Sunday, November 29, 2009


1) How did you arrive at your current position? What other presses have you worked for? Under what capacity? Did you publish your own work through said presses? What other projects are you working on?

Like every writer, I have about 11 projects on the go, the most pressing of which is finishing my dissertation at the University of Iowa. However, I do try to split my time between 5_trope, my own writing and various other online projects through webdelsol that I often find myself involved in. I've done web work for a variety of online journals, and have read submissions for a few others. I've been involved in 5_trope since about 1998, and have also worked with Flyway, Sketch, Filling Station and a handful of others. My involvement dates back to 1995 or so, which really makes me wish this was a more remunerative field!

2) What is the staff structure at your press/magazine? How do the six of you from the mast as it is communicate, collaborate, and pull it all together?

I handle submission flow for prose submissions, which are read by me and associate editor Travis Godsoe. Poetry is managed from beginning to end by Joel Chace--a guy with a far more impressive resume than mine, who also writes a rocking poem himself. His work is all over the place, in print and online--he's the real deal. He shares some of the submission volume with Heather Thomas, also an accomplished experimental poet. Mike Neff hosts the web space and promotes the journal through webdelsol. In practice, this means that poetry and prose are assembled separately, but in general the issue ends up taking a particular shape by the time the work all comes together. I usually try to add an "editor's note" to put everything in context and to offer some commentary on the world of online publishing as it stands.

3) What challenges do you face as a publisher? How closely do you keep your deadlines? What kinds of costs do you have (time and money)? How is it different publishing electronically, as opposed to in print?

As you may have gathered, we operate on the thinnest of shoestrings when it comes to staff. We also have a massive backlog of accepted work, which isn't unusual in this business. We try to stick to a trimesterly schedule, but in practice that's very challenging with four people living thousands of miles apart. However, that is also the key benefit to publishing electronically. Not only are costs low, but it's possible to build fruitful and rewarding relationships with other people who live on other parts of the globe. The cost is also low--which is good, because it allows for us to be a little more dedicated to the mission of our particular journal, which serves a very specific niche.

4) Do you have any cover letter advice? (Generally vs. Specific to your site?)

Don't be cute. Be brief, show that you know the journal and let the story speak for itself. Gimmicks almost never work--in general, it's better to treat it the same way you did your piece--be honest, show that you care about our aesthetic mission (or, indeed--that you know what it is) and don't go on for too long.

5) What do you look for in a submission? How vetted are your writers? (Do you find that you get/publish submissions from all ranges of experience, age, education?)

We don't actively select for writers previously published elsewhere, but in practice, most of our writers are not publishing their first piece with us. There are certain writers that we've published before that we really like, and others that have turned their 5_trope publications into print publication projects, something that we love to see. We look for work that is innovative, experimental, crafted and interested in language and aesthetics. The majority of pieces that we reject are not unsuitable because they're bad--they are unsuitable because they're completely out of line with what we're interested in. To us, experimentation is more than an end in itself--it's a mode of social and cultural critique, and the work we're most interested in will instantly strike its reader as different, interesting, exciting and well crafted.

6) You say that you've got a new trope in the works... what does that entail? How are submissions processed at your press/magazine? How do you work to create an aesthetic for each issue? (There seem to be some visual/structural similarities amongst the published pieces; does someone format the submitted work to fit the style of 5_trope?)

We have a template that we use. In essence, the poetry and prose are assembled separately, and then I bring them together and see what kind of thematics unite the pieces with each other.
7) Do you have a favorite unsolicited submission discovery or anecdote? Favorite work in general?
7-2) For aspiring reader-of-good-stuff: Who should I read (big books)? Presses that aren't already 5_trope musts? Critics I should read? What's the most recent delight you've encountered and why was her.his work so powerful to you?

My memory isn't good enough to answer that question very well; usually, my favourite stories are of editorial collaboration with writers.

I would look at DIAGRAM, a fantastic journal edited by my friend Ander Monson. It's consistently excellent. Also, Mad Hatter's Review and Tarpaulin Sky. A few years ago we published a piece from Jane Unrue's book that came out in 08 (I think)--and her work is exactly what 5_trope loves. Experimental, formally interesting, yet also visceral, energetic and really, really good.

8) What advice do you have for first-time submitters?
8-2) Since you've got enough to read as it is, where can you advise me to go submit that would be open to hearing from a green writer, such as myself?

It's hard to give advice without reading your work. My main piece of advice is to be patient. Look around at the different journals on, and find the one s that you like the most. Read around in them, see what kind of work they're interested in, and figure out if it's a good fit. That's a crucial stage, so don't fake your way through it. If you feel that genuine connection with a journal, with its aesthetic project, with its tastes, goals and desires, odds are it will work out eventually. Don't be discouraged by rejection--but when you get one, take a few days to figure out why it may not have floated the editor's boat.

9) What are your long-term plans for your magazine/press?

We're going to add a contest and a print anthology. Very exciting stuff.

10) What's your evaluation of the current literary landscape? How do you foresee publishing changing in the near future, given the explosion of electronic publishing?

The world of Web 2.0, social networking and so on has spawned an even greater fragmentation of the industry, which means that every niche, no matter how small, gets served in some way. This is as true in politics, news, entertainment, comedy and the rest of that many-headed monster we call culture as it is in literature. For us, that means we can continue toiling in our tiny patch of landscape until someone tells us to stop, which hasn't happened yet.

No comments:

Post a Comment