|Konnichiwa, my little dumplings. This issue, I present an interview I conducted with Diane Goettel, editor of the prestigous publication and publishing house, The Adirondack Review.
If someone had told you ten years ago, that you would be the editor of a prestigious publication like TAR, would you have believed them?
I think I would have kept my fingers crossed tightly for ten years hoping that it was true. I was incredibly lucky to have met Colleen Ryor, the founder of The Adirondack Review. I actually started out as an intern for her and just climbed the ranks over the years.
How did you first become interested in writing?
It was very early. When I was quite young I told my parents that I wanted to write books. We still have two stapled-together books that I co-wrote with my parents at the age of three. They are titled "Diane and Zeke" (Zeke was my cat) and "Diane's Day at the Zoo." I don't think they will become a part of the canon, but I still love them.
I read some of your work and enjoyed it. Do you write mainly short fiction, or do you write poetry as well? How much (and what parts) of your stories are biographical? All the ones I read, Midsummer, Blitzkrieg, and Michael are from the p.o.v. of a child. Blitzkrieg is really good, but really sad. I hope that is not a true story.
Thank you so much for your kind words, Lois. I hardly write any poetry at all. I have written a few pieces that could be viewed as either very short fiction or poetry. However, I prefer to write fiction. I find that I think of things, everything in my life from how I am going to get to the bank later today to what I am going to be doing in 2030, in a narrative arc. Furthermore, I am fascinated by characters and character-driven stories. I find it easier to write characer-drive, plot-based fiction than poetry. Of course, the latter is not impossible.
I think all writers use a mix of biography and imagination to inform their work. The same is true for me. Blitzkrieg is, in fact, informed by something that I observed in elementary school. And, yes, it was very sad. Midsummer, however, is almost entirely fictional. Michael is told from the perspective of a young woman, not a child (although she does childish things). There is a great deal in that story that is autobiographical.
How do you feel your education at Sarah Lawrence college, as well as your year at Oxford, has made you a better reviewer?
My education at Sarah Lawrence was based on in-depth independent study and a great deal
of dialogue. Sarah Lawrence students spend very little time in lecture halls. You are expected to talk in almost every class, to share your ideas, so you better have something
to say. This scenario is amplified at Oxford where small intimate classes are replaced by
one-on-one tutorials with professors. Again, you simply can't show up without something to say. Independent study, which is one of the cornerstones of the programs at both Sarah Lawrence and Oxford, is all about developing your own thesis and then finding ways to back it up.
Instead of grades, students receive written evaluations from each of their professors at the end of each semester. These evaluations discuss what the student covered during the semester, the breadth of his or her work, strengths that the student showed, and weaknesses that he or she should look to improve upon. Most evaluations are at least one
page long: type written, single-spaced.
Tell me a little more about the peer review process at Sarah Lawrence.
Peer review on creative work was (and I assume still is) much like the end-of-semester evaluations that professors prepare. Each time a poem, story, excerpt, play, or essay is
brought into the classroom to be workshopped, every member of the class is given about a
week to read the work, review it, and write an evaluation. Normally, the evaluation is returned along with their copy of the piece so that specific line notes can be properly communicated to the student author. Furthermore, class time is afforded to the piece that
is being workshopped. If I remember correctly, we generally covered about two stories per
workshop, meaning that each piece was discussed in class for 45 minutes to an hour. (This
was for fiction. I did not take poetry workshops, so I am not sure how long each poem is
Each writing workshop that I attended at Sarah Lawrence has between 10 and 15 students.
So when one of my stories was workshopped, I got a huge amount of information back from
my fellow classmates.
Of course, the professor provides the same information as the other students. And the
professor generally moderates discussions when writing is being workshopped.
I struggle to phrase this question: When you review a piece, do you set aside personal bias in favor of what a large group of readers would like? In other words, if an item is not your cup of tea, does it not have much of a chance?
There are number of readers who weigh in on what is published in The Adirondack Review.
We work together to find pieces that we all agree is great work. But as an editor, I have
the ultimate say in the content that is published. However, if something comes across my
desk that everyone else loves, I will give it strong consideration even if I don't immediately love it.
Let's talk a little about TAR. What exactly does an editor do? Do they sit and read submissions all day?
Reading is certainly part of it. There are no words for how much the editor of a magazine
reads in a given week. But we do it because we love discovering great writing. But the
editors also design and build the website, judge contests, plan events for the magazine,
Does the staff rotate the position of editor?
No. Colleen was the editor for seven years and I plan on staying on until at least 2010. I may sign on for more time after that.
Do you receive submissions that are unedited, with spelling and grammar errors?
Yes. It happens. People miss things. We overlook minor errors for something that is really great. Of course, we prefer clean copy.
What percentage of replies are personal, as opposed to a form rejection letter?
If we feel that we have something constructive to share with the author, we will send them an encouraging rejection letter. There have been a number of times that the author has taken our comments and then resubmitted an absolutely stunning new version of the
work which we have then published.
What in particular motivates an editor to compose a personal reply?
We will send a personal reply if we see particular potential in the writing or if we have a note that we think might be helpful for the author.
Subscribers of the Reviewing Newsletter seek to be better reviewers. What advice would you give them?
Write. Write. Write. Write. That is the best way to improve your work.
1. 3 reviews and an awardicon
2. 3 reviews and a merit badge.
3. 5,000 GP's.
4. A beaded/beaded & tasseled bookmark from the WDC shop, shipped to you.
***CAVEAT YOU MUST MENTION IN THE REVIEW THAT YOU SAW THIS IN THE REVIEWING NL*****
Prizes can not be awarded more than once, so first win, first serve! If you have any questions about the contest, ask me or Tigger thinks of Prancer
ASK & ANSWER
For my next newsletter, Diane will take your questions. Send them into me as soon as possible so that she may have plenty of time to respond.
TIP OF THE MONTH
After shampooing and conditioning, rinse your hair in a blast of cold water. This will seal the hair cuticle, promoting healthy hair and creating shine. (Just seeing if anyone is paying attention. But this does work.)
REVIEWING NL FEEDBACK FORUM Comments on ideas for a future
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"Music moves us in a positive direction - physically, spiritually, mentally. It addresses the will to live. It saved my life." - Eddie Tuduri, quadriplegic drummer who started rhythm therapy to help others with disabilities.