Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Six Questions for Daniel Nester, Editor, Pine Hills Review

Pine Hills Review publishes artful, honest, and compelling work of new and established writers, from fiction, nonfiction, and poetry to visual art, interviews, and experimental, cross-genre work.”

Pine Hills Review is also having its first themed call for work, the deadline being March 12. It’s on Unicorns! Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Daniel Nester: Back in 2013, we were starting an MFA program in creative writing at The College of Saint Rose, where I am an associate professor of English. One of AWP’s hallmarks of a good writing program is to have a literary journal. The development of Pine Hills Review started from there. I have been editing literary magazines on some level or another for more than 20 years, since I was just out of undergrad--from Painted Bride Quarterly to McSweeney’s sestina section to online journals like La Petite Zine, Ducky, and Unpleasant Event Schedule--so it made sense that I would start an online journal here. (Not that I needed anymore work--I was also coordinating a reading series, among other things!) The MFA program got cut, unfortunately, but we’ve kept Pine Hills Review going with the help of undergraduates along the way.

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

DN: We ask these three questions, consciously or subconsciously, as we look through our submissions queue:

  1. Is this daring, envelope-pushing work, either in subject matter, approach to form or genre, or, preferably both?
  2. Do we have the sense or delusion, on some level, that the piece(s) we take would not get out into the world unless we accept it to be published? 
  3. Is this coming from an under-represented voice? As we say in our guidelines, we encourage female and nonbinary writers and those outside a position of sociological privilege (i.e., non-white, differently abled, LGBTQIA+, etc) to submit their work.

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

DN: I think it’s probably the same for many other editors, but the gut feeling that the writer hasn’t even clicked on any other link than our Submit page, and doesn’t have a feel for what we publish. Another pet peeve--and this is really for all the journals I’ve edited--is the sense that writers who can’t grasp that work can be good, but not right for the publication or editor. A bit off-topic, but, more often than I want to admit, writers have told me in person or online that some piece we rejected went on to be published in Decent Journal X or was included in Good Anthology Y, as if to say I made a mistake by rejecting their work. I always just say “congratulations!” I just don’t see what’s being accomplished in that exchange--good work can be good but not right for someone’s editorial point of view.

SQF: What do you look for in the opening paragraph(s)/stanza(s) of a submission?

DN: I am not really of the school--and I think it’s promoted by writer’s guides and workshops and conferences even other editors--that the opening line or stanza of a work has to be this pyrotechnic display of greatness. I will read past the opening even if it doesn’t wow me completely. I think it’s more important the opening doesn’t over-promise or seemed tacked-on, perhaps out of this philosophy of having opening lines with major pizazz. I’ve read more great first lines and sentences followed by meh, than first lines and sentences that did the job they were supposed to do, followed by pieces that are genuinely good or great.

SQF: Many editors list erotica, or sex for sex sake, as hard sells. What are hard sells for your publication?

DN: For Pine Hills Review, for sure it’s misogyny, masculine braggadocio, word counts well beyond our 3,000-word limit, saccharine sentimentality. The usual!

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

DN: You know, it might not be the right place, but some dialogue on the submission fee debate, and how Submittable is so expensive nowadays that while it’s no surprise journals charge submission fees, but why hasn’t there been some solution to this besides charging writers money to submit, or journals almost being forced to be part of the Submittable-sphere? We switched to a Gmail address, and it’s not easy. Anyway. Maybe I am glad you didn’t ask me about this!

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

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