Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Interview with Robin Stratton
JG: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Boston Literary Magazine is a wonderful journal. How long you been running BLM? How did you originally get involved?
RS: I started Boston Literary Magazine in 2006 after spending a week in Virginia at a writing workshop. I didn't know anything about the on-line community until then; came home, checked it out, and decided to become part of it by starting my own, and then sending my own stuff out.
JG: I thought it was originally called Boston Literary Review. Was there a name change?
RS: No, but we are often called that!
JG: What other journals have you been a part of?
RS: Only Boston Literary. One is enough!
JG: You have a few different categories of stories and poetry. What distinguishes them? How did you decide upon these particular categories?
RS: In the beginning we considered everything... but the longer pieces were just taking up too much time... I get hundreds of submissions a week, and if someone sends in three short stories that are 3000 words, it just gets to be too much. We now have a word limit of 250 words.
JG: Tell us the difference between dribbles and drabbles?
RS: Dribbles are EXACTLY 50 words... Drabbles are EXACTLY 100 words.
JG: Are dribbles and drabbles a BLM invention or do other Flash Journals have something similar?
RS: Drabbles have been around for a long time... I think there's a Wikipedia article about them... one of our editors came up with the name Dribble for 50 words, but I have also heard that genre called a Half-Drabble.
JG: What do you look for in a piece of fiction? What do you look for in a poem?
RS: I always look for a strong sense of character... I love feeling as if I am meeting someone whose fate interests me. I think it takes a lot more skill to craft scenes that show dynamics rather than a piece of writing that explains/analyzes characters.
JG: What turns you off?
RS: Anything titled "Untitled." Instant pass! I don't like when a pivotal line is in a foreign language— my rule is that I refuse to google anything... I don't have time for that. I pass on material that clearly makes a lot of sense to the writer, but no one else. This is just a personal preference, but I usually pass on stuff that's very global— "love is this" or "life is that" – and I also got tired a long time ago of stories/poems about characters from Greek or Roman mythology. And as much as I love a good deathbed scene, I've gotten so many that I've had to start passing on them.
JG: What impresses you?
RS: When I send someone feedback about how I think their piece could be stronger, and they rewrite it and turn it into exactly what I was looking for, and they say how much better it is now... I love when writers are open to comments... that tells me so much about them. I have a hard and fast rule that I never ever send a form rejection - every single person who writes gets a personalized reply - and I love when someone writes and thanks me for that... some have the grace to thank me even when I have passed on their work. That means a lot to me.
JG: Define story.
RS: Character, conflict, and satisfying resolution.
JG: Besides BLM, who else is going places in the Lit Mag World?
RS: I wouldn't even know where to begin! There are soooooooooooo many great mags out there!!
JG: Who is your readership? How large?
RS: What a great question— I wish I knew the answer! What I do know is that I've had to start taking breaks from submissions, which I didn't have to do for the first three years... we close for a month and a half after an issue comes out. Gives me a chance to go back to my other life. We also just started putting out a print issue, which has been a real blast!!
JG: How many souls in your staff?
RS: I have the most amazing webmistress who ever lived, and another editor who offers feedback from time to time. So three.
JG: How many submissions do you get a month? What is your acceptance rate?
RS: We get well over a thousand a month... probably 1500 or so... our acceptance rate is low... about 15%. We're fussy.
JG: Do you and the other editors ever clash about which pieces should be published? How do you resolve your differences?
RS: No, I am the only one who makes those decisions.
JG: Besides literature, what is your second greatest passion?
RS: Science... music... the internet!
JG: Any parting words?
RS: Advice to anyone wanting to be published by BLM or any other magazine... I can't stress this enough: Read the Submission Guidelines!! It's such a huge waste of when someone sends in something that's not suitable (non-fiction, a novel excerpt, stories that are longer than 250 words.) It's a waste of their time, too!
Robin Stratton is the editor-in-chief of Boston Literary Magazine. You can check out their Spring 2011 issue which is available now www.BostonLiteraryMagazine.com