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Editor Interview: The Cumberland River Review

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

A: Work that transports us.

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

A: We enjoy journals with a consistent aesthetic. Tar River Poetry comes to mind, as do Image, The Oxford American, Shenandoah, Agni, and The Southern Review. A new favorite is The Hampden-Sydney Review, which is consistently worthwhile and beautifully designed. Among our fellow online journals, Boxcar Poetry Review wins the day.

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

A: Though we are not looking for explicitly religious work, we enjoy poets of moral consequence: Claudia Emerson, Carol Frost, Naomi Shihab Nye. Some of our favorite fiction writers are Ian McEwan, Maile Meloy, and Tobias Wolff, all of whom write simply, directly, and profoundly.

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

A: We’re proud of our professionally designed website and our response time, which tends to be quite reasonable. Yet all that matters is the work. We think you’ll consistently like what we publish.

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

A: Read previous issues (our first issue will go live in mid-October) and send work to us, specifically. Resist the urge to send untargeted submissions to everyone in sight.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: Our ideal submission contains an appropriate number of poems (three, four, or five) or a prose piece that conforms to our requirements (five thousand words or fewer). It includes a brief cover letter. Most importantly, it’s so good that we’d be fools not to publish it.

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

A: We get email submissions from time to time, and, because we explicitly don’t accept them, they tend not to get read. Happily, the vast majority of writers who send us their work follow the stated guidelines.

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

A: We’re interested in reading a brief list of previous publications, but the work is what ultimately matters. We’ve rejected submissions from writers who have been in The New Yorker. We’ve accepted submissions from writers who have never been published. We suspect that most editors feel the same way.

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

A: We have a large staff, and our readers’ processes vary. Our general policy is to read until a piece becomes unredeemable—to read, in other words, until we know we cannot accept it. Always, our desire is to like a piece rather than to dislike it.

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

A: Every submission goes through multiple readers. Our full staff meets monthly to decide amongst those pieces that have received more than one “yes” vote. As we publish only forty poems and four stories or essays each year, competition is extremely fierce.

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

A: We’re teachers, students, writers, and editors. Our days are busy, in other words. Yet few things compare to coming across a submission that we absolutely have to have.

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

A: As an online journal, we’re proud of the fact that anyone with an Internet connection can read our contributors’ work free of charge. We’re suspicious, though, of claims that print manuscripts and publications will fade away. We think not.