Friday, April 14, 2017

Six Questions for Kelly Davio, Joe Ponepinto and Yi Shun Lai, Editors, Tahoma Literary Review

Tahoma Literary Review publishes poetry, fiction of 2,000-10,000 words, and nonfiction under 6,000 words. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Joe Ponepinto: We started Tahoma Literary Review with three goals in mind: literary excellence, fair compensation for writers, and transparency in the publishing process. Regarding the first goal we feel we’ve made progress: work we’ve published in our first couple of years has appeared or been noted in Best American Poetry, Best American Essays, Best Small Fictions, Best Gay Fiction, and many other anthologies. The second and third are based on the idea that writers and editors can work collaboratively for our mutual benefit. For example, we use our submission fees to provide funds for compensation. We provide a ton of craft and business of writing advice. We post submission and payment stats for all issues.

Yi Shun Lai: We also believe very strongly in literary community, towards that end, we work to promote our writers long after the life of their publication with us.

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

JP: Intellectual challenge. Imagination. Fantastic, creative, precise language.

Kelly Davio: In poetry submissions, I’m looking for craftsmanship, a clear voice, and a fresh approach to the poem’s subject matter. There are plenty of perfectly good poems in the literary universe, but I’m looking for work that’s not merely good but also memorable.

YSL: Same in nonfiction: A new and unique perspective, sure. But, also, tight storytelling and that curious capability to take the reader with you on the journey you're taking in your work.

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

JP: Banal language and too much explanation. When a writer explains she takes away the challenge of a story, the sense of mystery that keeps a reader intrigued. I don’t want a lecture when I read a story, I want an experience.

KD: Heavy abstraction doesn’t do much for me. I also like to remind poets that experimental forms are termed “experimental” for a reason—experiments don’t always yield desirable results.

YSL: Florid description. Writing that's aware of itself. Pompousness.

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

JP: For fiction, we offer both a brief feedback option, and a full critique. But I sometimes comment on regular submissions as well. Probably about 60 percent of submissions in all. And I’m not reticent about letting writers know when their work has impressed me. I always let a writer know when a story has made it past the first round of reading.

KD: If a poem came close to being accepted, I always tell the writer.

YSL: Nonfiction operates the same as prose. (And, when I want to accept a work, there's usually a lot of editing that goes into the process before the piece reaches its final form.)

SQF: Will you publish work posted on an author’s website/blog?

All: No

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

JP: What’s the most fulfilling aspect of running a journal?

The results of the work: holding the printed journal, seeing our selections reproduced in anthologies, the recognition are all important, but for me, it’s knowing that many writers appreciate our publishing model. For every issue we produce I get dozens of thank yous from writers for my feedback, my willingness to engage, and for the openness with which we approach the journal process. Knowing that we’re on the right path really keeps me going.

KD: I’m going to piggyback on Joe’s above question, because it’s a great one. To me, the best part of running TLR is giving new poets a debut. I of course love and appreciate all of my authors, but giving a talented writer a first publication is a special treat for me.

YSL: What's your editing process like?

If a piece warrants editing, I get on the phone with the writer and talk through their intentions and potential edits, then I give the writer a few weeks alone with the piece, although I'm available to chat again if the writer wants. After, we'll talk over the changes again if the writer wants. The process is the same for flash nonfiction.

Thank you, Joe, Kelly and Shun Lai. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

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