Interview from Sapling #358
Sapling is a weekly e-newsletter
from Black Lawrence Press
This week Sapling talks with
Landon Houle and Bryce Emley, Editors, Raleigh Review.
Sapling: What should people know who may not be familiar with Raleigh Review?
- Landon Houle: We’re not a regional journal. Raleigh is our home base, and some of our staff lives in and around Raleigh, but we also have people reading and working from Ohio, Tennessee, Alabama, Missouri, Massachusetts, Washington, and Georgia. And we don’t favor work that is set in a certain location. We just like good solid striking writing and art.
- Bryce Emley: Definitely that. I’d also add that potential readers/submitters should know that just because we slant toward “accessible” work, the work we look for isn’t simple, strictly narrative, or formal. I know for poetry we like to see pieces that push boundaries within “accessibility”: more opaque images, erasures, language play, variations on familiar forms… really anything that rings with a strong purpose.
Sapling: How did your name come about?
- Landon: I actually don’t know!
- Bryce: Originally we had a strong tie to the community which included a physical bookshop and reading space plus local readings and workshops. I do know Rob started the magazine with a different name, which is actually always in the fine print of every issue. I’ll leave that as a mystery in hopes people will pick up an issue and sleuth for it.
Sapling: What do you pay close attention to when reading submissions? Any deal breakers?
- Landon: At the beginning of a story, a finely crafted sentence, a compelling character, and trouble or the unknown catch our eye. By the end of the piece, we hope we’ve found more beautiful language, a nice sense of pacing, and a resolution that leaves us satisfied and feeling like this story couldn’t have been told any other way.
- Bryce: I agree about the start of a poem. I want to feel rooted immediately, to know what kind of linguistic world I’m about to stagger into. I want wild images and quiet brutality, a balance of smarts and raw feeling. So I guess I mostly want contradictions that work. A lot of things I’ve thought of as deal breakers I’ve seen pulled off beautifully, so nothing’s off limits. Except anything that’s blatantly and purposelessly denigrating to any group of people.
Sapling: Where do you imagine Raleigh Review to be headed over the next couple of years? What’s on the horizon?
- Landon: I’m sure we’ll continue to evolve, but in the end, we’ll do the same thing we’ve always done. We’re going to continue to feature quality work by poets, writers, and artists.
- Bryce: Maybe one day we’ll try to bring back some of those local outreaches (we still do some, like writing workshops for at-risk youth). We’ve been trying to work in some nontraditional printing experiments for the last few issues, and one of these editions I think we’ll find a way to pull something off.
Sapling: As an editor, what’s the hardest part of your job? The best part?
- Landon: For me, the most difficult part of the job is making a final decision to reject. We understand that people have spent a lot of time and thought and effort on the stories we read, and even though the work is fiction, stories typically begin from a deeply personal place. There’s no easy way to say no, and, as writers ourselves, we understand there’s no good way to hear it either. I wish every rejection came with a nice pen or a good notebook. Something to say and mean keep working.
Saying yes to a writer is a wonderful experience. You get to be a small part of sharing the writer’s work with an audience. But my favorite part of the job is just reading through the pile. I learn something every time I open a document.
- Bryce: I think the hardest part is chiseling a collection of cohesive work out of a broad block of submissions, which I realize sounds like the whole job. But we have to make a lot of tough decisions about what fits and what doesn’t, what reads like a Raleigh Review poem and what doesn’t, what’s maybe a little rough but still needs to be read and what’s so tightly written but just wouldn’t work in our pages. There’s a lot that goes into selections.
The best part is the gratification of standing back and seeing a whole issue, reading things months down the road when the issue comes out and thinking, Damn, that’s a great poem. We published that?! It’s also wonderful to publish emerging writers and fans of the magazine who are totally jazzed to be included and feel like we’re creating something valuable together. I also really love getting to see our contributors have huge success after we publish them. That’s more than one thing, so I’ll stop.
Sapling: If you were stranded on a desert island for a week with only three books, what books would you bring with you?
- Landon: The Ballad of the Sad Café by Carson McCullers, Cane by Jean Toomer, The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
- Bryce: Incarnadine by Mary Szybist, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, and The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick.
Sapling: If the Raleigh Review was a person, what three things would it be thinking about obsessively?
- Landon: I wouldn’t really imagine Raleigh Review as an obsessive thinker. The world may be difficult and sometimes violent and often tragic and always confusing, but it’s beautiful to Raleigh Review. There is redemption in art, and in this way—in the way of finding and prizing and sharing what is lovely, I mean—things, to Raleigh Review, make a measured and collected kind of sense.
- Bryce: If the poems we’ve published/nearly published the last couple issues are any indication, then childhood, country music, and densely wooded places. But we’re always looking for something new!
Bryce Emley’s poetry and nonfiction can be found in Narrative, Boston Review, Best American Experimental Writing 2015, december, Prairie Schooner, and others. He is a 2016 Edward F. Albee Foundation fellow, a 2016 Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize runner-up, and Poetry Editor of Raleigh Review.
Landon Houle lives in South Carolina where she teaches creative writing at Coker College and works as the fiction editor of Raleigh Review. Her writing has won contests at Black Warrior Review, Crab Creek Review, and Permafrost. Other work has appeared or is forthcoming in Crazyhorse, Baltimore Review, River Styx, Harpur Palate, and elsewhere.
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