"Submissions That are Vulnerable Tend to Move Past the Slush Pile the Fastest." Erin Ollila & Linsey Jane on Spry Magazine
Erin Ollila (née Corriveau) is an emotional archaeologist who graduated from Fairfield University’s MFA program with a concentration in creative nonfiction. Her writing has been published in Lunch Ticket, Revolution House, Paper Tape, (em): A Review of Text and Image, RedFez, Shoreline Literary Arts Magazine and The Fall River Spirit. Erin has served as the nonfiction editor of Mason’s Road Literary Journal. Her blog, Reinventing Erin, is her outlet for ruminating on the minutiae of everyday life.
Linsey Jayne is a wave-headed poet with a penchant for jazz who received her MFA in creative writing at Fairfield University. Her writing has been published in such publications as Now What? The Creative Writer's Guide to Success After the MFA, The Standard-Times, The Dartmouth-Westport Chronicle, and exactly.what. She has served as the chief poetry editor for Mason’s Road, as well as the student editor for the Bryant Literary Review and the opinion section editor of The Archway. Linsey is currently at work on her first collection of poetry, entitled Idle Jive.
Spry is a literary journal founded by Erin Ollila and Linsey Jane. It features undiscovered and established writers’ work from a unique editorial perspective.
Interview by Jim Doering
You describe Spry literary journal as a place for, among other things, vulnerable stories, or spry words and rhythms. What does that mean and why does it excite you?
We love the definition of and words related to “spry.” We are looking for work that is full of energy and nimble, agile, and graceful. As a journal that publishes short literature, it’s important that the poems, essays, and stories we share have an energy and life to them.
Works that operate within a tight economy of words can be truly potent—and we find ourselves repeatedly awed by the movement and power of submitted work. Much of the pieces we publish are very rhythmic; they have a pulse, a heartbeat, and a musical undertone that brings us back to them again and again.
Under your submission guidelines, you say that you want stories with guts. What gives a story guts?
The submissions that are vulnerable tend to move past the slush pile the fastest. We’re looking for pieces that help us face our greatest fears, passions and dreams head on. Work that doesn’t shy away from facts or moments that need to be shared. When we ask for “guts,” we’re asking for the power that comes with confronting vulnerability and the ability to transport and move readers.
Are there any particular works you’ve published that really encapsulate Spry’s editorial vision?
Are you asking us to pick which child is our favorite? Are we really allowed to do that? We can’t do that! We honestly feel as though each piece we publish either encapsulates our vision, or has helped change and shape our vision to something greater. What we’d love to hear, though, are the pieces that have moved and shaped the lives of our readership.
What makes Spry’s take on the literary universe unique?
Three things that separate Spry are that our reading process is completely blind (meaning we won’t know who wrote a piece while we make a decision on it), we only seek short, powerful literature, and we really try to develop and foster a literary and artistic community. Beyond that, we think that our relationship with contributors and willingness to work with writers who love the written word and embrace the learning process separates and propels us.
What have been the biggest obstacles in making Spry successful?
Great question. I think at first, the obstacles we were facing were all lessons we needed to learn along the way. Part of starting a non-affiliated literary journal is simply making decisions. Does this feel right for us? Does this flow with our mission or against it? It can be difficult to nail down the best things to do, what to prune and what to nourish to help a journal really take off.
Now that we are a pretty well-greased machine, I think our biggest obstacle is time management. We are an all-volunteer staff with the majority of our staff members working full time in various professions. Some people even work both full-time and part-time jobs in addition to the work they do with Spry. We’re so grateful for our current and past staff members. They have been paramount to our growth as a journal and our success.
What are your future goals for Spry?
We just introduced a new series,the ABCs of Writing that we will publish throughout the year between our two yearly issues. The first of the series is targeted toward beginning writers. 26 writers came together, each volunteering for a letter of the alphabet, and wrote an essay of things beginning writers need to consider. Some of them were: C for character, O for On-Ramping, and T for Tension.
We’d love to be able to publish a print anthology of some of the work we’ve published in the past few years, and continue to do these anthologies every few years. But what’s most important to us is continuing to publish the same quality of great writing that we’ve been doing for these past two years.
What does the future of publishing look like and where does Spry fit in?
That’s a great question! As far as the future of publishing, that’s tough for us to say. We’re learning that people love to read, and—as of today—still have an affinity for something tangible. Whether that will move forward as the result of technology such as Kindles is to be determined! Beyond that, we can’t imagine what the future will bring. What we do know is that as the publishing landscape evolves, so, too, will Spry. We see ourselves branching into new fields, learning about art and putting ourselves in a place where we can share opinions on what works best for craft. We’re looking forward to finding out our next steps, but know that no matter what, we’re in the lucky position of being able to always bring fine, experimental, bold, brief literature and moving poetry wherever we go.
Jim Doering is a Pushcart Prize nominee and author of Sacred and Profane: and other stories.