Editor Interview: Saranac Review

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

A: Engaging diverse writing.

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

A: Tin House; Glimmer Train; Rattle; BOMB; Granta.

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

A: In no particular order: Borges; Flannery O'Connor; Alice Munro; Neruda; Toni Morrison; Garcia Marquez; Martin Espada;

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

A: Besides publishing international writers, we strive to publish emerging and established writers from both the US and Canada. We do not shy away from social and political issues; indeed, we favor writing that takes on taboo and marginalized topics. We tend to look at the "art for art's sake" position with suspicion--I dare say even derision--and think it's a fatuous, irresponsible publishing dictum.

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

A: Advice that has been given by others and will continue to be given: read the journal; submit your best work; be professional in everything you do from the cover letter to your manuscript presentation; follow our submission guidelines faithfully. Do not think because we're a small literary journal that we do not have high standards and will publish anyone. We're not desperate.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: Fiction: a story that makes my eyes widen and eyebrows arch from the first page and rewards me with emotional engagement by the last page. A story that continues to gnaw at my brain after putting it down. When it comes to poetry, Dickinson said it best: "If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry." Although we occasionally publish it, I'm not a big fan of Language Poetry, which I usually find sterile and unfeeling. I need poetry to do something to me psychologically and emotionally. I personally cannot stand the linguistic masturbation that stands for poetry today. Nonfiction should be informative, but as engaging as any excellently crafted story. It should strive to be topical, relevant. A good nonfiction piece, to me, does not come across as some academic piece, but has fluidity in its prose style. Drama: Short pieces that read well on the page and can be visualized successfully for the stage.

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

A: They submit repeatedly after being declined and submit more than the limit of one story or nonfiction piece and three to five poems.

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

A: I appreciate a strong, brief cover letter. I would like to know their publishing credits or if they haven't published before. We welcome new writers. I don't care to know about anything personal or quirky or to have the submitted piece explained to me.

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

A: Most of what I read has passed through various stages before it arrives at my desk. I give them two, sometimes three, readings before making a decision to publish it or not. If I'm doing a first or second read, I can tell by the third page if it is worth continuing or not.

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

A: A piece published in SR will have gone through up to fiver or six readings. Sometimes genre editors, editors and I will communicate via email or in person to determine what to publish from what we have and considering the space available.

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

A: Hectic. Anxiety ridden over marketing, promoting, distribution, filling 200+ pages with quality work; administrative concerns; supervising editorial interns, after teaching a regular load because I do not receive any type of compensation for being editor of SR. Because my first priority is teaching, I have to carve time to read the manuscripts that come up to me. I typically find myself with blurry vision after hours reading manuscripts during breaks and in between grading papers. Sounds glamorous, right?

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

A: Absolutely essential. We are promoting our digital version over the print one. It's more accessible and affordable. We have the print version for connoisseurs of print, who really love the feel of a book in their hands and who find it pleasurable to turn pages. Our artwork is also so much more aesthetically pleasing coming off a page.

Q: How much do you edit an accepted piece prior to publication?

A: It depends. We try to accept a piece that is as close to flawless as possible. Sometimes we accept and find that we have to query the author about several issues. Several eyes go through the proofs before it goes to print.

Q: Do you nominate work you've published for any national or international awards?

A: Yes. Pushcart and O'Henry prizes, and any other that we seem appropriate. We also submit to CLMP's Firecracker Awards and the ASME Awards.