Soundings East Editor Sounds Off: Interview with Managing Editors of Under the Madness

October 2, 2021
Makenna Allen and Grace Frink

The editors of Under the Madness Magazine had the wonderful opportunity to interview the Nonfiction Editor at Soundings East, the annual literary journal of Salem State University. Founded in 1973, Soundings East is one of the most longstanding nationally-distributed literary journals in the United States, publishing poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Like Under the Madness, Soundings East is a student-driven magazine, edited by creative writing students under the aegis of an Advisory Editor from the English Department. When our mentor, Alexandria Peary, reached out to us to ask if we would like the opportunity to meet Matt, we were excited to hear from an experienced editor. (Alex's goal in introducing us to editors at other literary magazines is to give us more insight on magazines and publishing.) A graduate student at Salem State, Matt joined Soundings East at the beginning of the 2021-2022 academic year. We each came up with a handful of questions that we felt were most important to ask. After some brief introductions, we kicked off the interview, which occurred on Zoom on Friday, September 24, 2021.

How do you avoid unintentional bias when deciding which pieces are going to be featured?


Perry: Oh, that's a great question! I’m still pretty new to being an editor to this, but I know in the past there have been blind readings. Not having names associated is helpful because there's no name to attach bias to. We’re not doing that now, but there is an undergraduate woman who is going to be helping me read as well so there will be multiple eyes on pieces to additionally avoid bias. In addition to doing the program now, I also am a copy editor. I’ve learned a lot about copy editing, style guides, and just keeping bias out of language. While I don’t think we have one at Soundings East, but in my other job we have a style guide that helps us be mindful with our language when writing.


How do you avoid editor burnout,especially when looking at a computer screen all day?


Perry: For myself, I take a lot of walks.Sometimes, I’ll set a timer for 30 to 45 minutes when I edit. When the timer goes off, I will get up and take 15 minutes to walk around or have a snack. I find that to be helpful. I find it easier to read things on paper, so sometimesI’ll print things off and read it so my eyes don’t burn looking at a screen all day.


What are some important virtues to have as an editorial team?


Perry: I think that it is important to be on the same page on what kind of work you’re going to put in the magazine.There doesn’t have to be a theme necessarily, but just having a nice flow to the magazine. Thinking about how you want the tone and feeling to be for the magazine and how you’re going to be accepting submissions is important. But it’s also important to treat it like a team and get to know each other outside of the magazine. Do things outside of the magazine to get to know each other that way when things get difficult later on, you can handle it better together.


What is the hardest part of the selection process?


Perry: That’s another really good question,you guys all came well prepared. For me as someone who has submitted work and been rejected before, it is tough knowing you’re not going to be able to accept everything. I think that is the toughest part. Knowing the other end of it and having to give the rejection letter. There is a lot of good stuff being written and great writers, especially if you’re opening submissions world wide.So just be prepared to know that you won’t be able to accept everything that comes in and some people will probably be disappointed. I think the exciting part is that you’re still going to have a lot of great stuff.


What is the best website to post your story or poem for publication?


Perry: I think it depends on what kind of poetry and stories you are writing. Some people start their own website or blog if you are looking to just post somewhere. If you’re looking to submit, I can't think of any off the top of my head but there are new ones popping up everyday. A good place to do it is submittable. If you make an account, you can type in exactly what you want to submit and look from there. Some of them will charge you to submit, but you can click on “no fee” and it brings up all the ones that are free for you to submit to. It’s also a great way to track your submission. If you also google “what places are open for submissions” it will bring up various places that are accepting things this month and you can go through and look at where you want to submit to.


What do you consider to be your top priority as an editor?


Perry: Another really good question. What I have been doing now, since I am still pretty new to this, I have been going through and reading old issues to see what things have looked like. I was also in a Barnes and Noble and saw the Suffolk University literary magazine, and so I read that to see what some other people are doing. I want to have a nice representation of different voices. I also am looking for some creative takes on non-fiction. I think there's a lot of people doing really interesting things with non-fiction writing right now. But I’m also trying not to get too committed to one idea because you never know what your going to get. You might say you want abstract writing or really creative nonfiction writing and then you get this straight ahead story and end up wanting to put that in instead. I think that it’s mostly just making sure that there is a lot of different representation with people from different parts of the country so that it ends up being a very representative section.


Do you ever have challenging writers who give you a lot of push back?

Perry: So I haven’t in this situation, butI do a lot of writing and editing for my job and I have. I work for the state government and libraries, we do a lot of stuff with public libraries. When people in my office write things and I have to edit and they’ll be like “No I want it this way”, but you have to remember that you are the editor, and don’t back down.Even though you might get some push back,there's a reason they are asking for an edit, so be confident in it.


Do you ever not have room for apiece but like it so much that you include it in your next publication?


Perry: At soundings east its an annual magazine, so once the reading period gets done the slate gets wiped clean, butI know that there are places that do that. That happened to me once, they couldn’t fit it in, but they told me that if I made this edit and resubmitted, it would go into their next one. But that was for a quarterly magazine, so I think whent here are more issues that’s more of a possibility.


What is something that makes you immediately drawn to a piece?


Perry: For me personally, I like a lot of stories that take place outdoors, so that speaks to me. I like a lot of descriptive language too, that makes the readers feel like they’re in the place the writers are the way they’re describing it. It’s also personal taste too, so you gotta look at what you know other people like to read too.


How much time does the magazine take for the reading, editing, and accepting phases?


Perry: So the submissions for Soundings East opened Sept. 1st and they close Feb. 15 so the reading period is fromSept. to Feb. so we are just starting to get into it now and read. A lot of magazines are a similar time table, so if there is something we read and decide we have to have it, its important to accept it quick incase they are submit it to other magazines. And then you look at something and are like, we can’t publish that its full of errors, we’ll dismiss it. It's a process you’ll go along. You have to keep up, I haven’t been. It’s a balance because you don't want to fill up in the first month because you like them all, so pick one or two of the very best. And you can also reject the ones you know you aren’t going to publish because it’s not up to your standard, or not what you are looking for so that the writer can submit it to another place as well.


Have you ever had any complications with simultaneous submissions?


Perry: Not yet, but I know that can be tricky. There was a submission we had that disappeared because someone withdrew it because it had gotten accepted somewhere else, and I had read it and it wasn't something I was totally in love with. But that's on the writer to let you know it's been accepted somewhere else. I wouldn't worry about it too much,as long as you're letting them know if you want it, then it’s on them to let you know if it's been accepted somewhere else. They need to withdraw it.


As the interview drew to a close, Matt Perry wished the editors luck, thanked them for the interview, and said “I can’t wait to read your first issue!” as the editor’s all said their thank you’s and good night's.

"Under the Madness lies literature" - Unknown
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A magazine for teen writers—by teen writers. Under the Madness brings together student editors from across New Hampshire under the mentorship of the state poet laureate to focus on the experiences of teens from around the world. Whether you live in Berlin, NH, or Berlin, Germany—whether you wake up every day in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North or South America—we’re interested in reading you!