Friday, July 10, 2015

Six Questions for Christine Gosnay, Founding & Nonfiction Editor, The Cossack Review

The Cossack Review publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction.

(Ceased publication)

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Christine Gosnay: TCR began as a response to the lack of meaningful, persistent writing in literary magazines and journals. This is not to say there was no such work out there; rather, I wanted to unify and publish specifically that kind of work. I’m sure that many magazines begin this way, with editors who aspire to publish the type or style of work they believe merits more attention than it gets. Accordingly, we end up with a lot of publications, which is a really good thing. 

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

CG: The easiest thing to notice and to look for is capable writing. And since we’re tuned in to work that is meaningful and searching, the next thing we tend to appreciate is significance—what the piece explores or exposes, how it approaches meaning and experience and thought. If I have to choose just one more thing, I would say that we look for work that’s nuanced, surprising. Surprises happen in many ways—form, figurative language, the narrative, etc. The nicest surprises are usually nowhere near the “end.”

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

CG: A writer who has not followed our simple guidelines; a story that has not been proofread; lazy writing that serves no purpose; macho stories about macho guys; cookie-cutter poetry; nonfiction that tells a story without the benefit of insight or exposition. 

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

CG: If time and motivation allow, we provide comments, especially if the piece was under serious consideration. The volume of submissions usually precludes our doing so, otherwise.

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

CG: I’ve learned that we are all poor readers of our own work, especially in a creative phase. A few years ago I heard Rob Spillman, the editor of Tin House, issue a wise injunction: if you’re in the midst of a creative spell, if you’re generative, don’t send out work. Do something creative, keep writing. Wait and send work to magazines when you’re far enough away from its locus to see what you’ve written, effectively, for the first time. In other words, submit when you’re feeling administrative. I think that’s wonderful advice. I follow it, always. It hints at another thing that occurs to me, that I think is mostly true, and even though it’s seems the opposite of what I’ve just said about us being poor readers of our own work, it isn’t: a writer can and should spend more time alone with his or her own words. As you mature and hone in on your motivations, you become a unique audience to what you’ve written. At that stage, you can’t be replaced by contemporary drift, by the zeitgeist, by style, or even by readers you trust. 

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

CG: “What’s in store for TCR in the future?”

We’re doubling our publication schedule and redesigning our website to include more archived work and a blog. Our next projects include annual chapbook-style issues, a reading series, and more interviews with writers we like and with past contributors. 

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

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