Interview with Five Quarterly
Interviewed by Sebastian H. Paramo
Your magazine has a unique format: five guest editors choose five poems and five fiction pieces each quarter, can you tell us how this idea came about?
We knew fairly early on we wanted to place ultimate editorial control in the hands of others. There’s absolutely something beautiful about a singular aesthetic, but we were interested in seeing what different people are interested in reading. The need for diversity, not just of writers, but a diversity of editorship, is important to us. Once we figured that out, we wanted some parameters to keep it tight and clean—the five stories, five poems, from five new editors format seemed doable, consistent, and easy to read.
Why did you start Five Quarterly?
To create an opportunity for readers of all kinds to choose their own reading material and to offer writers a place where they can feel comfortable and excited about submitting their most personal work.
Could you tell us a little bit about your literary backgrounds?
Vanessa Jimenez Gabb: I have an MA in English from St. John’s University and an MFA in Poetry from CUNY Brooklyn. I’ve also worked in textbook publishing and have been teaching English for the past several years.
Crissy Van Meter: I have an MFA in Fiction from The New School, and I’ve been a journalist and editor for the last seven years.
How do you choose your editors for each issue?
We try our best to create a funky panel of people we know or would like to get to know, who rep different spaces, people we’d want to submit to ourselves, people who recast the notion of “editor”. Often new faces will come to us and we embrace that. Other times we will scout out interesting folks across professions.
What's the editor process like at Five Quarterly?
We are always experimenting with the guest editing process. Right now, our staff reads all submissions blindly and selects the top submissions, which are then distributed to the guest editors, who make the final decisions. We have worked with readers and do most of our communication through email.
Where do you see Five Quarterly five years from now?
As an official non-profit that is staying true to the collaborative model and applying it on a larger scale – to publish full-length books, perhaps?
You also manage a blog that publishes the pieces that didn't make it into the issue and run a chapbook press, could you talk a little bit more about Almost Five Quarterly and your E-Chaps?
We love so much of what is sent to us. Those pieces that make the editorial table but are just shy of being chosen by the guest editors are no less beloved than the ones that appear in the issue. We only offer ten spots per quarter, so almost totally counts in our book. Last year, we were speaking about how much we hated having to reject work that clearly stunned us, as well as getting a blog going, so the timing and the potential content seemed right. If the writers give us the go, we proudly feature their work, which in no way precludes them from appearing in either place in the future. We like to think of the blog as that dope sister restaurant next door where you could walk right in for food just as good.
Our E-chap Contest is a step toward getting behind longer works. We had a great response last year and recently published the winning chaps by the lovely Christina Drill and Mira Martin-Parker. This year, we’ll be partnering with Newark Academy and are over the moon about it. We’ll be working with students in the upper school, who will be choosing and producing the winning chaps with us. This is our biggest undertaking to date, as it really is going to (we hope) help flesh out our mission. The process will actually take the form of a 2-week publishing immersion/course and culminate with the launch of the finished products.
What's the best thing and what's the worst thing about your role(s) as an editor for Five Quarterly?
Sending acceptances is everything. It’s nice when it’s a first publication for a writer; it feels like our process is really working when that happens. It’s tough balancing dreaming and expanding with full-time working.
Could you give us your top five list of must-read literary magazines and why readers should be reading them?
- All mags
- For something
- And conscious
Lastly, what question would you like me to have asked that I didn't ask? Answer it here!
You’ve been so thorough! How about the rest of our staff? Major shout out to Jess Gray, our Assistant Editor on the other side of the pond, who’s been down with us since issue uno!
Visit Five Quarterly for more information.