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Editor Interview: Oblong

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

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

A: Flash,sometimes funny/sad

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

A: Online, I like reading Matchbook, Metazen, Word Riot and Hobart. In print, Granta and The Believer.

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

A: Richard Yates, Nabokov, Jeffrey Eugenides. I loved John Williams' Stoner and am looking forward to reading the rest of his work.
Short story-wise: Edna O'Brien, Alice Munro, Raymond Carver, Margaret Atwood.

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

A: Edit, edit, edit. From time to time, a few people have mentioned in their cover letters that the pieces they are submitting have been written in the previous 24 hours or so, following a writing prompt. Maybe it's because I'm jealous and I can't imagine completing a story in a day, or maybe it's because I think it's important to pore over every word to make sure it's necessary, but this kind of statement suggests to me that the writer has dashed off a first draft and deemed it good enough as it was. I recently read that after a few frenzied weeks of writing the first draft of On the Road, Kerouac went on to extensively edit and revise the manuscript over a several-year period. It's not as romantic that way, but I think it's important to remember.
Read at least a handful of other stories we've published to see if yours might fit in. Sometimes we reject work that is perfectly fine, but in my opinion, goes over old ground. I think it's hard to write about relationships, especially romantic ones, in a way that is fresh and original, so when someone does, I'm impressed.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: An ideal submission could take many forms, but I love work that is rich in psychological insight, tightly written, lyrical but not overwrought. I also like a bit of offbeat humour.

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

A: On Submittable, we specify that writers should submit up to three pieces in one document. Quite often, people overlook this and send three separate documents.
Occasionally, writers begin their cover letter with lines like "Dear NANO Fiction".

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

A: I think it's polite for someone to say "Dear x, Please find attached 'y'. Thank you for taking the time to read my work." If you feel like mentioning that you live on Christmas Island with two cats and a gerbil, that's also welcomed, but not compulsory. It doesn't matter to me if you've had publication credits in big name magazines – I judge the work entirely on its own merit, which means that sometimes I get to publish stories by talented writers who are just starting to send their work out, which is great.
It probably goes without saying that I do not care for self-aggrandising cover letters.

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

A: I can usually tell within the first couple of paragraphs if it's clearly not for me, but out of respect for the writer and a general sense of obligation, I read to the end, to make sure I haven't missed anything. Unless the story is about sexy dragons or similar, in which case I know it's not going to work from the get-go.
There are plenty of pieces I like but am not sure I love. Those stories tend to linger in the 'maybe' pile a little longer. After the first reading, I always make a note about the piece and come back to it later. Sometimes I am undecided about a piece and read it over and over again until I'm sure of my decision.
I don't enjoy sending rejection notes and I've been on the receiving end of some, so I try to be as considerate as possible.

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

A: I'm a fan of tangible objects so I love print magazines – you can hold them in your hands then keep them on your bookshelves! Forever!
But I think it would be foolish to ignore modern technologies. I think there's a certain arrogance to those who resist all forms of change, as if the world they grew up in was not itself a result of many changes. Electronic submissions make everything easier, and publishing online allows you to reach a wide, varied audience, at low cost, which is great for small literary magazines.