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Editor Interview: CALYX Journal

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

A: Women's literature & art

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

A: I love the other presses that are promoting marginalized voices, especially VoiceCatcher, Cordella, and Sinister Wisdom.

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

A: Since we publish poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and art, I have a lot of opinions on this. Of the authors we've published, I adore Barbara Kingsolver, Sharon Olds, Julia Alvarez, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Sandra Cisneros, Penelope Scambly Schott, Frances Payne Adler, Alicia Ostriker, Paulann Petersen, Marty McConnell, Jennifer Givhan, and Ursula K. Le Guin (whose loss I am still feeling pretty deeply). In our upcoming issue, we have an art insert dedicated entirely to street art made by women at the Akumal Arts Festival in Akumal, Mexico. It's vibrant and colorful and deeply impactful. One of my other favorite art inserts we did in Vol. 30:3 featured work from the Bring Her Home: Stolen Daughters of Turtle Island exhibit that highlighted missing and murdered indigenous women.

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

A: This year is our forty-fifth birthday, and I think being the oldest feminist press in the country has given the publication real weight and inspiration. This is a space specifically eked out for new and emerging writers and for under-represented voices. We work to make our publication a platform for women and non-binary writers and artists to make their own. Also, we are still ensconced in a print medium, so our journal has a reputation for being slick and gorgeous. It makes for a great coffee table book because in addition to the literature, we also have a stunning art insert and a glossy cover.

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

A: Don't feel the need to contain your work to what the market thinks of as "women's topics." Women's topics are anything that women choose to write about! We receive a lot of work on Persephone, menstruation, breast cancer, caretaking, abortion, and childbirth, and we love them, but we are interested in receiving the full of gamut of work by women, not just the niche that people think of when they imagine "women's issues."

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: Make me laugh, make me cry, or make me sit and stare at the wall for thirty seconds while mouthing "wow" to myself. I am always looking for work that uses all the words necessary and no more.

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

A: Our online submission manager has a drop-down menu for choosing genre (poetry, prose, reviews, etc.). A lot of people miss it and submit to the wrong genre.

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

A: For me personally, no. I don't read cover letters until after I've read the submission, and even then usually only after I've decided I like the work. Some of the editors in our collectives like to read bios and publications first, though.

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

A: We read every submission all the way through (and if the piece is held for our final consideration collective, we give notes on it as well). I usually know within a page or two if I'm going to like a piece or not, but I have been surprised before.

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

A: We have a system wherein two readers (or three, if a tiebreaker is required) read a submission. If two readers like it, it goes to the editorial collective. The collective discusses each held piece, takes notes, and decides as a group if the piece works in the pages of CALYX. Sometimes an acceptance is contingent on the author revising or cutting parts of the piece. We often ask for small changes, such as paring down scenes or moving the order of stanzas or paragraphs. Anything larger that would involve rewriting is framed more as a suggestion and returned to the author to resubmit another time at their discretion.

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

A: We receive anywhere from 800 to 1000 submissions during the two-month general submission period each year. Submissions are assigned to a first reader, who votes yes or no and writes comments for other readers to see. A second reader repeats the process. If the two readers disagree with their votes, a third reader breaks the tie. Submissions with two yeses get a "Hold for Further Review" email from me while two no votes get declined. I send all held material to the editorial collectives (one collective is poetry, the other is prose, and they meet independently of one another). The collectives get a week to read each held submission packet before meeting in person to discuss. I conduct the meetings and take notes. Editors may vote anywhere from "No" to "Maybe" to "Yes with revisions" to "Unequivocal Yes" on each piece, and our discussions are fluid and feminist. We are there to listen to each other and respect the (sometimes strong) feelings of others; it very rarely comes down to majority rule and is more of a discussion of what we think works for our publication or what would resonate with our readers. I then send emails: Anyone who was accepted gets a rundown of our publishing timeline and our publication rights information, and anyone who was declined gets detailed notes on what we thought of their work. It's a busy time for the journal!

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

A: We are a very traditional publication, having gotten our start in the 1970s. However, I think it's vital to embrace modern technologies because those are exactly the forms of communication that people are using right now. Being a print publication means a slow publication and print timeline, which can be frustrating. We try to supplement that with our social media pages and our website, which keep people apprised of our broader goals and our current projects.

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

A: Our editorial collective might accept a piece exactly as it is or request substantial revision. However, once it is accepted, it also goes through a rigorous copy editing process. We keep our work in line with the Chicago Manual of Style, 14th Ed. and the Merriam Webster Dictionary, 11th Ed. (although we do take into account poetic license in certain grammatical and conventional choices). In both cases, the author is ALWAYS notified of the proposed changes and must sign off on any modifications before the piece goes to print.

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

A: We are a very small staff, so we often don't have the time to nominate the work in our pages, although we have rotating volunteers and interns who allow us to do so on an intermittent basis.