Towards the Whimsical, Weird, and Edgy: An Interview with Anna Sandy-Elrod, Editor of New South
Interview with Anna Sandy-Elrod—Editor of New South
We all know that you can't judge a book by its cover, yet the cover of the current edition of New South offers readers a strong hint toward the inventive, beautiful, and sometimes strange work found within the journal. Previously known as The GSU Review, New South has been publishing fiction, poetry, non-fiction, and art since 1975. Works first appearing in New South have been anthologized in Best American Poetry, New Stories from the South, Best Small Fictions, New Poetry from the Midwest, and noted in Best American Short Stories and Best of the Net. Anna Sandy-Elrod, Editor-in-Chief, shares her thoughts with The Review Review.
Interview by Chuck Augello
How would you describe New South to a reader unfamiliar with the journal?
I'd tell a reader to judge a book by its cover; we like to make sure our covers are eye-catching and we have a folio of art by the cover artist in each issue. We aim to truly be an arts and literature journal. We also publish a lot of new, contemporary writers and writing, and we have a bent towards the whimsical, weird, and edgy. We like stuff that bites a little.
Walk us through the submission process. How do you determine which pieces to accept?
Each submission is read two to three times before being accepted; typically, a piece is read first by the genre editor and assistant editor who determine whether or not to pass it forward for final approval. I trust my team so, most often, when a piece reaches me with 'yes' votes, I approve it and the genre editor then sends the acceptance. I've very rarely declined a piece at that level.
On average, how many submissions do you receive per issue?
This varies, especially because we read from September 1 - March 31 each year without a defined break between the reading period for the two issues. But right now we have about 500 submissions under consideration for our next issue with a little over a month left in the submission period.
On your website you specify that New South is universal and not limited to "Southern"writers. Do you notice any distinct differences between submissions from different regions? If so, what might they be?
We don't publish regional writing so, usually, if we accept a piece that focuses on place, it's because the piece is good. I do think we sometimes get people that try to submit distinctly "Southern" writing because of our name, and I'm not opposed to publishing Southern pieces, but they need to be doing something new or interesting rather than just relying on tropes of the South. I think that goes for writing from every region.
In addition to the print journal, New South also publishes work online. In your selection process, how do you determine which pieces are for the journal and which for the website?
We actually have a separate submissions category for the micro prose that we feature on our website so it isn't at all difficult to determine which pieces go online. We have on rare occasions taken a piece from the micro prose category for the print journal if it fits really well with the issue though.
New South is produced entirely by graduate students in the Writing Workshop at Georgia State University. How does this experience influence a student's development as a writer?
Oh, man, I have several directions I want to go with this answer. As a writer, being on the other side of the submission process has really helped me to relax with my own submission process and not to take rejections as judgments on my work. It's also helped to hone my editorial voice for my own writing because I can apply what I learn from the pieces I take or reject to my own work and be a little more brutal and sometimes a little kinder as well. I'd say there's probably a similar takeaway for most of our staff, now and over previous years.
The current issue (Volume 11, Issue 2) features a striking cover image and a collection of art work by Mahlimae. The images are haunting and hard to describe. Tell us about it, and how it was chosen for the journal? Do you solicit submissions from artists as well as writers?
As Editor-in-Chief, a lot of what I do is bureaucratic in nature so choosing the art and designing the cover is my little treat for each issue. We do solicit our artists and, as our issues come out in the spring and fall of each issue, I've been loosely theming the art to coincide with that (i.e., bright and colorful art for the spring and darker, moodier art for the fall). This issue came out just before Halloween and had several haunting, strange pieces in the content so I chose the art to reflect that. The artist uses natural materials and draws inspiration from folklore and magic, which connected with my vision for the issue. I came across the sculptures online and was immediately drawn to the emotions they expressed. They're melancholy and innocent and strangely captivating. I've developed almost maternal feelings for the creepy little creatures.
One of the pieces I enjoyed the most was "A Kind of Mercy" by Brandi George. What was it about that piece that made you want to publish it?
That piece is a creative nonfiction piece, which is a genre we have just expanded to include with its own editor (rather than the fiction editor handling all prose), so I'm happy to see it struck your fancy. Both our nonfiction editor and fiction editor were immediately drawn to the strength of this piece. The beautiful, brutal writing and the slightly disturbing, slightly innocent bent to the story caused it to linger with me for days after I read it, which is the gut reaction I always look for to know something is a good piece.
Finally, what advice would you give to a writer hoping to be published in your journal?
I always say, kind of joking but also not, that if you hope to be published in New South, be aware that you're submitting to New South. I mostly mean this in response to obvious things, such as cover letters addressed to other journals/editors, but I think it applies to the content as well. We have a certain aesthetic and reading a recent issue or two can really benefit a potential contributor by helping shape a submission into the kind of thing our editors are looking for.
Chuck Augello lives in New Jersey. His work has appeared in One Story, New Madrid, The Vestal Review, 100-Word Story, and other fine journals. He is a contributing editor at Cease, Cows and publishes The Daily Vonnegut, a website exploring the life and art of Kurt Vonnegut.