Join me today as I talk with Stefani Koorey about a fine magazine focusing on the Thriller, Horror, and Mystery genre...
For those readers who might not have previously discovered The Literary Hatchet, can you tell us a little about it? What makes your publication unique?
The Literary Hatchet began three years ago in response to an overwhelming number of submissions in the fiction/poetry genre for my original magazine The Hatchet: A Journal of Lizzie Borden & Victorian Studies. I had wanted The Hatchet to contain about 20% fiction/poetry, but the quality of the submissions was such that I decided to start another publication solely for the purpose of working with new writers and publishing their mystery/suspense/thriller/horror works.
We are an online magazine, but people can purchase a print-on-demand hard copy through our partner CreateSpace. The Literary Hatchet, in its online format, is free. We pay authors for their work as I feel it is important for writers to know that we value their work.
How did you become a poetry editor?
I am the editor of The Hatchet and publisher of PearTree Press. I became a poetry editor in this capacity. I am not a poet myself, but love to read poetry. I am considering hiring a full time poetry editor, mainly because the submissions have increased dramatically and I could use the assistance.
What's your background? How has that affected your decisions, with regard to individual poems or types? Are you more critical of some genres, subgenres, or tropes than others? If so, why?
I am first and foremost a reader. I love the horror/suspense/mystery genre and devour anything Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Poe, Lovecraft. I am a huge true crime reader as well, which got me involved with the Lizzie Borden case when I was a teenager. I am also a fan of poetry: Ginsburg, Rita Dove, Langston Hughes, Anne Sexton. When I was a librarian, I was given all the poetry books to review as most of my colleagues were not poetry people!
I am not more critical of one genre over another, as I am primarily on the lookout for good writing. I am more interested in creativity and new ways of seeing than with standards and practices. I judge a work by whether it moves me, if it speaks to me. If it does, then it will speak to my readers. I trust myself to know good writing when I see it.
I have a Ph.D. in theatre history and dramatic criticism, an MS in Library Science, and MA in Theatre Arts, and MFA in Theatre Management. I love higher education and consider myself a life-long learner. There are so many books to read, so many subjects to study, and not enough time in life to do this.
What good is a fantasy?
I don't understand the question.
What scares you?
Stories about the unknown and unknowable that are so real and well written that they could happen. The end of the world, the monsters within, the evil that lurks in the hearts of men. I am scared by disasters, real and imagined.
Where is the "science" in science fiction? How could SF help us to prepare for the future?
Science fiction is supposed to be cutting edge. So many amazing creative ideas have come from SF that it should be required reading for an engineering degree. SF is already preparing us for the future---especially end of the world SF!
Who are some of your favorite poets, and why?
Langston Hughes for the sheer beauty of his voice. Hughes speaks to me in so many ways. My favorite poem is "Mother to Son."
I am also a big Alan Ginsburg fan and have taught HOWL to college students. I appreciate the political nature of his work and revel in the rhythms.
I love Anne Sexton because her life was so messed up and she wrote about it honestly. Her work is sharp and true. You can chart her emotional life through her words.
I adore Emily Dickinson because her writing is excellent. She looks at the world as no one else, and sees things as they are, and not as she would wish them to be. She is profound in every way.
What makes a poem poetic?
Some might say rhyming makes a poem poetic, but I find I like both prose and poetry. Poetic is a level of writing. If a poem is as true as it can be, if it sings or shouts its way into my brain, my gut, my heart, it is poetic. It must capture something in some perfect way.
How do you feel about rhyme?
I love rhyme. Rhyme shows whimsy, even in serious works. Shakespeare's sonnets are a great example of how rhyme can be serious and beautiful. I don't require rhyming in the poems I love, but I certainly appreciate it. I grew up on Dr. Seuss and can recite many of his books by heart.
What are some of your favorite poetic forms? What catches your eye when you read a submission?
I like it when poets make up new words, new ways to express the ordinary. I do like poems that tell a story, such as a ballad, and would consider the lyrics of Bob Dylan to be poems. I like to be surprised. It is hard to explain because my reaction is so personal. I don't compare authors or think of poets in terms of categories. I read each work afresh and am eager and open to being moved.
Which would you rather see in your slush: a SpecFic narrative that's easy to follow, or imagery/lyricism that blows your mind? How compatible are these two elements?
The Literary Hatchet is an eclectic mix of both types of writing so I am always open to what comes my way. I rarely remark on the style, unless it does "blow my mind" and seems so unique that it is worthy of that type of criticism. The two elements may very well be compatible. It is all in the talent, voice, and vision of the writer.
Is there an evolution in genre poetry - is there a difference in the style genre is written in today vs. classic?
Classic poetry was about as many different things and written in as many different styles as poetry today. The urge to create something new, something that has never been said before, has always been with us. Perhaps the greatest change is that modern poets might not be as well versed in the classics, and, instead, feel that they are able to or should be able to create their own artful expressions without knowledge of what came before. I think that is a tradition that is not very well considered as most art is a reaction to the art of the recent past. One cannot create in a vacuum and having a literate mind means that you read other writers, know the history of the art form, and can grow from those influences.
What do find that submitters most often get wrong with their submissions? Is there anything outside of the obvious of the submitter not following your guidelines that recurs in the slush?
I would hope that submitters craft a polite introductory email that introduces themselves and their pieces. I have seen this odd trend of writers withdrawing their submissions. They don't say way, so I am totally confused as to why. Did I take too long to reply? Have they double submitted? Have they changed their minds. I don't want cross submissions. I would hope that once a piece is submitted, the rule is until I get back to you one way or the other, I am the only possible publisher. This is a bit of a breach of protocol, in my opinion, and it makes it really hard to keep track of what I am to review for publishing and what I am not. It makes my job as a publisher and editor very complicated.
With accepting electronic submissions, you doubtlessly receive submissions worldwide - have you noticed any tone/style/theme variations in these? Are there noticeable regional flavors in such, or do you feel that poetry is an universal language?
I have an author who was born in the Ukraine and his stories are so very different from anything I get from an American born author. I love the change of subject matter, the change of perspective, the way in which he looks at the world based on his personal past.
What advice would you give to those submitting to your mag?
Be polite in your query letter. Don't withdraw your submission without an explanation. Be patient, as you don't know the problems on the other end that could make the approval process extended beyond what you might expect.
Is there anything you would like to see more of? Less of?
I am getting a nice range of material to The Literary Hatchet, but I guess I would have to say that I would like to see more mysteries and horror short stories.
I am not at all adverse to controversial themes in works: religion, politics, social issues. I don't see enough of this, actually. I want every author to know that you cannot offend me. So don't worry about being judged this way. My only restriction is erotica. I do not wish to publish material that is meant to arouse in a sexual way. But arousing in a fear-inducing way is perfectly fine by me!
-- Stefani Koorey, The Literary Hatchet
Want to explore - but beware the falling hatchet! If you live, check out the guidelines...