Cutting-Edge and Cutting Through Barriers. A Chat With Arielle Silver, Editor of Lunch Ticket
Arielle Silver is the Editor-in chief-of Lunch Ticket. Her work has appeared in Brevity, Lilith Magazine, and Gulf Stream Literary Magazine, among other publications. She was one of this year’s recipients of the Bermuda Triangle Prize through The Poet’s Billow, and is also a singer and instrumentalist.
Interview by Lillian Brown
On the Lunch Ticket website, you cite the publication’s name as “homage to the MFA program’s and Antioch University’s historic focus on issues that affect the working class and under-served or under-represented communities.” Can you talk a bit more about that, and how it applies to the type of writing that Lunch Ticket is looking for?
The spark for Lunch Ticket came directly from student experience in the AULA MFA program, which is shot through with social, economic, and environmental justice values. As writers and global citizens, we are interested in deepening our understanding of complexities in the human experience and in today’s societies. As editors, we seek to publish diverse narratives that reflect those complexities. The journal is committed to publishing a wide range of narratives, writers, and artists, especially those traditionally under- or misrepresented in media.
Although we are MFA-affiliated, the vast majority of contributors published in Lunch Ticket have had no previous relationship with the magazine or Antioch University.
In that sense, how do you know if a piece is Lunch Ticket material?
If we’re moved emotionally or intellectually, if we’re still thinking about a piece long after we’ve stopped reading – that’s when we know we want to publish something in Lunch Ticket. We’re not limited by topic, form, or perspective, but before we even get to the reading table, to prepare our palates (pardon the food riff), we engage in discussion about personal bias. We want the journal to be wider in narrative scope and artistic aesthetic than any of us might be as individuals, so we start with a conversation about our individual limitations – whether they have to do with experimental versus traditional forms or about the cultural and literary canons we’ve encountered.
How has the publication changed over the last four or so years? The landscape of independent presses has obviously changed, but how do you think that Lunch Ticket has altered, both in terms of style and content? In turn, what has consistently held true?
We’re publishing our tenth issue this December, and I’ve been on the journal staff in some capacity since issue five. While the “look” of the website hasn’t changed much, and the main issues are still published twice yearly, the size of each issue has grown. Our Summer/Fall 2016 issue has 69 new pieces, up from 35 in the first issue, Spring 2012. In that time we’d introduced two literary prizes, three new genres (Flash Prose, Literary Translation, and Visual Art), more featured essays, and a robust interview section. Through the years, we’ve added weekly content to the website: The Friday Lunch Blog explores a range of personal issues—parenthood, memory, race, language, and more—through a writing lens; our Amuse-Bouche section, published weekly on Mondays, alternates between Spotlight, which features a different writer or artist each time, and Writers Read, which features craft-based book reviews. The immense growth over time reflects the dynamism of the journal and visions of each editor as much as the plasticity of the online platform. You ask what has consistently held true, and I’d say our commitment to the mission.
You describe the work in Lunch Ticket as “cutting edge.” Do you consider the writing to be similar to more traditional literary journal pieces, or does the publication focus more on the experimental and contemporary sides of literature?
We’re open to any form and tone: traditional, contemporary, experimental, lyrical, tongue-in-cheek, reported, etc. When I think of “cutting edge” as we use it in our mission statement, I think of how the VIDA count has shined a light on the gender disparity in many publications. At Lunch Ticket, we strive for balance—in gender (which includes non-binary gender identities), race, culture, nationality, religion, age, and other demographics or experience. By “cutting edge,” I imagine us cutting through overly simplified cultural ideas, or cutting through the barriers of a too-narrow traditional publishing industry.
Lunch Ticket publishes issues twice a year, but you also run a blog for the publication. Do you accept submissions from people other than your designated bloggers for this too? If so, how often do you run pieces?
As I mentioned, primarily our Lunch Ticket contributors are not affiliated with the MFA program. The two exceptions are the Friday Lunch Blog and the Amuse-Bouche: Writers Read series.
For everyone else who writes personal essays, I encourage them to submit to our Creative Nonfiction section or Amuse-Bouche: Spotlight. We also publish one or two featured essays that braid the very personal act of writing with community and social activism. Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo’s essay, “Submission as Social Action,” is a good example. These essays are generally solicited, however, I am open to pitches.
What type of pieces are you looking for in your Amuse-Bouche section, which runs a “Spotlight” series every two weeks? Is this strictly written by the Lunch Ticket staff or are you accepting outside authors?
The Amuse-Bouche: Spotlight series keeps us excited about publishing new content in between the twice-yearly Lunch Ticket main issues. We accept Amuse-Bouche: Spotlight submissions from writers in any genre in January and July, and feature them one at a time throughout the year.
Lunch Ticket offers two prizes in every issue: the Diana Woods Memorial Prize in Creative Nonfiction and the Gabo Prize for Literature in Translation & Multilingual Texts. Can you comment on which pieces of creative nonfiction have won in the past, as well as the guidelines for the Gabo Prize?
The Diana Woods Memorial Award in Creative Nonfiction is open to submissions in February and August. The winner receives a cash prize and the piece is published along with the two runners-up finalists. Each time, a different guest judge selects the final winner from the DWM editorial readers’ shortlist. A wide range of topics tend to win, and I’m always interested to read what the judge writes about the choice. Most recently, winning pieces have ranged in topic from addiction to the Stonewall Riots to mourning to a childhood memory.
For the Gabo Prize, also open to submissions in February and August, we accept two different types of work: literary translation and original bi- or multilingual work. Prose should be under 5000 words, poetry under 10 pages. If the submission is a translation, since we publish it alongside the original text, the translator must have obtained permission for the publication of the original, unless it is public domain. Also, since we recognize the many considerations that go into translating a work from one language into another, we ask that the submission include a note about the translation process. Like the Diana Woods Award, the winning Gabo piece receives a cash prize and is published along with the two finalists.
In addition to the literary translation and multilingual texts category, Lunch Ticket also publishes young adult stories. Can you talk a bit more about that?
Our Young Adult section, previously called Writing for Young People, is geared toward literature (prose or verse) aimed at the 13 and up market. The age of the protagonist is usually in the teens, and while sometimes these are crush or coming-of-age stories, they aren’t always. One that we published in Winter/Spring 2016, Honor’s Justice by Sabrina Fedel, comes to my mind frequently, and deals with, among other issues, immigration and assimilation.
Does Lunch Ticket nominate its pieces for any national awards? If so, which ones?
We’re actually selecting our Sundress Best of the Net nominations right now; a few weeks ago, we submitted for the Million Writers Award; later this fall we’ll select our Independent Best American Poetry and Pushcart nominations. A new one for us is The Best American book collections: we’ll submit nominations to them just after the publication of our upcoming Winter/Spring 2017 issue in December. In spring, we’ll nominate poems from the past year for the Best New Poets anthology.
What are some of your future goals or planned endeavors for Lunch Ticket?
Though we’re committed to no-fee submissions, and we operate on a shoestring budget, the excitement around the CNF and Translation prizes fires us up. Over time, I’d like Lunch Ticket to introduce another literary award, perhaps one with a theme or in a new genre.
Since we’re an online journal affiliated with a low-residency MFA, our staff is spread out around the world (as of this writing we have staff members across the U.S. and in Finland, Spain, and the Philippines), but several of us have talked about Lunch Ticket hosting some local literary events. The first one will be this October for Los Angeles Lit Crawl. And we’ll be in Washington, D.C. for AWP in 2017.
Lillian Brown is the travel essays editor at Cleaver Magazine. Her work appears in Hippocampus Magazine, xoJane, and Luna Luna Magazine, among other publications. She also runs the TV site Cliffhanger.