Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Six Questions for Rae Bryant, Editor, The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review (formerly Moon Milk Review)

NOTE: Moon Milk Review recently transitioned into the new Johns Hopkins University, M.A. in Writing Program’s journal, The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review. Eckleburg is eclectic, literary mainstream to experimental. There’s no way to sum us up in one story or even a single issue.

Moon Milk Review takes its title from Italo Calvino’s short story, “The Distance of the Moon.” Our aesthetic veers toward the same ”otherlands” or “slipstream” in literary style, including an appreciation for magical realist, surrealist, metarealist and realist works with an offbeat spin. MMR includes fiction and a multi-media gallery containing artwork and music. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a story and why?

RB: Voice. Memorable Character(s). Mastery of language. There is no specific or expected style or content. Each writer creates his or her own, and I’m always delighted when a writer manages to create something new and gripping. Basically, I know it when I see it. This doesn’t help much, does it? Generally I want a close-in voice. I don’t like to be held at arm’s length when reading, but then again, there are instances when a global PoV works well. I like characters who are familiar—I can imagine sitting and having lunch with them—but they are all their own, too, perhaps even quirky, but believably quirky. I have no patience for stories told as if Mad Libbed—all the right words and cadences and characters plugged into their spots. Cadence and artistry of language are necessary for me, and each story calls for its own. Whether mainstream or experimental, language is important to the overall flow and interest of the piece and my preferences range from minimalism to prose-poetry. I have no prejudices. Each story calls for its own necessary style of language, character, voice. I become supremely bored when any one of these are poorly crafted. Also, the story must be necessary in some way, not just another telling of the same old, no matter how lovely the telling might be.

SQF: . What are the top three reasons a story is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to the above question and why?

RB: Top reason? The story does not grip and anchor me, all at once and early on. Also, I don’t like to see clichés and overly used premises without anything new or interesting to make me want to read further. Lack of proofreading is irritating. I’m certainly not going to reject a knock-out story with a typo or two, but a story that hasn’t been sufficiently edited/proofread turns me off. Also, genre tropes. There are many fine genre venues. Moon Milk Review’s aesthetic is not of this sort. We focus on magic realism, surrealism and realism, some mainstream.

SQF: What other common mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a story?

RB: Sloppy crafting. As if the writer threw together a story and shipped it off. Submitting is not a workshop environment. Send your best work. Always. Sloppy openings are also a turn off. Especially in shorter works, an opening should have immediacy, something to make the reader want to trust that the story is worth reading. Also, please do not send us a laundry list of credits and synopsis. We will read your story, promise, whether you’ve already published a story or not. We like cover letters, they are professional, but you needn’t include more than your top three publication credits. No synopsis please. Your work will speak on its own.

SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a story?

RB: Sometimes I do, and I truly wish I had more time to provide more comments, but Moon Milk Review is all volunteer. We read each and every submission and try our best to respond as quickly as possible. As a writer, I understand the degree of trust and patience that one must have when submitting. Our goal is to handle all submissions as if our own. Bottom line, we are one publication. If we pass on a story, it means just that. One publication has rejected one story. Learn what you can, keep writing, keep submitting to publications that share your aesthetic.

SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?

RB: Thank you for asking this. Editing, for me, is a way to give back to the community of letters and a way to actively continue my studies. There is nothing more enjoyable than to share a poignant written work with other readers. Nothing has such infection and resonance as the written form conjured in our minds. I’ve learned and am still learning the depth and breadth of words, characters, voices and how so many different styles can connect and resonate with readers. There is no limitation to the artistry of letters or how this artistry can adapt within a single writer and a community of writers. For over fifteen years I have taught, written, edited literature, and I never cease to be a student. It is a lovely and necessary experience for me. What have I learned? The written form and the medium by which it displays itself is as changing and adaptive, as resilient, as those who create it.

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

RB: What does Moon Milk Review have upcoming? of course. In addition to our monthly issues of free fiction, poetry, artwork and music, Moon Milk Review will release its first print anthology after the first of the year. This anthology will include fiction, poetry and artwork by Roxane Gay, Ben Loory, Karen Heuler, J.A. Tyler, Luke Wallin, Shellie Zacharia, Laura Ellen Scott, Serena Tome, Lisa Marie Basile, Alexis Covato and many more talented writers, poets and visual artists.

Thank you, Rae. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 9/17--Six Questions for Cindy Rosmus, Editor, Yellow Mama

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