Interview with Michael Barrett of the Austin Review
Interview by Sebastian H. Paramo


Can you tell me about the name The Austin Review and why you started it, why not something else?

Since around 2008, I toyed with the idea of starting a literary journal, and I was surprised that no local literary publication used the name Austin to embrace the goodwill built around the city and the thriving arts scene here. I registered domain names for the journal, and in 2012 I launched it online for a limited run. In 2013, it relaunched with our current team, along with a print counterpart.

You guys are a new print journal, could you talk about the choice to start as a print journal, rather than online in the current publishing world? Is it scary?

Print, in some ways, is more comforting than scary: it's satisfying to produce an object you can hold and carry with you, with all its wonders and errors fixed for all time. What's scary is the business prospect of print. Print literary journals generally lose money. It's a tough business even for the established players, so starting out in print, it's important to manage expectations and do it out of admiration for the art, not profit. Our journal is also about to launch a free online publication, but we see that as an outlet to give voice to the many good stories we receive that, because of timing or volume, don't find a way into print. 

Since your mission statement sort of talks about this, could you elaborate more on how you incorporate Austin into your magazine. Has your literary community been receptive to the work you guys do?

Each of our print issues has nine stories, and our goal is for at least one of those pieces to come from a local author (or someone with strong ties to Austin). Austin is full of talented artists, in literature and every other form, and is known as the live music capital of the world. It'd be nice for it, one day, to be recognized as a literary hub as well.

The literary community here is extremely receptive and supportive of one other. There are several other journals and publishers in town, and we are all friends: American Short FictionBat City ReviewCAPfieldsFoxing QuarterlyRaw PawA Strange ObjectUnstuck Books, and Write Bloody, to name a few.

I like how you have set-up your issues into "literati", "lies", and "truth." What inspired this choice?

We wanted our print journal to be fairly short, with only nine works per issue within the categories of short fiction (4 stories), flash nonfiction (4 stories), and analysis or a work from a prominent author (1 piece). The catchy labels for each respective category—lies, truth, and literati—were the creation of our Managing Editor, Tatiana Ryckman.

Could you talk about your backgrounds as writers/editors and how that informs your roles?

The common background among us all is a love of literature that is precisely crafted. My specific background is from the legal and scientific worlds—patent litigation—which has involved constant writing and editing, albeit of a different sort (most often, the precise, but dry, sort). Tatiana has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, leads creative writing workshops, and has been published in several journals; her first chap book, Twenty-Something, is coming out this fall from ELJ Publications. Our Digital Editor, Shannon Perri, will soon move on from the journal to pursue teaching and an MFA degree full-time with Texas State University; she has been published in journals and will surely have more of her work placed soon. Associate Editor Wendy Walker is an aspiring author as well, in her spare time away from her work in a medical research laboratory.

What is a day-in-the-life like for the editors of The Austin Review?

The usual: relentless paparazzi, fame and fortune, and Hollywood premiere parties. Each of us has a full time job apart from the journal, and our journal work is not paid. We meet to discuss upcoming issues and logistics for the website, often through video chat or email if we can't find time in person. So, the day-to-day routine is pretty varied, with each of us finding time that fits our own schedule (for me, usually between 8:00 pm and midnight).

What are your top five must-read literary journals and why should people be reading them?

The Paris Review, with no explanation required. From day one, it has served as a model for artistic integrity and quality and continues to flourish under Lorin Stein's leadership. Our fellow Austin journals also should be on everyone's list: American Short FictionfieldsFoxing Quarterly, and Unstuck Books. And to allow me an extra pick for one of our favorites: a journal that has wowed us from its start is No Tokens. They are producing a fantastic product with some of the most exciting established and up-and-coming authors around.

What advice would you guys give to writers looking to be published?

We don't have any unique advice to give: don't give up. Find journals or other publishing outlets that match your point of view and style. As for our journal, it's our hope that our style and preferences will become more apparent as we mature so authors can discern—as much as possible—whether we might be a good fit for their work.  

What do you see in the future for The Austin Review?

We'd be thrilled if we continue to receive excellent submissions and positive, word-of-mouth-driven growth. If our attention to detail and author-centric approach are recognized, we are doing something right.

Finally,  Is there any question that you wish I could have asked? What is it and answer it here.

Is Austin really that great? No, it's a terrible, terrible wasteland. Please don't move here; there's no more room.


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