Fellow Hen&ink chick, Mima Tipper, interviewed Hannah Goodman about Sucker Literary Magazine, her on-line publication dedicated to edgy YA.
After reading Hannah R. Goodman’s bio, all I could think was, “Whoa! She’s the whole package!” Not only does she write full time, having self-published three YA novels (two award winners), and publishing her YA short stories on Amazon shorts, in an anthology titled Bound is the Bewitching Lilith, and in “Balancing the Tides,” but also she’s earned an MFA from Pine Manor’s Solstice Program, blogs regularly about the writing life, and offers writing classes (go to her site www.hannahrgoodman.com for more info about these.) With all of that going on (let’s not forget regular life stuff like wifing and mothering) it’s tempting to think Hannah could not possibly have time for more. That kind of thinking would be wrong. Recently, Hannah began a new writing/editing venture—a literary magazine devoted to YA fiction called SUCKER that debuted on January 23, 2012 (find it at: http://suckerliterarymagazine.wordpress.com/.)
Today she’s kindly agreed to share some of her SUCKER journey with me, her fellow coop-mate, in this Hen&Inkblots interview.
— Mima Tipper
MIMA TIPPER: Hi, Hannah! First off, huge, huge congratulations to you and your staff for bringing SUCKER LITERARY MAGAZINE into the world!
HANNAH GOODMAN: Thanks!
MT: Your Editorial Welcome in SUCKER’s first issue does a wonderful job of telling your story, but we’d love to hear it here: please tell us a little bit about your background and about what made you decide to start SUCKER.
HG: My background/story has been heavily self-documented on my blog: Write Naked http://www.hannahrgoodman.blogspot.com/p/about-me.html and then my writing journey http://hannahrgoodman.blogspot.com/2008/03/more-rants-on-not-getting-book-deal-yet.html… which lead me to go to Pine Manor College and get my MFA in Creative writing at the Solstice program. The supportive, non- competitive environment made me feel very self-empowered after a decade of rejection and near misses. Going to school made me remember why I write…and it wasn’t to get a book deal. It was for the cathartic release I need, it was to survive being human. (Sorry to get too heavy here). SUCKER was an idea that I had as a result of trying to get short fiction published and seeing there was no home for YA…my kind of YA, edgy.
MT: What has been most difficult about this venture? Most rewarding? Most unexpected?
HG: TIME! I work, have children, have to work on my own writing, husband, friends, family…
Most rewarding are the emails from those writers who submitted… saying how grateful they are to hear why their piece was accepted or rejected…also the mentoring we do has received tremendous positive feedback.
Most unexpected was…can I say this? That Publisher’s Weekly interviewed me BEFORE I really had SUCKER underway…Also, Erzsi found me…an agent wanted to look at my work after years of the other way around. Truly a surprise!
MT: That’s awesome news on the PW piece and on signing with Erzsi—double congrats there! Back to SUCKER, I know my own experience working with you on “Waiting for Alice” (the final story in SUCKER’s first issue) was seamless and probably uncharacteristically low-impact editorially-speaking, and I’m wondering what it’s been like working with new writers, editors, readers, artists? Is it all you hoped it would be?
HG: Working with new writers and editors has been seamless— to use your word. I have a clear vision of what I want and can communicate pretty clearly that vision. They were all receptive and supportive. IT was a dream. MOST of the writers whose work I accepted went through a somewhat intense editing and revision process. I am a teacher by trade…and a bit of a perfectionist. I also saw raw talent that just needed a smidge of guidance. I enjoy the giving part of being a mentor. It feels nice to pay it forward. I’ve had generous mentors and know the value of encouraging but critical feedback.
Artists…we didn’t have many submissions and many didn’t seem to understand the vision, which is probably because as a person who sees only words in my head, I probably didn’t communicate clearly the VISUAL vision I had of Sucker. Luckily my BFF Alyssa knows me in that old married couple way–I make a few grunts and noises and she gets what I mean. She wound up doing most of the art work. One of my high school students did the cover…again, she understood my vision.
MT: Getting more specific about this first issue (btw, it looks awesome and reads awesomer) how do you work with SUCKER’s staff? Describe the process of your dialogue with your readers and artists.
HG: We e-mail. I didn’t Skype once or make a phone call. I have a feedback form for my staff readers. All submissions went to them (I had a glance at them as they came in and decided which ones should be read and which needed to be rejected outright). The staff readers fill out the form (it’s very detailed and reflects my personal vision for the type of literature I want to publish). Readers return the forms to me and then I read every single one and make ALL final decisions about which are rejected, mentored, and accepted. The dialogue with the artists was all in person, except Sarah Tregay, who sent a submission.
MT: From the humorous to the dramatic to the heartbreaking, this first issue has an amazing variety of stories; how did you decide on story placement within the magazine?
HG: Instinct…Try not to have too many serious or dark ones in a row. : )
MT: What will SUCKER offer readers, particularly teen readers, that other literary print/online journals do not?
HG: Something different…something edgy and compelling.
MT: Could you elaborate on those concepts?
HG: The something different for me is not just “please no more vampires.” It’s about how the characters collide, connect, bounce off one another AND the situations they find themselves in. It’s about making the ordinary Extraordinary. So take that vampire and put him on a skateboard (as I say on the blog) and then have him (literally) crash into a human teenage guy who happens to be on the sidewalk at the same time and maybe they fight and maybe the vampire loses. Maybe they become great friends. Maybe they fall in love.
Compelling is about relationships for me. What happens when two souls collide? I mean this in ALL ways…Friendship, parent-child, teacher-student…Boy meets girl, boy meets boy…Whatever, what happens when two people connect or meet and they feel something…love or hate or disgust, whatever. Now, go from there.
Edgy means do not avoid sex, drugs, complicated friendships and relationships with parents. That being said, it’s not just about the subject. It’s also about language and voice. Make the characters sound authentic. Make the narrative voice reflect the tone of the story.
Also, DO NOT PREACH!
MT: Describe some positives in creating an online journal as opposed to a print journal.
HG: We have no budget because we have no money. So that was the major positive. Also, distribution is easier.
MT: How many issues per year will SUCKER have, and how will you market the journal, especially to teens?
HG: I wish I had firm answers for these. Taking it one day at a time because TIME is my issue. I am aiming for one. Marketing is word of mouth right now. I work with teens and am counting on them and their schools.
MT: Going a bit broader for a moment, what has your experience with SUCKER taught you about how teens read? About how we can keep teens reading?
HG: Write about things that are high interest…don’t shy away from “taboo” topics. Stay relevant and current. Listen to the teens around you and talk to them about reading and books. Treat them like regular people : )
MT: Let’s talk about submissions for a moment. When you read a sub, how many paragraphs does it take for you to know if a piece is a “Go”?
HG: Three sentences. : )
MT: What are instant turn-offs?
HG: Preaching…proselytizing…bigotry…prejudice…small-mindedness… Bad writing that uses cliched language and too many pop culture references.
Also, when people don’t read about what we want. Our blog is so specific about what we publish.
MT: On a more personal note, I’d love you to describe your typical workday—how do you balance life and writing/SUCKER life?
HG: *laughs uncontrollably*
get up, get kids ready for school, exercise, get dressed, go to Starbucks answer emails of clients and students, read submissions and send off to readers, do some of my own writing go home and see students until around 6, make dinner with family, have some kind of family time (art work, dancing…etc..) bath and bed…Some days my little one isn’t at school so that writing and reading submission time doesn’t happen. I’d say 3 weekdays are like what I just described. Sunday mornings are a huge chunk of time for me to work too.
MT: How has working on SUCKER changed/taught you as a writer? As a writing mentor?
HG: I feel more confident because I actually made this vision a reality and did it MY way!
MT: What makes a good editor and how does your work as a writer feed your editorial work with SUCKER?
HG: I am a really good student to my own mentor and agent. I listen really well and can take all kinds of criticism and apply it as I see fit.
MT: We’d also love to know what books are on your nightstand. Would you share three YA novels you’ve read recently that you would recommend to those wanting to submit stories to SUCKER?
HG: Almost Perfect
Beginner’s Love (old school Norma Klein)
Some Girls Are
Some Day This Pain Will Be Useful To You
Totally more than 3! What I like about these books is that they are voice and character-driven with gritty, authentic teen language with solid, literary writing that isn’t overloaded with cliched language or lame pop culture references—they have both a current and timeless quality to them.
MT: Personal goals? Plans for SUCKER’s future?
HG: Yes, that writing and being an editor become my full time job so that I can live that dream exclusively. OR I win lotto so that I can do that and not worry about it as a paying job.
I have a YA series that I REALLY want to have published with a big-ish pub house…or a house that will market me really well.
MT: Anything else you’d like to share?
HG: Yes…I want to thank the fans and staff of Sucker and tell them that they inspire me to do this all over again!
MT: Thanks for your time, Hannah, and best of luck with SUCKER!