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Editor Interview: Pithead Chapel: an online literary journal

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

A: Well-written and gutsy

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

A: Tin House, Georgia Review, Crazyhorse, Granta, Paris Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Brevity, Michigan Quarterly Review, Passages North, Border Crossing, PANK, Carolina Quarterly, Crab Orchard Review, Collagist, Shenandoah, AGNI, Necessary Fiction, and Hobart to name a few.

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

A: Stuart Dybek, Amy Hempel, Junot Diaz, Marilynne Robinson, Steve Almond, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Sherman Alexie, Raymond Carver, Toni Morrison, Jeanette Walls, Breece D’J Pancake, Harry Crews, Russell Banks, Andre Dubus, Anton Chekhov, ZZ Packer, Edward P. Jones, J.D. Salinger, Simon J. Ortiz, Leslie Marmon Silko, Flannery O’Connor, Dorothy Allison, Larry Brown, Cormac McCarthy, and the list goes on and on.

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

A: We try to feature a variety of styles and themes—we like narratives from all places, walks of life, viewpoints and voices. So don't be afraid to take a chance with us. All we ask is that you send us your best work.

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

A: We’re interested in fiction and nonfiction from emerging and established writers. If you have a piece that you’ve worked hard on, feel passionate about, and feel it will leave a strong impression on the reader then we’d love to read it. Don’t be afraid to take chances, to surprise us. And, as always, revise, revise, and revise before sending something out.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: The ideal submission follows our guidelines, is powerful and gutsy, and is well-written.

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

A: We still receive lots of submissions that don’t follow our guidelines. This usually includes genre fiction or works that exceed our word limits. We also aren’t a big fan of funky fonts. Other times authors will submit something in every category at once, and while we admire that determination, we prefer it when writers submit one piece at a time and wait for a response before sending us another.

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

A: We like it when an author sends a brief cover letter and third-person bio; it shows that the writer is taking the process seriously. However, the author doesn’t have to include a bio to be considered. We’re more concerned with the work and base our decision on such. We do, however, like to add bios after each published piece on our website, but it’s the author’s choice on what to include in that as long as it’s within reason.

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

A: Our goal when beginning each piece is to read it until the end. However, multiple grammatical errors (or improper tense shifts or something) will likely stop us from finishing it. If a submission is sound, we'll give it the consideration it deserves. And though one reader might not be able to get into a piece, it doesn’t mean it’s out; if another reader finds merit, it’s open for discussion. In other words, all pieces are read by multiple people before a decision is made.

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

A: Pieces that are accepted are read multiple times, once for the enjoyment of the work and once for clarity of the work, by each editor. Out of respect for the authors and readers, we want to present the work to our audience in the clearest, most professional way possible.

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

A: A typical day for us consists of reading submissions. Then toward the end of each month we compile the accepted pieces, reread them for clarity, and begin designing the cover/issue. Running a journal is lots of work, but we enjoy reading a variety of unique voices and having a venue for others to express themselves. If we can help strengthen the practice of reading, by granting others the opportunity to experience something outside of their normal lives, then we’ve accomplished our mission in helping to promote literature and the voices therein.

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

A: Of course it’s up to each individual publisher how they want to run things, but the more user-friendly the submission process, the more varied submissions you’re going to get, because the internet is a huge place. We're writers ourselves, and we like online submission managers as opposed to mailing paper subs or emailing them. Submission managers also save time and help keep things in order.