Friday, June 6, 2014

Six Questions for Joseph Levens, Editor, The Summerset Review

NOTE: Beginning today, I will be posting one interview per week.

The Summerset Review is a quarterly publication of prose and poetry.

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

Joseph Levens: Please note my answers pertain to prose submissions only. For poetry, please read the magazine to get more of an idea on that.

Some of the main elements I always look for are thoughtfulness, fact, and cohesiveness. A piece needs to cause the reader to think and/or identify with some element of their own life, or the life of someone else. A piece should teach the reader something about the world by way of little facts, preferably done via an extended metaphor. This serves to keep the reader interested, and perhaps, even amused. And the piece needs to hold together, feel complete, leave no major loose end.

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

JL: As far as technical aspects, pieces without grammar, spelling, and punctuation close to perfect. If the writer does not care about these things, why should I care about reviewing the piece? Also, narrative that is just not clear, and introduction of too many characters too quickly. As far as content, I feel there is already too much out there carrying themes of death and serious illness, as well as those with voices of anger or significant bitterness. I feel there is also a lot out there in the way of memoir re: a father or mother, especially a female writing of her father, but every once in a while, despite the relatively tired theme, a piece will still wow me to death.

SQF: Will you publish a submission an author posted on a personal blog?

JL: Very unlikely. We do publish reprints, but hope the original publisher was unbiased and independent in its decision to first exhibit the work.

SQF: What do you look for in a story’s characters?

JL: Reliability. They need to act in ways that are believable. I can suspend my disbelief on a plot, but not on character behaviour. In first person pieces, the protagonist needs to narrate in a way that I can identify with.

SQF: Who are some of your favorite authors?

JL: The great majority of my reading is literary journals. I take my reading at face value and generally do not pay attention to who the writer is when I begin a piece; all I care about is the effect it has on me, the interest it creates. That being said, I do keep track of writers who consistently impress. The writer who first got me hooked many years ago was John Cheever. These days, some writers I stumble on in literary journals where I do find myself getting excited before I even start reading are Jacob Appel, Catherine Ryan Hyde, Steven Millhauser, Katherin Nolte.

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

JL: Q: You’ve been putting out The Summerset Review consistently for twelve years now, and virtually nothing has changed in the way of format of the publication, while all other comparable markets both in print and online have transformed into other mediums or taken on different elements and styles. Why?

A: The review and publication of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry: that is our only focus. When that changes, we’ll change.

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

NEXT POST: 6/13--Six Questions for The Editors at Lunch Ticket


  1. These really useful interviews would be even more useful if you included the age of the publication and the circulation. Perhaps you could add?

  2. Thanks for the suggestions, Nora.