Friday, April 11, 2008

The groves of academe: David Leavitt Interviewed at Court The Jesters

Leavitt, who wears many hats, one being the editor of Subtropics, is interviewed over at Court The Jesters; he talks about their fast turnaround time at Subtropics, their evaluation process, the MFA 'industry,' and the 'state' of 'fiction' 'today.'

Some excerpts for you:

DL: It's my fanatical neatness that drives us to respond quickly. I can't bear the sight of piled-up manuscripts. And yes, I see all the fiction, and Sidney Wade sees all the poetry.

In fiction we operate on the principle that most readers, when browsing through a magazine, will throw the magazine aside if the story they're looking at doesn't captivate their attention pretty fast. Accordingly Mark Mitchell and I sit down a couple of times a week with the fiction manuscripts and start reading them aloud to each other. Sometimes the MFAs participate as well. The rule is that the listener can and should shout "stop!" at the point at which s/he, if browsing, would throw the story aside. If we're able to get past the first page without throwing the story aside, we figure that the story deserves to be read. That story is then put aside and read by one of us all the way through. If the reader likes it, it's shared with others. Usually this process allows us to winnow out about 90% of the submissions. (This is a variant on the approach that my teacher of long ago, Gordon Lish, took in the workshop.)


DL: In all honesty, even though I teach in an MFA program, I have mixed feeling about the MFA industry (and it is becoming something of an industry). Here at UF, for instance, the quantity of applications that we receive increases substantially each year. This year we only accepted 6% of our applicants in fiction. More and more people seem to be writing.

(emphasis not mine)

Go read more of the interview, if you'd like.

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