Interview Conducted by David Jones
In 2007, Kathryn Kulpa transformed Newport Review, from a small print magazine to an online-only literaryjournal that features poetry, nonfiction, and fiction. Not only is Newport Review a great magazine to add to one's credentials, it also has a section dedicated to publishing the work of emerging authors. In an exclusive interview with Fiction Writing major David Jones, Kathryn shares what NOT to do when trying to get your work out there, as well as what it takes to run an online journal.
David Jones: What is the most common mistake you see from young writers?
Katheryn Kulpa: Sending a piece out before it’s ready. Writing really is re-writing, but we see a lot of stories and poems that have really obvious structural problems as well as spelling and grammatical errors. This tells me that the writer hasn’t taken the time to read the work with the close attention it deserves. If the writer doesn’t care, why should I?
DJ: What kinds of stories do you find cliché and uninteresting?
KK: Stories where the protagonist “learns a lesson” that the reader can see coming on the first page; stories that are obviously written to support a twist ending (not that all twist endings are bad, but if the story feels like it’s only there to support a punch line, I’m just not interested); stories about childhood that are cute and sentimental; stories in which the protagonist’s identity and self-worth depend entirely upon her controlling vampire boyfriend.
DJ: How does your writing process influence your editing process, and how does your editing process influence your writing?
KK: This topic just came up last night! Three of us were meeting to go over our finalist choices for the flash fiction contest before we sent them to the contest judge, and one comment that an editor made--"If I don't know what the story's about by the end of the first page, it's probably going to be a no"--really resonated with all of us. The more I read fiction submissions and see mistakes other writers make, the better I get at recognizing those mistakes in my own writing (not that I won't still make them!) I think writing makes me a better editor and editing makes me a better writer because I know how writing works. I know how difficult it is to get it right and how amazing it can be when you do.
DJ: How long have you been editing?
KK: I edited student publications in high school and college and later did copy editing at some local newspapers. My first professional magazine editing job was at Merlyn’s Pen, a magazine of writing by teens. I was published in Newport Review in the late 1990s, then volunteered to work on the magazine.
DJ: How do you finance the magazine?
KK: We have applied for and been awarded grants from RISCA (RI State Council on the Arts). Grants are the primary source of funding, followed by individual donations. We also sponsor writing contests, and any income left over after paying the writers and contest judge is used to fund the magazine.
DJ: Do you have any other jobs? How do you balance editing the magazine with other responsibilities?
KK: Yes, I work as a reference librarian and I teach creative writing at URI, so it can be challenging to try to fit everything in … lots of late nights, lots of coffee!
DJ: What are your thoughts on the emergence of online magizines?
KK: I love that I can access a magazine anytime and from anywhere, and that if I publish something online, I can share it instantly with friends. The downside is that if online publications go out of business, your work can disappear into the ether. We keep an archive of past work, and I hope we would be able to continue to host the archive online, even if the magazine stopped publishing.
DJ: What other magazines/online publications do you read? Why do you like them?
KK: I like One Story—it has a unique format, just publishing one short story at a time, and I like that you can read author interviews online to go along with the stories. The Sun is a beautifully designed print journal. I try to subscribe to at least one print journal per year to support small publishing. Online, I tend to read journals I’ve published in or that writers I know have published in: Monkeybicycle, Metazen, deComp, The Pedestal, Vestal Review, Pank, Flashquake, Foundling Review, Northville Review … I also look at Duotrope online to see where writers who submit to Newport Review have sent or published other work. I like to see the range of work that’s out there.
DJ: Name one piece that you’re especially proud of publishing, and explain why.
KK: Well, I’d like to split this into two, because the two examples I’m thinking of really show both sides of Newport Review. We recently published poems by Marge Piercy, and that was a thrill, because she’s a poet and fiction writer I studied in college, someone I’ve always admired, and having her send work to the magazine was just amazing. But in the same issue, we also published two stories by X. U. Navarro, a new writer, and that was his first professional publication. I started writing at a young age and really worked hard to get published for the first time, so I have a special affinity for publishing new writers. So we had work by a tremendously respected, established writer and work by an amazingly talented young writer just starting his career, both in the same issue.
DJ: There are multiple editors on the magazine. Do you ever bump heads when making editorial decisions? Or is everything ultimately your decision as head editor?
KK: We’re pretty collegial, and every piece gets voted on by two or more editors. If I really loved something and all the other editors hated it, I could probably override them, but that really hasn’t happened. (Yet!)
DJ: What are the advantages and disadvantages to running an online-only magazine?
KK: It requires a lot less space – we don’t have a physical office; all our editors work from home – and it’s less costly, I think, than publishing a print journal. We just have to pay for web hosting. But there are still some funders and some writers who don’t consider web publications “real” magazines. I think that will change with time.
DJ: How do your spread awareness about the mag? Do you do any marketing/promotion when you have extra time?
KK: We have a blog and Facebook page that we try to update, and we have an email list, so we can send out announcements about readings or new issues. We’ve also advertised in Poets & Writers and other writing journals.
DJ: What’s a piece of advice you can give to aspiring writers?
KK: Have patience, and know that it can take a long time to publish your work. Use that time to make your writing as good as it can be. It will be worth the effort!