Paper Nautilus, I get to make the final call on work submitted, which is nice only because if I read something I love instantly, I can accept it right away without needing to consult anyone else. Like most of us, I have a job and a very busy life outside of being an editor, so some days I don't get to look at any new work at all; other days, it's reading a few submissions before I go to bed, or if I'm really lucky, I can spend a whole Saturday reading new work in the queue, or update the website and Facebook with new information or links I think may be interesting to writers. Lately, it's the ongoing coordinating of our first chapbook contest, which I'm especially pumped about.

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

A: I think this is definitely important, since the industry is changing and technology plays a major part in how we live our lives. Social media has been especially helpful with generating interest and keeping lines of communications open. I would be utterly lost without our online submissions manager - I can't even imagine how literary publications kept organized before these were introduced.
I do, however, think that it's important to still support traditional printing methods. I love bound books; there is something about "real books" that just can't be can't be replicated for me. I don't own an eReading device, but I feel less vehemently opposed to that than I have in the past. I think for me, I like the idea of a balanced approach, where electronic devices and bound books coexist side-by-side.