Let’s be honest: some literary magazines weigh more than others.
If you get an email from Grain magazine, declaring your submission worthy of publication, your happy dance is more likely to spill out into the street. Grain is (I’m going to say it), indisputably, one of the most respected literary magazines in Canada. Since the early 1970s, Grain has published the best of the best. Their contributor list reads like a who’s-who of the Canadian literary world. Many of these were unknown writers at the time of their first publication in Grain.
This Friday, August 26, 2016, at 7 pm, Grain will host their first launch to welcome a new issue. Number 43.4 will be celebrated at The Woods Alehouse, in Saskatoon. If you’ve ever been published in this venerable magazine, I suggest you send them an email of congrats. Maybe they will read yours at the launch, like a 21st century telegram. And maybe I just gave them a lot more work they didn’t need.
But this is not just a blog post about attending a magazine launch. I have the inside scoop and, unlike a good ice cream (pralines), I’m willing to share it.
As of this issue of Grain, a new editorial team is at the helm and it would behoove you to pay attention. Writer Adam Pottle is the new editor, poet Sheri Benning is the new associate poetry editor and Nicole Haldoupis, former Descant production editor, is Grain‘s new associate editor of fiction. I don’t know Adam or Sheri, but I know Nicole so I called her and we had a chat about the new gig and the new issue of Grain. I started with the obvious:
Because I know you, will I have a better chance of getting published in Grain?
Yeah, for sure [laughs]. As long as your writing really stands out from the rest of the huge pile we have to read through, you stand a good chance!
Okay, I thought you’d say that. But what are you looking for, as the new fiction editor at Grain?
Well, I’m looking for that story that stays in my mind for days after I’ve read it. Some combination of unusual images and interesting plot that keeps my brain chewing on it long after I’ve put it down. Does that help?
It’s hard because I’m mostly just looking for writing that’s good. Really good.
What defines “really good” writing?
It makes me feel things. If I’m still thinking about the story three days later it’s probably good. I’m also interested in new and different ways of using language.
With a new editorial team, will Grain be changing directions? What can you tell us that will help descantonline blog readers determine if their writing should be submitted to Grain?
I’m confident that if people read the new issue, they’ll get a sense of where we’re going with the magazine.
So — there are changes?
You can buy the magazine at the usual bookstores that carry lit mags, or you can subscribe online. You’re going to link that, right?
Are you going to give me Anything?
I can tell you this – you can now submit your poetry or prose to Grain via submittable. Until recently, it was just by mail.
Does Grain only publish prairie writers?
Grain is supported by the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild so there’s definitely an interest in publishing writers who live in the prairies, but Grain has always published writers from across the country as well.
Can you tell us a bit about the process of reading submissions for Grain?
Adam, Sheri and I meet in Saskatoon, usually at a café or library and-
I hear the Grain office flooded!
Yeah, apparently it did. But it works out for us to meet this new way. I like to think that we meet in the same kinds of spaces that our writers use to write in. We do get a lot of submissions so it takes awhile to get through the piles and then to discuss the ones we’re considering publishing.
Is this a full-time job?
I already have a full-time job so, four times a year, when a new Grain issue is published, I will be insanely busy [read Nicole’s bio below to understand the full extent of how busy she will be sometimes]. For this issue, my first, when I wasn’t at my regular job, I was reading submissions for Grain.
Is it okay if I explain to readers that your full-time job is, ah, in the food and beverage industry?
[laughs] Yes! I’m not the first or last writer and editor to work serving tables. Maybe it would be good for people to know this. But you know what? I meet all kinds of interesting people I otherwise might not. I ended up chatting with a customer awhile ago and it turned out that he’s Paddy O’Rourke, the first editor of Thistledown Press. Turns out he published an early book of poetry by my mentor, Dave Margoshes. We’re supposed to go for a beer some time.
I know you grew up in Toronto but that Saskatoon is your home now. What can you tell us about the literary scene there?
It’s very alive. There are regular readings and launches at bookstores — I’ve walked among bookshelves with a glass of wine in my hand! There’s a lot of stuff going on, more than you’d expect. More than I anticipated, anyway. There’s a weekly poetry series, Tonight It’s Poetry and a monthly reading series called The River Volta Reading Series.
Congratulations on the new job!
Thanks – I hope your readers check us out and let us know what they think of this issue.
One more thing, which I guess I should’ve started with but — why is this the first magazine launch for Grain, after all these years?
Grain has had events over the years, readings and such, and there have been launches for special themed issues, but I think this may be the first official launch of a regular new issue. Like I said, new team, new plans. Keep an eye out. Can you insert a winking emoji there?
Nicole Haldoupis is a writer, editor and designer from Toronto. She recently completed her MFA in writing from the University of Saskatchewan. She lives in Saskatoon where she works at a Greek restaurant and as the associate fiction editor at Grain. Nicole co-created the biannually published untethered, a Toronto-based literary journal. Her work can be found in (parenthetical), Sewer Lid, and The Quilliad.
In case you missed it, descantonline.com went live in May, 2016. It’s not the old Descant magazine, online, but something new. The Descant blog will continue, as above, but now it’s called the DescantOnline blog. My focus here will be on topics I hope will be of genuine use to writers. Please contact me if you have a suggestion that you think blog readers will appreciate. I won’t be flogging launches unless, as in the post above, there is something more of interest to readers.