Lit Mag Spotlight: Carolina Quarterly
by Treehouse Editors
Treehouse poetry editor M.G. Hammond interviewed fiction editor Lindsay Starck of Carolina Quarterly.
Q: The journal has been publishing as Carolina Quarterly for 65 years, but has a long history of several different incarnations since 1844. How does this history affect CQ’s aesthetic, and what aim or goals do you think the journal has preserved (if any) from its first inception?
A: We’re very proud of our journal’s long and illustrious history. Over the decades, we’ve published new work by authors who have gone on to become luminaries in American literature (consider A. R. Ammons, T.C. Boyle, Raymond Carver, Don DeLillo, Annie Dillard, Louise Erdrich, Ha Jin, Denis Johnson, Denise Levertov, Joyce Carol Oates, and Lee Smith, among others).
Today, we’re just as dedicated to the promotion and publication of new writers who, we hope, will continue to produce powerful, high-quality work. We look for fresh voices and innovative styles, but we also hope to find work that will stand the test of time; work that will influence and inspire another generation of writers the way that we’ve been inspired by the authors who have appeared in our pages across the decades.
Q: Clearly CQ has published a wide variety of works concerning all areas and walks of life, but what role might North Carolina and the South have as identifying or characterizing factors of the journal?
A: Interestingly, our current editorial team is composed entirely of transplanted Northerners. Although none of us are originally from the South, we believe that the rich tradition of Southern storytelling and oral history are a significant aspect of the work that we publish. In fiction, especially, we look for pieces that tell a great story. They need to be well-written, but even the most beautiful prose won’t be accepted if the narrative doesn’t move us in some way, if it doesn’t transport us to another world, another perspective, another experience.
North Carolina has a national reputation as a place that nurtures writers and artists. The state boasts a wonderful collection of literary festivals, independent bookstores, libraries, and universities that promote creative writing and offer authors and poets the opportunity to take part in one of the most stimulating artistic communities in the country. We hope that the work we do at the Quarterly provides writers both in-state and out-of-state the chance to participate in that community.
(For a great introduction to the literary life in North Carolina, check out North Carolina Literary Trails, written by Georgann Eubanks, at: http://www.ncliterarytrails.org.)
Q: Since your time with CQ, what has been one of your more memorable editing experiences?
A: The vast majority of the work we publish comes from our slush pile. The best part of being an editor is the experience of striking gold: stumbling across a gem, a story so good that you can’t believe your luck when you find out it hasn’t yet been snapped up by another journal. We love good writing. We love the feeling of “discovering” it in our inbox, and we love that it’s our job to share good writing with our readers.
Q: In what ways would you like to see CQ’s circulation grow in future years, and what would you consider is the journal’s ideal audience?
A: Right now, we’re working on increasing our online presence. In addition to publishing work in print, we feature particular pieces online and we’ve got the full text of past and current work available in electronic archives. Many of our ideal readers are also writers, so we hope they find our interviews with contributors and reviews of new work particularly helpful. We’ve been receiving record-high numbers of submissions in poetry and fiction, but we’re also looking to expand our non-fiction section. Essay-writers, submit to us!
Q: CQ boasts past contributors such as Denis Johnson and Joyce Carol Oates. During your time with the journal, what writers have you published that excited you and why?
A: My co-editor and I like to say that we look for fiction that is “original yet timeless,” “stylistically and structurally fresh,” “innovative and vibrant.” Over the past few years we’ve been very fortunate to find a lot of pieces that fit these descriptions. I have so many favorites! We were thrilled to publish Caitlin Horrocks’ “Start With This” in the first issue our current team ever sent to press, and also Woody Skinner’s “The Knife Salesman,” which was a fantastic find in the slush pile. We like to be surprised. We’re always especially thrilled to find pieces from new writers, as well as from writers whose dedication to their craft is evident in every careful sentence, in every conscious punctuation mark.