Friday, June 20, 2014

Six Questions for Amanda Hamilton, Editor-in-Chief, Blue Monday Review

Blue Monday Review is a literary review which aims to capture and emulate the spirit of the late, great Kurt Vonnegut. We seek fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and art that is as brave, thoughtful, truthful, and innovative as Vonnegut's own best work. Read the complete guidelineshere.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Amanda Hamilton: I started the magazine for a lot of personal reasons, the biggest one being that I wanted to get involved in a literary scene that was unaffiliated with a university (they're hard to break into without getting hired/being a student). When I couldn't find anything that fit my interests in my area, I made my own. Perhaps a selfish reason to get into the literary magazine biz, but hey.

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

  1. Whether the piece keeps my attention from top to bottom. I have a mediocre attention span at best, and I tend to assume my readers are even less patient.
  2. Emotional connection. This is a little tricky, but ultimately unavoidable in evaluating art. If I feel no connection at the end of a piece, I don't feel the need to snag it.
  3. To what extent it feels "Vonnegut-like." If I'm really on the fence about a piece, I always turn to Vonnegut as a guide. If a piece doesn't make me feel at least a little like I felt while reading "Breakfast of Champions" or "Harrison Bergeron," it probably won't end up in BMR.

SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

AH: When a piece feels too blatantly "English Major-y." If a piece is more concerned with being "clever" than being good, messes with structure or grammar for no discernible reason, mistakes vagueness or intentional elusiveness for poetry, or feels like the product of a writing prompt, I get a bad taste in my mouth.

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

AH: Generally not, though many times I draft comments and end up deleting them. Unless an author specifically asks for comments, I get nervous that my words may be taken wrong, especially if I'm not being overly positive in my feedback. If I do offer comments, it means I have a lot of love for the piece, but it's just not hitting me right.

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

AH: A ton! Basically every piece I've declined has an element I've later found in my own writing. I think the biggest thing I sometimes see in my own writing as well as in many pieces I decline is that just because you thought a story was interesting when you wrote it, it doesn't mean it's actually interesting. You have to evaluate your work like an editor (that is, critically and with very little patience) if you want it to be accepted by an editor.

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

AH: "What's your slush pile like?"

Pretty big! We're really behind in submissions, which is exciting because it means people are sending their work in, but daunting because there's much work to be done. The major issue is that there are some submissions that have been haunting our inbox as far back as December. We're not proud of that fact, but we do want to give every submission its turn and with just two people sifting through, that can take a while.

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

NEXT POST: 6/27--Six Questions for Susannah Martin, Editor, Estuary

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