Interview with Stephanie Bryant Anderson
of Red Paint Hill
Interviewed by Kallie Falandays
Why did you start Red Paint Hill?
I was previously with another journal for almost 6 years, but I wanted to start publishing manuscripts. It was incredibly hard to leave what we had built together, and knowing that I would be starting over again. But I sincerely enjoyed working on a quarterly journal, as I have made wonderful friends, and have had the opportunity to read some phenomenal poetry. So I didn’t want to give that part up.
What is the most memorable poem/prose/fiction piece you've published?
There have been so many good, emotive poems that I have been fortunate enough to receive. But, there are two poems in particular that just make me ache. They are both out of the issue I just published, “Going Home” by Alice Pettway, and “Dog Song” by Chase Davenport. Surprisingly this was Chase’s first publication. I would have to say that “The Iliad and other Absurdities” by Pete Mason ranks right up there, too.
In Alice Pettway’s poem, the speaker talks about taking a bus ride with her dead mother. The poem is so gentle—as an example, the use of the word “brush” in these lines: “We sat together / only touching when her head slipped / sideways to brush my shoulder.” Yet the idea of riding a bus with your dead mother is absurd and surreal; it points out how people avoid what they are afraid of, in this case, death. The dead woman is riding on a bus with other people, yet there is no gigantic reaction, no big hurrah; the loudest aspect of the poem is the way the passengers think they see “a woman and her sleeping mother.”
“Dog Song,” by Davenport is such a touching, poignant poem because of its subject—the mother who keeps running away to cornfields to hide from her husband. It is a dark, Southern Gothic poem, which are my favorite types of poems. There is a contrast in the poem between the mother, and the family dog, and not in a terrible way, but in a way that portrays what happens to people who don’t escape or live life as an active participant:
This dog, leashed to a tree
in the front yard all her life for fear
that she might wander onto a highway or forget
the way home, died in her sleep
What is the worst part about running a literary journal?
I don’t feel there is really a worse part of running a literary journal, except maybe sending out rejections. I always overthink them. I like to give personal feedback, but I worry about how far is too far, how candid is too candid. I try to be honest about the strengths and the weaknesses in the submission, and let the writer know ultimately why I rejected the poem. Oh, and aggressive submitters.
Where do you see Red Paint Hill in 5 years?
I would like to see print issues of Red Paint Hill Poetry Journal. I see us doing podcasts to interview poets about their writing, about how they craft. I want to hear them read their poetry. I want discussions about books. I want Red Paint Hill to be interactive and engaging. Overall, I want to continue to be a platform used by exceptional voices in poetry.
What is a day-in-the-life like for the editors of Red Paint Hill?
A day in the life is first and foremost reading submissions. I read submissions every day, as I want to have a quick turnaround time. As a writer myself, one thing I don’t like about submitting poems is the waiting game. It is disheartening to wait three months or more to get a rejection, or even an acceptance. Sometimes, by the time a poem is published, your writing has changed so much that you don’t feel the poem is representative of who you are as a writer anymore. Not only that, but I want what is being published in Red Paint Hill Poetry Journal to be relevant.
But beyond submissions, I am thinking, everyday, about what I can do to get us into every crevice of the literary world. I am sending out reviews requests for the press side, I am writing press releases, I am negotiating with indie bookstores. I am reading up on marketing strategies. I am networking through connections and through social media. There is so much more involved in running a journal than just accepting submissions and designing a website or a magazine. You have to have your hand on the pulse of the literary community, as well.
What kind of work are you looking to publish?
I love Southern Gothic poems. I love the deeply flawed, the harrowing, the somewhat disturbed subjects, an examination of values. I want to read what haunts people. I am looking for poems that are honest, that are real. I want concrete, vivid, reflective poems from writers that are pushing themselves to do something unique and different. I prefer writing that is more lyrical than narrative.
What advice do you have for people looking to publish?
The advice that I have for people who are looking to publish is, first, read the journal you want to be published in to get a feel for what the editors are doing aesthetically as far as their vision for their journal, and then be honest with yourself about whether your writing fits that vision.
It is cliché, but read the guidelines. At times I get frustrated when people don’t follow guidelines. There are reasons that guidelines are there; things can get tricky when submissions come in. Some people have different names on their email, their bio and the subject. I need to know what name submitters go by so that I can put out the best quality for them, and not make mistakes. That what my guidelines in particular are about.
Last, don’t be afraid, and don’t take a rejection personally. Of course they all sting, but it’s typically not about your level of writing, rather about the aesthetic of the journal.
What are you currently reading?
Milkweed Editions published an incredible poetry collection, which I just loved, Bone Maps by Sara Eliza Johnson. Also, I am looking forward to receiving Crixa by Megan Hudgins; David Rawson described it as “poems for that beautiful, scared, fragile part of yourself hiding like the rabbit at the bottom of a magician’s hat.” It was recently published by Two of Cups Press. Also I am waiting for Kristy Bowen’s Major Characters in Minor Films from Sundress Publications.
What is your literary background like? What got you interested in starting a literary journal?
I grew up writing; my dad’s family has what is called ‘the Lisembee writing gene’. Of all the odd traits I have received from my family, I am glad this is one. Even with a family who had writers, none of them really pursued it publicly as I have, and they didn’t talk much about their writing. I wasn’t offered much encouragement as a kid, so when I stumbled across a poetry message board years and years ago, I was elated to find other writers. I wanted to be more of a part of the literary community. That is really what got me interested in starting a literary journal.
What are your favorite literary journals?
The Boiler Journal, Vinyl Poetry, Birdfeast, Gigantic Sequins, The Adroit, Zone 3, Barrow Street, Crab Orchard Review, Southern Humanities Review, THRUSH, Rattle, Tinderbox, Menacing Hedge, Banango Street, PANK, The Ampersand Review, Arsenic Lobster Poetry Journal; this list could on and on.
If you could only read one literary journal for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
This is a very tough question. Other than Red Paint Hill, I would probably go with Arsenic Lobster. The words in their submission guidelines as to the type of poetry they seek describes why exactly: the charley horse hearted, heavily quirked, the harrowing.
What is the best way for a small literary journal to get noticed?
I believe the best way for a small literary journal to get noticed is by the material they are publishing. And, you have to get yourself out there in the public eye. Networking and social media work really well.
If you could take over and run any literary journal, which would you take over and why?
I don’t know that I would want to take over, but I would love to work with editors such as Erin Elizabeth Smith, Kelli Russell Agodon and Annette Spaulding-Convy, Phillip B. Williams, Kristy Bowen, Susan Yount, Justin Carter, and Corey Zeller, to name a few.
What is the weirdest type of literary advice you've ever received?
I don’t necessarily think this is weird, but some people are very adamant about not revising work so that it will be raw and true. I disagree with that. Of course you don’t want to overdo it, but I feel language can be enhanced and beautifully stretched.