SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
OVLJ: The three editors of OVLJ have lived and traveled all over the world, but somehow we have ended up in middle Georgia. What we've found in the South is incredibly strong literary heritage, but few current outlets for genuine Southern writing. What people forget is that Southern writing has historically been quite subversive. We wanted to provide an outlet for this kind of writing - beautifully written pieces that push the envelope in terms of content, style, and even genre. This journal also gives us the chance to discover and become acquainted with emerging southern writers and, as writers ourselves, that was a pretty big incentive for starting the journal.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
OVLJ: Well, first would be - Does it relate to the South or Southern identity in some way? The Southern connection can be subtle or tangential, but it has to be there.
Second - Is it wonderful? We mean both kinds of wonderful - is the piece absolutely amazing and does it fill us with wonder? The South is a place full of hidden magic, and we like to receive submissions that serve as a conduit to that magic (we mean magic in the "new and interesting" rather than the "sword and sorcery" sense here, though we are happy to receive fabulist and speculative pieces).
Third - While we love dramatic and tragic pieces, all three of us are always on the lookout for something that makes us laugh. Even the most serious of Southern writers have incredible senses of humor. Classic Southern writers like Flannery O'Connor and Zora Neale Hurston are incredibly funny while being searingly tragic, as are contemporary Southern writers like Jesmyn Ward and Karen Russell.
SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?
OVLJ: We're pretty open minded, but submissions that are littered with errors really turn us off, as do pieces that so obviously do not fit our guidelines. As a Southern journal, we understand that many explorations of Southern identity involve discussions about race, gender, and sexuality, and that characters therein often need to say and do things that are controversial in order to serve the story. We're open to considering these pieces, but we're pretty good at deciphering when a piece is just outright sexist, racist, homophobic, etc. Obviously such pieces are immediately chucked into our trash pile.
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?
OVLJ: We do not, and that is because we respect our peers. We trust that the writers who submit to us are confident in their work. Therefore, a "no" from us is not a judgement on quality, it is a question of fit. We have a small amount of space to fill and we spend a lot of time debating what to include. We will often ask for more work from writers whose work is close but not quite a fit for us. Sometimes we will ask a writer if revisions are possible for pieces that just need a little
something added or subtracted, but we try not to be overly prescriptive.
SQF: If On the Veranda had a theme song, what would it be and why?
OVLJ: Though our tastes in literature often align, our taste in music often does not. Georgia can most often be found weeping openly to Broadway songs, while Mike is awkwardly obsessed with both country music and Celine Dion. Simon is currently in his third month of a David Bowie vigil and shows no signs of stopping. If we were to pick one song for the journal, it would probably have to be "Midnight Train to Georgia," though we would debate whether it should be the classic Gladys Knight version or the cover from 30 Rock.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
OVLJ: The Question: What do we see in the future for On the Veranda?
The Answer: Hopefully, a collaboration with Beyoncé (she's from the South!). Beyond that, we aim to keep highlighting great Southern work. The more great material we get, the more we'll grow. In the meantime, we'd love to meet and chat with as many writers as possible. So please connect with us via email (email@example.com), Twitter (@ontheverandalit), and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/On-the-Veranda-Literary-Journal-1187787301263746/). We'll also be at AWP next year in some capacity (probably drinking Mint Juleps at the bar) so come find us there!
Thank you, Georgia, Michael and Simon. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
Thank you! We're all big fans of the Six Questions blog!