"we've decided to dedicate our next two issues to long forms." Carissa Halston & Randolph Pfaff on Editing apt
apt literary magazine’s website is a wonderful literary arts wormhole. intense prose mingles with vibrant poetry, all hidden behind individual doors of nostalgia, delightful little black and whites that often start with the phrase “remember when…”
at the helm of this creative virtual zeppelin is randolph pfaff and carissa halston, partners in art and in life. the wonderful world of apt, it could be said, is their literary and literal lovechild.
apt’s hybrid nature true is apparent in both content and medium; it publishes weekly online and in print once a year.
Carissa Halston's short fiction has appeared in Fourteen Hills, The Massachusetts Review, and elsewhere. She currently runs a small press called Aforementioned, edits a literary journal called apt, hosts a reading series called Literary Firsts, and is at work on a novel called Conjoined States and a short story collection called Emergency Exit.
Randolph Pfaff writes, edits, and makes pictures. His poems and essays have appeared in Poet Lore, Barrelhouse, PANK, and H_NGM_N, among others. He edits a literary journal called apt and runs a small press, Aforementioned Productions.
(for this interview i channeled my inner ee in honor of apt’s preference for the often underappreciated lowercase letter.)
interview by Sara Palmer
it's been two years since we last talked. what's new?
we publish a print annual every january and, with this past year, we inadvertently edited our first theme issue. through the submissions we received, it became apparent that there was an overwhelming interest in surveillance, which became the throughline for each piece that appeared in apt's fourth issue.
because that experience was so enjoyable, in january 2015, we'll be releasing an issue comprised solely of long fiction, and in 2016, long poems. we'll start reading submissions for the poetry issue in march, so keep us in mind if you're reading this and you're among the small group of poets who write lengthy work.
apt strives for a mixture of the cerebral and the visceral. what are some examples of recent work that exemplifies this tone?
"enhanced fujita for tornado alley widows" by elizabeth breazeale, focuses on how we attempt to gauge the magnitude of physical and emotional loss, while also grounding the reader in a surprisingly moving absurdist premise. also, we published three smart, funny poems by caryn lazzuri that looks at love through the structure of an encyclopedia. and, in preparation for her collection due out next summer, we serially published susan mccarty's "indirect object," a story that follows a test prep tutor who finds solace, while dealing with emotionally catastrophic events like dead students and their grief-stricken parents.
who inspires you?
randolph: i'm most inspired by work that's formally inventive but also leaves me feeling like a part of me i didn't know existed has just been torn away. people who take risks but ground that risk in their knowledge of what's come before, and share with the reader the antecedents for their work. as i'm typing this, i'm thinking of carl phillips, and mary ruefle's poem "the letter" in particular. in the scope of apt, i'm honestly inspired by carissa's editing. her ability to dig deep into word and sentence level issues while keeping the bigger picture in mind is astounding.
carissa: frequently, when i start writing a story, i'll say, "i want to pace this the way x does with y," where x might be amy hempel, and y might be "in the cemetery where al jolson is buried" or karl iagnemma and his story "kingdom, order, species." mind you, what i want to accomplish with that first draft almost never lasts to the end. but that's the way things sometimes start. i'm also very much inspired by spaces and how people bend to fit within and around them. that bending, of course, doesn't necessarily have to be physical, but sometimes there's a dual contortion that takes place. as far as editorial inspiration, i had the incredibly good fortune to work with william pierce, senior editor at agni, last summer and his dedicated focus on sentential attention forced me to up my editing game.
you’re cofounders/coeditors and husband/wife. how do you separate the literary life from married life? do you even separate it at all?
we just spent about ten minutes trying to formulate answers. that might answer them better than whatever else we could have come up with.
what's in the ideal cover letter?
we tend not to read cover letters unless we're going to accept a piece or if we have specific questions about a submission that might be addressed in the cover letter. oh, and if you're directly breaking submission guidelines for some reason, please be forthcoming about that in your cover letter.
as a writer, does the story unfold as you write or do all the pieces come together in your head before you hit the page? what is your process?
carissa: the stories i write are borne of revision. when i'm working on something lengthy (novel-length, superlong-novel-length), an outline often helps with formal concerns. but with a short story, it's a lot more intuitive. i once tried to describe it to someone as having a row of empty chairs and each draft is a chair. once i've filled each chair, i know i don't need to go back and try that strategy again. it's just a matter of finding the right combination of chairs, i suppose. some stories require just a few. others (most) require dozens.
randolph: most of my poems begin as fragments that grow into a larger idea that eventually becomes the final product. my process tends to be writing a first draft, putting it aside for weeks or months or however long it takes to objectively see its weaknesses, then returning to revise and attempt to mold it into something that might just satisfy me.
Sara Palmer, M.A., has a bachelor's in journalism and recently earned her master's in English with a concentration in creative writing. She is excited to no longer be a starving graduate student. Instead, she is now proudly working as a starving writer. Her work has appeared in Gravel, Hobo Pancakes, Allusions and Nick Belardes. In order to feed herself and her two cats, she teaches freshmen English, freelances in digital communications and teaches yoga. In her spare time she is desperately trying to finish a jigsaw puzzle of a Jackson Pollock painting.