Thursday, March 23, 2006

A visit to River Styx

Time Spent: 1 hour (not counting travel time - I don't need the hours that badly...)

Following is a hastily typed transcript of the ?s I asked Richard Newman, editor of River Styx literary journal in St. Louis.

Me: What kinds of submissions do you get?
RN: Submissions come from all over the country and from other parts of the world. About 80% are medicre, 5% are truly bad.

Me: Do you respond personally to submissions?
RN: Try to respond in some way, even if it just a "Sorry and Thanks." If they don't get anything from us, then it probably means they're being published, in which case they're happy not to hear from us.

Me: What kind of reading structure do you have?
RN: Might read some submissions aloud in editorial meetings. We also have outside readers who come in once a week or so. There are also a few readers outside the STL area who help a bit. Submission are accepted if they have less than three "no's" given to them.

Me: What do you look for in a submission in order to accept it?
RN: Something that stands out as particularly imaginative or unique, something that has a distinctive voice. Not the usual stuff we get - especially not something that is about writing (for example, a story about a writer, or about the writing process, anything involving writing. They apparently get a lot of those...)

Me: Do you think about your audience when you accept pieces or do you accept what you like and think will work for that issue?
RN: Have a diverse audience, so don't really try to do polls or surveys or pick for the audience. We pick what we like and go with it.

Me: Do you see any advantages to remaining a print journal instead of switching to an online journal? Any disadvantages?
RN: Obviously, the biggest advantage to e-journals is that there's no cost, but most people would rather read something in print when they're in bed at night than sit at their computer and read. Also, I think it's easier to do a themed issue in print.

Me: What are some of the best things about being an editor and what are some of the worst?
RN: Best - it's a lot of fun, the people are great; I've made a lot of friends through other journals and through working relationships here. Worst - Tired of reading other people's work and would rather focus on my own. I'm not up to date on what's already published. The pay is bad. I'm always behind on work here. And we rely solely on funding.

Me: Is there anything you wish you had known before becoming an editor or working at a journal?
RN: How sensitive people are; I would have learned a lot sooner not to send comments on rejections to the authors.

Me: Any final thoughts?
RN: Lit journals are the trenches of the literary world. Publishing is a process. Sometimes the best thing an author can do is to get into the trenches by volunteering to read submissions. Volunteering at a journal is a good way to see what the business is like. See if you can do reading, proofreading, editing, assemblage. Magazines need readers.

Thank you, Richard, for allowing me to see River Styx and taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with me. I learned a lot and appreciate your generousity!

No comments: