Who Will Be Published Next? Maybe You.
Interview by Grant Faulkner
I was first attracted to the Used Furniture Review simply because of its name. As a congenital junk collector and lover of the most raggedy-assed furniture on the planet, I couldn’t resist it.
But beyond its name, the Used Furniture Review drew me in because of a very slick interview with the very polished Rick Moody. I was like, damn, how did this upstart lit mag score an interview with such literary royalty—not to mention the likes of Tom Perotta, Paul Lisicky, Dani Shapiro, and Leah Hager Cohen.
So I started following the Used Furniture Review on Twitter and Facebook, submitted a story to them (“Theories,” which they accepted, showing they had taste?), and then decided to find out more by interviewing founder and editor David Cotrone.
Why did you decide to start a literary magazine?
That's such a simple and good question. And really hard to answer. I know there are so many magazines already out there. So many good ones, too. But there's something so great about the experience of creating something, and working with others to keep that creation alive—that is to say, working with all of our contributors.
And you know, a huge part of what we are is that we post new work on a continuous basis. Most of the sites I visit daily are continuous: The Rumpus, The Millions, HTMLGIANT. But they're all mostly nonfiction and commentary. I wanted to do the same thing except for fiction and poetry, too.
Is there any existential or symbolic meaning to the name Used Furniture Reviw?
The name comes from a story I started to write but then abandoned. I wrote something like, “He felt like used furniture.” The metaphor seemed a little forced at the time but I still liked the idea of it, so in thinking of a name for our review, it was there to use.
There’s also a certain air that goes with it, I hope, that evokes eclecticism. And a sort of wonder, too. This idea that writing is an investigation of where a certain antique came from, what it witnessed, how it outlived its owner. But so that last bit is dealing more with hindsight than anything else. When Susannah (our managing and copy editor) and I decided on Used Furniture Review, it was as simple as we liked the way it sounded.
I think there’s something to be said for the way something sounds. Someone once told me there are two ways of looking at writing. You can be obsessed with a word’s meaning, the philosophy behind things, or you can walk around singing and scatting and reciting lines and lyrics, all the while falling in love with the musicality of language. If that’s true, then I like to think our name has both.
Has anyone thought you actually review used furniture?
Yes. All the time. A kind of neat and hilarious part about running the site is it's possible to see what people run searches for in Google and other search engines in finding their way to us. People who find us by accident are usually looking for used furniture, or furniture in general.
How many submissions do you receive for each issue? What percentage of those do you publish?
We get anywhere from 5 to 25 submissions per day. I'm not sure of the percentage we publish, and I'm not really concerned with those kinds of numbers. If the writing sings, we take it. If it doesn't, we ask to see more work from the submitter. Really, we would love to take every submission we see. Of course, we can't. But we can try.
How would you describe the type of material that you're looking for?
Lucid. Bewildering. Simple. Haywire. Quiet. Loud. Everything and nothing.
Other than the stunning story, "Theories," have you published a piece or pieces that you think are quintessential Used Furniture Review stories?
I'd love to say all of them, but in particular I'm really attached to the two stories we have by Kim Chinquee, "Sennenhund" by Myfanwy Collins, "Robbing the Cradle" by Alana Noel Voth, and the four poems we have by Corey Mesler. We also have some amazing writing waiting in our queue that I can't wait for everyone else to see.
If you could publish any living writer in the journal, who would you pick?
You've scored great interviews with the likes of Tom Perotta, Rick Moody, Kristen Hersh, and Dani Shapiro. How did you do that as such a young lit journal? What parties do you go to?
A few of the authors I've seen read, so I had that way of connecting. The majority of them have happened because of something that looks like luck and grace. A tip for anyone looking to run interviews: never interview someone if you haven't read their work.
Man, I wish.
Do you read other lit mags? Which are your favorites?
All the time. My favorites are the ones I hope the Used Furniture Review can someday stand next to: PANK, The Collagist, elimae, Boston Review, Guernica, N+1, Hunger Mountain, New York Tyrant. Really, the list goes on and on.
Do you write and publish your own stories? If so, where?
I definitely write them. Publishing is a different story. But I have work up at Fifty-Two Stories, The Rumpus, PANK, elimae, Dark Sky Magazine, some other places. I love to hate that attempting to get your work out there is a deeply humbling experience.
Does editing a literary magazine help or hinder you as a writer?
It definitely doesn't hinder. It helps in a few ways, though. Sometimes I read something that I want to respond to and an idea for a story is born that way. Sometimes writing is so good you want to do everything you can to do something good, too. It's more motivational than anything.
You're just in your first year. Where do you think Used Furniture Review will be five years from now?
Still here, waiting to become, becoming.