Editor Interview: The Conium Review
Q: Describe what you publish in 25 characters or less.
A: Innovative fiction.
Q: What other current publications (or publishers) do you admire most?
A: PANK and theNewerYork are a couple of my favorite lit mags right now. As for publishers, FC2, Two Dollar Radio, FSG, and Gold Line Press are consistently impressive.
Q: If you publish writing, who are your favorite writers? If you publish art, who are your favorite artists?
A: JAMES: “Etgar Keret, Amelia Gray, George Saunders, and Aimee Bender.”
UMA: “Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdi, Mark Danielewski, Mikhail Bulgakov, Milan Kundera.”
Q: What sets your publication apart from others that publish similar material?
A: TRISTAN: “What sets us apart is the care we put into presenting each piece to our readers, keeping things sharp and clean while honoring the author's wishes. We’re proud that we hold ourselves to high standards.”
JAMES: “Our journal is willing to take risks. We publish pieces that might be slushed elsewhere, and we avoid ‘safe’ stories that sound too much like ones we’ve already heard before.”
Q: What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to your publication?
A: UMA: “Read our publication, and decide whether or not your writing would be a good fit for us. Then check out the submission guidelines and follow them.”
Q: Describe the ideal submission.
A: JAMES: “First, the ideal submission is one that follows our guidelines and comes from a writer who is enthusiastic about what we’re doing. Second, and more importantly, the ideal submission tells a new type of story; it take chances that pay off. Third, the writer is open to feedback and criticism.”
Q: What do submitters most often get wrong about your submissions process?
A: TRISTAN: “They submit too many pieces or they format things weirdly, in strange fonts, in hard to access files—remember, you want people to read your stuff, so make it easy for them to access and engage it. And please follow guidelines and know who it is you're sending your work to—this can make all the difference.”
Q: How much do you want to know about the person submitting to you?
A: TRISTAN: “As little as possible. I personally save their bio and/or cover letter until after reading their work. I try to withhold expectations as much as possible. But I do like to get a feel of who they are, and it may compel me to recommend that we see more of an author's work, if they state or imply that there’s more to offer.”
Q: If you publish writing, how much of a piece do you read before making the decision to reject it?
A: SUSAN: “I read it all, but if I start skimming after the first few sentences or lines, it’s not a good sign.”
JAMES: “It varies. I read until it gets unreadable. With many submissions, this means I read the whole thing. But on some manuscripts, the draft doesn’t compel me to continue, so I put it down. If I’ve read half a manuscript, and I am still not interested, then chances are that our readers will also be disengaged.”
Q: What additional evaluations, if any, does a piece go through before it is accepted?
A: JAMES: “Before a piece is accepted, it passes by several editors. At each stop, it gets reevaluated. A piece needs to be compelling, but there are some empirical evaluations too: if a piece contains too many grammatical errors, we simply can’t take it. Holly (our Copy Editor) does great work, but she can’t be expected to completely overhaul a train wreck.”
TRISTAN: “If I’m unsure about a piece—say, for example, if I don’t like it, but I know that it’s of high quality—then I recommend that our other editors look at it. We’re fortunate to have a team of people with differing tastes and differing ideas about what constitutes good writing and what doesn’t.”
Q: What is a day in the life of an editor like for you?
A: HOLLY: “When I copy edit, I do the reading, proofreading, etc., but I also do a lot of research, looking at facts, use of phrases/words, etc.”
SUSAN: “Read, write, walk, revise. Laptop, of course, and red pen. Coffee, not a lot. And at the end of the day, maybe some wine or a shot of tequila. I like cloud shows too, then. Makes me revise. And the other ones.”
JAMES: “It never stops, and it’s constantly different. Reading submissions is a big part, obviously. But we’re a small press, and we don’t have special departments for shipping, graphic design, tech support, or public relations. Uma and I handle these odds and ends in most instances, and that takes a big chunk of time each day. But I find time for myself, and a day in my life often includes working on my own writing, reading, and maybe a board game or video game.”
Q: How important do you feel it is for publishers to embrace modern technologies?
A: SUSAN: “One look at our snazzy website will answer that one.”
JAMES: “I don’t know if publishers need to ‘embrace’ every new technology, but they should be aware of changing technology and make informed decisions. Our journal was initially founded as a print-only publication—and we’re still committed to print—but we’ve starting publishing digital content too. Adaptability is crucial, because technology changes all the time. Remember when e-books came on floppy disks? No? Well, it happened, and now we've moved way past that technology. Publishers need to always be aware of how the industry is changing. To ignore technology altogether would be a mistake, but that doesn’t mean a publishing house has to jump on-board with every new tech trend.”