Friday, July 18, 2014

Six Questions for Stephanie Bryant Anderson, Poetry Editor/Publisher, Red Paint Hill Publishing

Red Paint Hill Publishing is a quarterly magazine publishing poetry, plays, and prose. Learn more here.

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

Stephanie Bryant Anderson: The first thing I look for in a poem is an emotional connection. When I get to the end of a poem, I want to know the raison d'être. So, I ask myself two questions: So What? and What did the poem mean to the writer? If I cannot answer these, then I know readers will not connect to the poem.

The next thing that I look for is unexpected imagery; I want someone to use an adjective or a modifier that makes me back up and read the poem again. Recently I read a poem called,
Let’s Get out of Here by Corey Zeller; the poem touched me immensely with its use of imagery. There is a part of it that says

we lick the throats
of passing trains
and wear bright pills
over our faces
like ghost masks
and move the tiny ghosts
that live in us
like dominos.

Not only is the imagery incredible, but it also speaks volumes in terms of emotion, and how it affects me while I read it. I believe if he had used any other combination of words, it wouldn’t be nearly as strong. After reading the poem, I was forced to reread it. The lines breaks make you run to the ending without stopping; I then had to reread the poem to capture the precise pictures. There is a rushing in the poem that is beautiful to the context. Overall, I want strong, precise, unexpected, cutting imagery – in poetry or in fiction.

The last thing I look for in a poem is the formatting in a poem. I want it to fit the poem. I want it to be well thought out and serve to maximize the overall content and core of the poem.

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

SBA: There are three things that turn me off to a submission. One is getting a bunch of poems that do not remotely fit the aesthetic of Red Paint Hill. Second is when I just rejected someone, and they respond to the rejection with more poems. If I invite them to send another group of poems, that is one thing, but if I don’t, it is bothersome; I promise you I will probably not change my mind. Typically, I respond with why it is I am rejecting a particular poem or group of poems. Also, I think some people tend to think that because I am looking for poems that are raw, or for fiction that roots for the underdog, that I am somehow anti-academia, and they slander academia, or some that will slander underground writers and aesthetics. I just want good poetry, evocative poems; I honestly don’t care what side they come from. I am not at all into bad-mouthing one group versus another. Still, I have to say my biggest pet peeve is when someone doesn’t follow submission guidelines, or they begin their submission as “Dear Sir or Madame”. We have no male editors, so that tells me that the writer didn’t read an issue to see what we are about. These things are, to me, a writer looking to publish for vanity reasons, and that is not at all what Red Paint Hill is about.

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

SBA: I don’t mind publishing a poem that the author posted on his/her personal blog. For me, one of my roles as an editor of an online quarterly is to promote writers. It isn’t necessarily about the press. Yes, I want people to come to Red Paint Hill because they know I will give them good writing, but it is also about the writer and drawing attention to the work. That is why I like when people include where else they have been published. I want readers to go find more of that caliber of work from a writer that they feel connected to through the writing. People flock to poetry for many different reasons, and that is the focus that I try to build on when choosing a submission for publication.

SQF: The magazine has a Young Writers Series section. What is this, and who can submit?

SBA: The Young Writers Series is for younger, less experienced writers ages 13-17. As a young person writing, I did not know any other writers, and I was not sure where to look for support. I want to help mentor this demographic. I want them to experience what it means to interact with editors, publishing, and the emotions that we feel behind all of that. I think it is important to encourage, enhance and support these ages. These can be very difficult ages, and you can feel very isolated. Writing is such a viable and important outlet; it can really help shape who you are, and how you process the world and changes around you. I feel that with positive interaction and mentoring, there can only be positive results that come from that.

SQF: What magazines do you read?

SBA: A few magazines that I really enjoy are Up the Staircase Quarterly, Rattle, Nashville Review, The Boiler Journal, Words Dance, THRUSH Poetry Journal and Stirring.

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

SBA: Probably the most important question for me personally: What is Red Paint Hill’s association with The Autism Foundation of TN? In fall of 2013, I organized a poetry reading to raise money for the Autism Foundation of Tennessee. When the event was over, I wanted to do more. I wanted to sell books to help raise money for the foundation. Putting my two passions (literature and advocating for autism) together just made sense to me. Autism is something very dear to my heart. My eight year old has Asperger’s Syndrome. He was diagnosed in first grade; he is now in third grade. In the beginning I did not feel a sense of community or know where to turn for help, for resources or anything really. The school system is a tough place for your child to spend time if he/she is not the “normal,” or “model,” student. My son is incredibly intelligent, but he has issues with behavior. However, that behavior is driven from different places than in most people. He has expectation of how his day should run, and his thinking is very logical, and if activities stray from how he feels they should go, he gets upset. For example, his last name begins with an A, so why is he not first in line? It displaces his sense of order. I learned the term “meltdown” when Jude was in kindergarten. I came to despise the term. It was incredibly tough for the first few years in school. I think I dreaded summer’s end more than he did! It was a very stressful time for us.

The Autism Foundation is a non-profit organization that can help families that do not have insurance. They are able to do this through donations. They specialize in behavioral therapy, and I feel that this is such an elemental tool for children and even adults, to learn coping skills. That is where I want to help. Places like Autism Speaks, while certainly admirable, receive many donations from lots of places, and no, they can’t ever have too much money either, but I wanted to support someone in my own community who needed the help.

So, a portion of the proceeds of every book that Red Paint Hill sells will go to the Autism Foundation of Tennessee. I am happy to say that once money comes in from sales for Mother is a Verb, an anthology about the relationships we experience with our mother or mother figure, Red Paint Hill Publishing will be donating around 200 dollars.

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

NEXT POST: 7/25--Six Questions for Christa S, Editor, Inaccurate Realities

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