This week Through The Tollbooth is lucky to welcome guest blogger and VCFA alum Mima Tipper and Hannah Goodman, editor-in-chief of SUCKER literary magazine, a new online magazine aimed at a YA audience…

Without further ado HERE’S MIMA—–

The first issue of SUCKER LITERARY MAGAZINE hit the digital world last January, and it’s been quite a ride for this free online journal devoted to YA fiction, especially for editor-in-chief and writer Hannah R. Goodman. With submissions for SUCKER’s issue #2 having just closed, Mima Tipper (a SUCKER #1 contributor) went to Hannah for an update of their interview that appeared in Hen & Ink Literary Studio’s blog, Hen&Inkblots, on January 30th, 2012. http://henandinkblots.wordpress.com/

 First a little about Hannah; unsurprisingly, SUCKER’s editor-in-chief is one busy writer/editor! She’s self-published three YA novels (two award winners), and published her YA short stories on Amazon shorts, in an anthology titled Bound is the Bewitching Lilith, and in “Balancing the Tides.” But there’s more: she’s also 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) Hannah’s still made room for even more. Her SUCKER LITERARY MAGAZINE debuted on January 23, 2012 (find it at: http://suckerliterarymagazine.wordpress.com/) and, not one to rest on any of her laurels, Hannah (with the help of her indefatigable SUCKER team) is already working on issue #2.

 And now here’s a glimpse into the world of SUCKER LITERARY MAGAZINE in the form of Mima’s original interview with Hannah, PLUS an exclusive to Through the Tollbooth follow-up interview where Hannah talks about the first three months of SUCKER’s life, as well as the SUCKER team’s plans for Issue #2.   

Hi, Hannah! First off, huge, huge congratulations to you and your staff for bringing SUCKER LITERARY MAGAZINE into the world!

Thanks!

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.

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.

What has been most difficult about this venture? Most rewarding? Most unexpected?

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!

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?

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.

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.

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.

From the humorous to the dramatic to the heart-breaking, this first issue has an amazing variety of stories; how did you decide on story placement within the magazine?

Instinct…Try not to have too many serious or dark ones in a row. : )

What will SUCKER offer readers, particularly teen readers, that other literary print/online journals do not?

Something different…something edgy and compelling.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!

Have you received any comments on this first issue that you’d like to share?

Let me get back to you on that…But there’s been a lot on Facebook and the blog. Twitter too.  Not a whole lot about the issue itself…yet.

Describe some positives in creating an online journal as opposed to a print journal.

We have no budget because we have no money. So that was the major positive. Also, distribution is easier.

How many issues per year will SUCKER have, and how will you market the journal, especially to teens?

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.

Going a bit broader for a moment, what has your experience with SUCKER taught you about how teen’s read? About how we can keep teens reading?

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: )

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”?

Three sentences. 🙂

What are instant turn-offs?

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.

On a more personal note, I’d love you to describe your typical workday—how do you balance life and writing/SUCKER life?

*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 week days are like what I just described. Sunday mornings are a huge chunk of time for me to work too.

How has working on SUCKER changed/taught you as a writer? As a writing mentor?

I feel more confident because I actually made this vision a reality and did it MY way!

What makes a good editor and how does your work as a writer feed your editorial work with SUCKER?

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.

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?

Almost Perfect
Tangled
Beginner’s Love (old school Norma Klein)
Some Girls Are
The Duff
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.

Personal goals? Plans for SUCKER’s future?

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.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Yes…I want to thank the fans and staff of Sucker and tell them that they inspire me to do this all over again!

Fast forward and here we are back with Hannah, almost four months later—hello again, Hannah! So, looking at your final comment on our original interview, as you’ve moved on to issue #2, clearly you’re doing it all over again. Could you talk a little about the response to SUCKER #1 in the last three months?

The response to Sucker is constant…every day we continue to increase our fans on Facebook and Twitter. Every day we continue to get emails saying how impressed readers and writers are with the first issue. I am a believer in the whole tortoise versus the hare theory, slow and steady wins the race. Most challenging is to get the magazine reviewed. Even on Amazon. We only have two reader reviews. Please go to http://www.amazon.com/Sucker-Literary-Magazine-Issue-ebook/dp/B007GPYKTY/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1330874288&sr=1-1 and leave us a review!

Tell us a little about how and what you’ve done to market SUCKER #1? Anything unexpected occur during this process?

Exposure is difficult. I did contact a ton of blogs that review or discuss YA fiction, and I contacted the big magazines, like Writer’s Digest, Poets and Writers, PW, etc…WD did a short feature piece but nothing else from the other outlets so far. So I focus on the grassroots of Facebook, Twitter, and direct emails to people I know or come across in the industry. While I have a staff, they basically are focused on reading the submissions, which, to me is the most important part of Sucker—finding talented writers and helping them grow and connect into this industry. I am not just trying to promote new writers but help discover the talent that is overlooked.  If this could be my day job, I would get an office and have staff and all that. That’s my vision along with conferences and workshops. We shall see! Most unexpected is the continual support from folks. People are volunteering every day to help us and it’s tremendous.  I wish I had more time to respond immediately to everyone and tell them personally thank you for helping me…us.

Have you and the SUCKER team changed any of your policies/procedures for issue #2 from how you handled #1?

We had a shorter reading period this time around so that changes the amount of submissions. That being said we still have a little over 100 pieces to read, respond to and decide about mentoring and accepting. Right now we are in the reading stage. The staff readers read and fill out feedback sheets. Then I have to read every single feedback sheet and make decisions from that…to reject, to go to the piece directly and read it myself and then from there decide about mentoring, rejecting, or accepting. This will take us through the end of spring.

Have you noticed any difference in the submissions?  

The quality of these submissions is high; overall, these are writers who have been published in other literary journals, who have their MFAs, and who have attended workshops and conferences. On the other hand, some are high school and college students, just starting out. This time around writers are paying close attention to the numerous articles on our blog that state what we want to publish so fewer submissions fall into the category of not meeting our vision/editorial guidelines. While writers are more in touch with what we want, we also are also able to be more clear about our vision.

Before you commented on how difficult getting exposure is. Can you tell us about any other marketing ideas for SUCKER?

In terms of marketing, I have done the basics of contacting writer’s magazines, MFA programs that have a focus on YA, Twitter and FB. Recently I attended a conference for the Foundations in Children’s literature and my plan is to start attending as many conferences as possible. The problem is that we are an e-publication, so I can’t hand out copies of the magazine…but I do have very colorful flyers! We are interested in getting Sucker in print and when I get some time, I am going to pursue Create Space.

Finally, anything else you’d like to share with SUCKER’s readers and writers?

What I want to share with readers and writers is that Sucker is most interested in publishing the best in edgy, voice-driven YA fiction and that process is not quick. As I have learned in publishing over the years, if it doesn’t take long, than you are doing something wrong. Revise, revise, revise, and then revise again. Then edit, edit, edit, and proofread, repeat and rinse. We don’t want to be fast food literature. We want to be fine dining…high cuisine.

Thanks, Hannah, and I know I’m really looking forward to SUCKER’s second issue!

Mima Tipper spends as much time as possible writing stories and novels for kids and teens, and recently had the tremendous good fortune to earn an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Along with being mad-proud that her YA short story “Waiting for Alice” is in the premiere issue of Sucker Literary Magazine, she is thrilled that a series of posts about the process of writing “…Alice” is appearing now on author Janet Fox’s blog Through the Wardrobe http://kidswriterjfox.blogspot.com/, and that author Lindsey Lane is welcoming her also this week to her blog http://www.lindseylane.net/blog/  for “Quotable Tuesday”. Mima lives in Vermont with her family, is represented by Erzsi Deàk of Hen & Ink Literary Studio http://henandink.com/, and can be found @meemtip on Twitter.