Friday, October 6, 2017

Six Questions for Daniel Finkel, Editor-in-Chief, The Penn Review

“Founded in 1966, The Penn Review is the oldest literary magazine at the University of Pennsylvania." The editors accept all forms of creative writing, including poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, as well as visual arts. Read the complete guidelines here.

QF: What are the top three things the editors look for in a submission and why?

Daniel Finkel: We’re looking for the new.  We seek works that contain a fresh, powerful voice, use language in an evocative way, and provoke an emotional response.  By the time we’ve finished a piece, we want to feel something.  It doesn’t matter what the emotion is, as long as it’s genuine.  In poetry, we look for concrete, captivating images that house the poem inside of them, rather than the other way around, and in fiction, we’re in the market for complex characters that move around on the page and try to convince us to see the world their way.  

SQF: What most often turns the editors off to a submission?

DF: Vagueness. When we see characters that are only half-formed or poems that are lost in their own verbiage, we’re unlikely to accept a writer's work.  Also, we tend to be discouraged by pieces that clearly ignore our submission guidelines or that are riddled with typos.

SQF: You offer memberships to The Penn Review for all undergraduate, graduate, and professional students at UPenn. How does this work?

DF: One of our primary goals is to celebrate the literary and artistic output of the Penn community.  Because of this, we encourage all members of the university, from faculty members and PhD students to professional students and undergraduates, to take part in crafting the magazine.  In practical terms, our board is usually composed of 10-15 people, but we’re always open to new members, and based upon experience levels we offer positions in our design, copy-editing, social media management, editorial, and marketing branches.

SQF: Do you share the comments from the membership with authors, especially those who may have been close to an acceptance?

DF: We attempt to respond personally to each submission, and are currently ranked as one of the most personable fiction, nonfiction, and poetry markets on Duotrope, with over 90% of our responses containing personal feedback.

SQF: What advice can you provide authors interested in submitting to The Penn Review—or any journal, for that matter?

DF: I would advise them to read the magazines.  Very often, we see work that’s skillful and compelling, but that just doesn’t fit with the content we’re currently interested in publishing.  The best way to see if your work is right for us is to read the pieces we’ve chosen to publish.

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

DF: How quickly do we respond to submissions?  Right now, we’re averaging a day in our response time.  As writers ourselves, we understand the discomfort of waiting several months for a response, and we make our best effort to read, discuss, and vote on each piece in a timely manner, while also providing personalized feedback.

Thank you, Daniel. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

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