Literary Sword Fights, Existential Squirrels and Endless Dumplings: An Interview with Managing Editor Katie Bockino
A new year, a new us. The Washington Square Review staff is back and we are so excited to be accepting poetry and fiction submissions until October 15. Send us your poems, your stories, all of your beautiful words; we can't wait to read 'em!
In the meantime, we sat down with Managing Editor Katie Bockino and asked what she looks for in surprising literature, what she'd be doing if she weren't heading up our beloved journal, and we discussed the puzzling nature of squirrels. Seriously. Enjoy!
1. Washington Square Review is accepting submissions until October 15; in terms of choosing content for this issue, what would you say the team is looking for?
We’re looking for stories and poems that make a person start calling/texting/banging on their neighbors’ doors and saying, “You NEED to read this right now.” And that sounds easier said than done, I know. But I suppose another way to phrase it is that we’re looking to read pieces where we can feel your passion. Where we can tell that you’re excited to be sending it to us, and can’t wait for us to read it. We want to publish pieces that surprise us, thrill us, and maybe even scare us because we’re so impressed. And I’ve felt that way about the stories and poems we’ve published before. Every time I reread them, I still get chills. That’s what we’re looking for.
2. If you weren't a writer/editor, what would you be doing?
Living in New Zealand and leading tours for the Lord of The Rings Experience. I would be enjoying breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper daily, while telling unsuspecting tourists trivia they don’t want to know.
3. Do you remember the first (or most recent!) time you were really moved by a piece of literature? Can you describe it?
The first time occurred when I was 14 and in freshman English. I was finishing up A Tale of Two Cities, and was in disbelief that Sydney was going to take Charles' place. Cue me sobbing into my borrowed copy of the book and having to awkwardly explain at the end of the year what happened to it. But that was the first time where I knew I wanted to study English and writing!
4. What does one day at Washington Square Review look like for you as Managing Editor?
Surprisingly, there aren’t as many sword fights as I thought there would be. But in reality, I come into the Lillian Vernon Creative Writing House, check the mail, answer the mail. Check the WSR email, answer emails. Go into the kitchen and heat up some dumplings I brought from home. Send out orders of the journal to subscribers. Eat some dumplings. Contact WSR staff and see what they need. Hold a meeting with members of the staff. Go over the production schedule. Organize upcoming events. Answer more emails. Contact more staff. Heat up my now cold dumplings. Wonder how I would fare in a sword fight. Be happy that I love my job and my staff and all of the emails and feel really excited that I get to do what I love every day.
5. Do you have any tips or suggestions for a writer submitting to our journal for the first time?
First, proofread. Print out your story and proofread it with a pen and highlighter in hand. Secondly, make sure the first two pages really grab our attention. We want to be hooked from the very start. And, lastly, write what you’re passionate about, not what you think “we” (or other journals) want to see. If you’re in love with your story and characters then maybe we’ll fall for them as well.
6. If you could've written any book that already exists, which one would it be and why?
Honestly for every book I’ve read and enjoyed I’ve thought this! Whether I’m reading YA books or NYT best sellers or watching Grey’s Anatomy on TV. I sometimes think the best ideas for stories/books/pieces of art can be broken down into the simplest of sentences. A normal boy goes to a school filled with magic. A woman pretends to be dead to trick her cheating husband. A bunch of handsome doctors all work at the same hospital. But it’s the details in all of these that makes them stand out. The dialogue, the scenes, the voices. So after I read an amazing book, I think, “Oh man, I should have wrote this! But wait, actually, no, there’s no way I could have.”
7. If you could ask the universe (whatever that means to you) one question, what would it be?
What’s the purpose of squirrels? Did you, all wise and knowing universe, intend to create them? Or, as I suspect, was it a tragic accident and after they were freely roaming the earth you just shrugged and said, “Eh, I guess they can stay?”