Friday, April 21, 2023

Six Questions for Hannah Cole Orsag, Founder/Editor-in-Chief, Heimat Review

Heimat Review publishes fiction and creative nonfiction to 3,000 words, poetry and visual art. “We believe that language - narratives, questions, and reflections - offers a vibrant way to explore where we come from, where we are, and where we hope to be.” Read the complete guidelines here.


SQF: Why did you start this magazine?


Hannah Cole Orsag: I have always been a writer, and while I have seen some success with publishing, I have found that I’m best at creating space for others and supporting their artistic efforts. I love it; I get to be involved in new projects, new stories, and I get to work with many people from different backgrounds and perspectives. I find that I want to learn a little bit about everything so I can understand the world, and those around me, better. It’s a constantly-changing landscape, and I’m always learning and living in story. Toronto, Ontario was my home for five years after graduating university, and this time taught me a lot about what the concept of home means. I didn’t grow up in Toronto, and I hated it at first, but it got under my skin in a way my hometown never did. I ended up moving back to the US in 2021, close to where I grew up, and I have spent a lot of time reconciling the two disjointed places together. Appalachia and urban Toronto are both a part of me. So, I created a space to bring others together, to reflect on home in its many meanings.


And so those reflections on home brought me to Heimat, which is a word I’ve always loved. It means “home” in an expansive way, a reflection on where you are and should be. It touches on physical location, but it’s also about family, experiences, reality, hopes, cultural and individual identity. It is the embodiment of story. So, while not every issue of Heimat is explicitly about home or houses, it is a publication that provides a place for writers, and ultimately myself, to write about what all types of home mean across real and imagined characters and their stories in different genres. All have something interesting to say about home and the concept of heimat.


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


HCO: The top three things I look for in a submission are:


1.  Relevance to the current issue's theme - It's important to me that the work submitted has some connection to the issue we're reading for. We want each piece to enhance the overall tone of the issue, and they work together to evoke the theme in a peculiar way. So I look for pieces that both fit the theme and work alongside the others I’ve selected.


2.  Adherence to submission guidelines - I appreciate when submitters take the time to read our guidelines and have looked at our website before submitting. This demonstrates a genuine interest in having their work placed with Heimat.


3.  Authenticity and quality writing - I look for work that tells a good story and shows thoughtfulness in pacing, vivid images, and specific details. It's essential that the work is well-written and not just a narrative. I want to see work that – in both the narrative and the mastery and musicality of language – provokes lasting thoughts and emotions that bring me back to read it again.


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


HCO: Overall, the opposite of the three things I look for. One of the biggest turn-offs for me is when a submitter fails to adhere to the submission guidelines, especially when it's clear they haven't taken the time to review the website before submitting. I also find it difficult to overlook submissions that have not been properly proofread and edited, as it suggests a lack of care and attention to detail. As an editor and English teacher, this is particularly frustrating for me. I want contributors to feel that their work has been thoughtfully and carefully reviewed, regardless of the outcome, and I expect a level of respect and attention on submitters’ part too.


Another lit mag editor answered this question by saying, “Dark, dismal endings also don't work very well. We do accept some stories with sadder or darker endings, but usually because there's something deeply, beautifully human about the piece, or it ends with some hopeful note.” I loved the way they phrased this answer, and it’s very much true for us at Heimat Review, too.


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


HCO: Make me care about what's happening. The story you’re telling should be front and center from line one. I want to see a clear sense of direction and purpose and a strong sense of voice and style. In the opening paragraph or stanza, I'm looking for a compelling hook that immediately draws me in. Whether it's a striking image, a unique turn of phrase, or an intriguing premise, the opening should give me a reason to continue reading.


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


HCO: As a publication focused on reflection, Heimat aims to leave readers with a sense of curiosity and contemplation. So, it's challenging to justify any type of gratuitous themes and elements in submissions we choose to publish. Gratuitous depictions of sex, violence, racism, or political ideologies are obvious examples of hard sells. Any unnecessary or unjustified element in submitted work often becomes problematic as it takes away from the message the piece conveys. 


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


HCO: What are future plans/goals for the publication?


As the EIC, I am committed to never stop learning and working to make this an effective journal and something that contributors and myself can be proud of. I want to see the magazine continue as an active part in the writing community, establish a solid readership base, and hopefully add print and digital download as options to read the journal. One way we plan to do this is by bringing on additional editors and readers to help us curate and promote the best work.


We also are planning to release themed issues, special features, and fun projects to showcase unique and diverse voices in the literary community. Our goal is to create a publication that readers will enjoy being a part of and continue to return to for years to come.


Bonus: What genres do you want to see more of?


Science-fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, poetry that has roots in classical texts or weaves in other languages. More photography.

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

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