"Our Readers Are People Who Appreciate Good Writing." A Chat With Cynthia Reeser Constantino, Editor of Prick of the Spindle
Cynthia Reeser Constantino is Editor-in-Chief for Prick of the Spindle and Publisher of Aqueous Books. She’s the author of How to Write and Publish a Successful Children’s Book: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply and the chapbook Light and Trials of Light. She received an MFA in Creative Writing (fiction) from the University of Tampa in 2015.
Interview by Ruby Hansen Murray
My impulse was and is in large part to create an avenue of publication for talented, up-and-coming or underappreciated/underrepresented writers, and in many ways, it was also a way for me to create a writing community. It’s also doing what I love
You appear to be the major creative force behind this enterprise. Do you have an overarching goal for the journal now and in the future?
I have several smaller goals, all hopefully working together to achieve the overarching goal, which is growth.
I’m a lover of fairy tales, and I see that you appreciate magical realism. You also publish realistic or traditional narrative fiction. Has the journal’s aesthetic developed over the years? Where do you see it going?
We, yes, love magical realism and see it all too infrequently in the submissions. And yes, also realistic and narrative fiction. Good writing is good writing. I’m interested in stories that move me, that take me places, and sit with me long after I’ve read them. That is writing making a difference.
I sometimes have the pleasure of looking back through the work we’ve published, and notice trends, now as I did then, from issue to issue. Everybody was writing travel stories during one submission cycle, or fiction using whale imagery or historical narratives or what-have-you. These unlikely little internal threads come about and weave together the issues, binding them as unique unto themselves, interestingly enough.
I think our core aesthetic, mentioned two graphs above, has not changed, and doubtfully will. There have been other, superficial changes, like the website redesigns and changes in the artists we publish. But I realize that those surface changes impact branding and all of that, so I guess, yes our aesthetic in terms of our image has branched off into other terrain, as such things are wont to do.As far as any future direction, I’m looking forward to continued growth.
Who are your readers?
Our readers are people who appreciate good writing. I suspect they are also knowledge-seekers, writers, and non-writers. A good many of them are involved in academia and are published. Some are students, some are literary agents, others are engineers and teachers. Many are artists.
What strikes me is your breadth. The journal publishes poetry, fiction--from flash to 15,000 word novelettes and 17,500 word novellas, drama, creative and academic nonfiction, articles, interviews, literary reviews, film and varied visual arts. How do you pull these different threads together? Or I should say, what effect are you looking for as you spin them together?
As I said above, good writing is good writing, and we’ve always looked for writing that means something or makes a difference or is impacting in some way. And always, of course, well-written. Much of it comes together on our website, which is a creative repository of sorts. If you read the print edition, you can see how it comes together in the arrangement of the content.
What particular type(s) of submissions would you like to see or receive more of?
Magical realism, really clever stories, more submissions from British writers, and an overall attention to use of language, style, and tone.
What draws you to British writers?
It's their sensibility, tone, humor, cleverness, use of language, and ability to plot, structure, develop characters, as well as overall storytelling abilities that are always a draw for me.
Will you tell me one of your favorite stories lately, or one that surprised and delighted you?
Stories are everywhere, not just in books or online; they're in overheard conversations, in the way someone carries themselves, in the way they treat others, how they react to challenges, in what is unsaid. In my microscopic spare time, I've been reading David Mitchell and some nonfiction. The only stories I've read recently have been for the journal and for work (I'm a magazine editor). I hesitate to mention any of the stories I've published in Spindle, because it would feel too much like playing favorites, and anyway, it would be difficult to choose among them. I've been interviewing artists working in glass, paint, and textiles for a story series I'm writing for the magazine's online component (not Spindle) and have been reading some very interesting stories there--stories of how these artists have carved their own way, much as I have, and the challenges they've faced. Okay, I'm not being fair in my response, perhaps. Let me just say that I love Joy Williams and her brazen and awe-inspiring way of writing. She has a story about a woman who falls in love with a lamp made of deer legs that is just so bizarre you have to admire her audacity, and her imagination.
What are other journals do you admire and that Prick of the Spindle resonates with?
Hayden’s Ferry, Poetry, Camera Obscura, Tampa Review, Hobart, Prairie Schooner, Pleiades, Ploughshares... Probably a lot more I’m not thinking of at the moment.
You’re both a writer and a visual artist. Are you working on literary projects of your own? Any questions I haven’t asked?
I’ve recently finished a short story collection and a full-length poetry collection. But I’m more interested in painting these days. I can hardly turn around without new ideas for paintings springing up, so at the moment, I’m keeping a notebook of them all and paint when I can. I want to do several series in different styles, one in realism. I’m also loving how MR elements are finding their way into the work of a lot of very accomplished painters.
What are you reading right now?
I devour anything by David Mitchell. I first read his Black Swan Green and knew I had to read everything he ever wrote. I picked up Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks at Book Soup in Hollywood recently and am reading those. I adore Peter Ackroyd, Brock Clarke.
Congratulations on your nine-year history. Any plans for a 10-year celebration?
A lot of our writers have approached me with the idea of publishing collections of work published in Prick of the Spindle. Who knows, maybe we’ll do a best of.
Ruby Hansen Murray began MFA study at Warren Wilson College; she will graduate from the Institute of American Indian Arts in 2017. She teaches writing in tribal and community settings from her home in the lower Columbia River estuary. She’s a Hedgebrook Vortex, Jack Straw Cultural Center and VONA fellow awarded residencies at VCCA, Jentel and the Sitka Island Institute. Her work appears in Yellow Medicine Review, About Place Journal and American Ghost: Poets on Life After Industry.