Moveable Type: Talking with Liv Stratman, Editor-in-Chief of Devil’s Lake
February 1, 2014
AWP had the opportunity to talk with Liv Stratman, Editor-in-Chief of Devil’s Lake, a biannual online journal of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and visual art based out of the University of Wisconsin, Madison’s MFA program.
Why the name Devil’s Lake? It’s the name of a state park right outside of Madison, and it’s a popular daytrip destination for UWM’s MFA students. It’s also a creative psychic location that has definitely become the journal itself.
As an editor and a reader, what do you think about when you think about this journal? This is a journal that is interested in experimental voices—writing that is necessarily lyrical. We want to publish stuff that feels deliberately interested in lyricism, including prose that is succinct the way poetry is.
What is Devil’s Lake trying to do to readers? We assume our readers are like us, whether that’s a good thing or not. That may mean that our readers want to see a creative take on our world, something magical—really short flash fiction pieces, you could call them prose poems. They were really ethereal, really meditative, and lyrical. And I thought, gosh, I didn’t know you even do this. I hoped readers got that feeling.
What will readers find if they read an entire issue? I hope they’ll be surprised, and if they click all the way through they’ll find work that is inspiring. What I find with our issues is that we really truly look for work that is compelling in and of itself, and I hope that our readers will see our work and feel it was meant for Devil’s Lake and that they couldn’t find this anywhere else. We want work that’s experimental in form, that’s invested in voice, the voice of the piece more than what you might call the narrative or project of the piece. The pieces move forward by the writers’ voices.
How are submissions treated by the editors? Everything is read by at least two readers, usually more. Submitters should expect honesty, candidness, and friendliness from us. We are grateful for submissions from our readers, and we treat them all carefully—we hope we communicate that. Nothing gets flat-out rejected by Devil’s Lake. Something has to be said about everything that comes our way.
What does an acceptance mean? Well, the readers and submitters decide that. We, the editors, are kind of just the chorus. We find these pieces and we put them in the journal. When we give out an acceptance we want to give excitement. I love seeing that email that says, in response to an acceptance, “I can’t believe this!”
What about a rejection? It means we hope you’ll submit again. We have several hundred pieces in the queue at any given time for each genre. We curate each issue, and we want complementary content—works that seem like they belong together in some way, as in a museum exhibit.
What’s good writing? Indescribable turns of phrase that work so uniquely well for each writer we publish. Work that’s so transformative, it’s hard to pin down what it is that’s even moving you. You can’t say what the poem or story is doing, but you know yourself that something’s happening. It’s like you’ve been sick or had an illness you never had before… but you know it was there, and it made you feel a certain way.
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