SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
BA: I started The Salon to fill a void that existed in Vermont - a publication that bridges the divide between the gutter and the ivory tower. Those two poles have a lot to learn from each other, and the conversations that happen on the middle of the bridge between them are what we want to get into readers hands. The underground is suspicious of the academy, because they suspect them of being over-paid bourgeois bores, (which many of them are) - and the academy is suspicious of the underground, because they suspect the underground is ignorant and talentless (which many of them are).
Successful writers have the craft needed to communicate ideas effectively, but the cutting edge of art will always be fermenting in the underground. These two groups need each other more than they think, and The Salon is here to unite them in the same pages and at the same readings.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a story/poem and why?
BA: All literary magazines say more or less the same thing: Fresh language, writing that moves us, writing that is necessary. I don't have much to add, and analysis of art is not my strong point; its a gut thing, which is also something many editors say. I think the answers to the next question will be more helpful.
SQF: What are the top three reasons a story/poem is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to the above question and why?
1. Over-personal writing - writing about mundane everyday activities that has little meaning for anyone other than the author. No one cares that you saw a squirrel at your bird feeder. Or mowed your lawn, or your lover broke up with you. What we do care about is: What changed inside you during this moment? What is the relationship between this moment and the rest of humanity?
2. Boring language and word choice. 'The grass is tall' - 'I went into town' - these are poor sentences. Read Galway Kinnel for really inventive language. Here he describes a saw:
black arcs into some scavenged hemlock plank,
like dark circles under eyes
when the brain thinks too close to the skin
3. Lack of structure. We publish mostly free verse, but almost everything we publish has some kind of structure to it - without even a basic structure, writing (usually) comes across as rambling, unfocused, and slap-dash. Even 'Howl' had a very clear structure to it. If you are writing in lines of varying length, taking random stanza breaks, indenting randomly, not punctuating - consider reformatting the poem in a less sloppy way.
SQF: Approximately what percentage of your submissions do you accept?
BA: We accept a high percentage of submissions; I would say its somewhere around 30%. This is partly due to the nature of a new magazine which publishes only writers living in Vermont or connected to Vermont. Most of the magazine is solicited, but we would like that to change; we would like to see more submissions.
SQF: Will you publish a story/poem an author posted on a personal blog?
BA: No. The whole point of a magazine is that the content is only available in the magazine. Otherwise readers wouldn't have any need to read it!
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
BA: What is your circulation and where is The Salon distributed?
Our circulation is 500 and the magazine is distributed state-wide in around 50 different locations: independent bookstores, libraries, cafes, and subscriptions. We also participate in literary festivals like the Burlington Book Festival, and hold receptions and readings through our partnership with Burlington City Arts.
Thank you, Ben. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 8/29--Six Questions for Marjorie Merle, Editor, Underneath the Juniper Tree