Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay’s writing has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, Virginia Quarterly Review, NOON, The New York Times Book Review, The Rumpus, Salon, The Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy culture blog, and many others. She is the co-editor of PANK and essays editor for The Rumpus. She teaches writing at Eastern Illinois University. Her novel, An Untamed State, will be published by Grove Atlantic and her essay collection, Bad Feminist, will be published by Harper Perennial, both in 2014.

{LMC}: An Interview With the Editors of Salt Hill


I love talking to other editors about editing, how they run their magazines, and what they’re thinking about the state of the literary magazine. I had a chance to talk with the editors and designer of Salt Hill to get a sense of the view from Syracuse.

Tell me a little about the history of Salt Hill. Where does the name come from? How long has the magazine been publishing.

Rachel Abelson: The journal has been around for about fifteen years. We are approaching our 30th issue. I’m not sure who is responsible for the name—Michael Paul Thomas was our founding editor—but it’s a reference to the geology of Syracuse. Most of the salt in this country came from Syracuse way back when. There’s a whole museum dedicated to salt here. I believe they reenact the mining of salt pre-1900. I guess Onondaga Lake, besides being wildly polluted, is fed by brine springs. There’s also a lot of snow and a good deal of road salting, too.

Gina Keicher: Salt Hill is run by graduate students in Syracuse University’s Creative Writing Program. It’s a fitting name for a journal based out of the “Salt City.” Also, Syracuse’s campus is situated atop a rather massive hill, so there’s that as well.

What is your editorial process like? How are decisions made? Who has input?

RA: It’s a collaborative process, but there is some autonomy, too, which is key. We often have multiple editors for each genre—poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and art. The goal is for us all to be proud of each section but to avoid editing the life out of something just to ensure we’re unanimous on the matter. Each genre editor is often responsible for a handful of pieces: work they solicited or pulled from slush. These are a genre editor’s babies. And then genre editors work together to build a section around their babies. Editors-in-chief manage separate genres while being responsible for their own pieces as well. Our readers suggest solicitations, too. We’ve worried in the past about over-editing individual pieces. Too many cooks in the track changes. We’re all in MFA mode right now, so we’ve maybe acquired a dangerous instinct to workshop the universe. A degree of editorial autonomy has been our way to respect the stylistic integrity of each piece. If an editor is stoked about a story, she is who will be working with the author on edits and proofing. The logic being: if you like it, you’ll maybe do it justice.

GK: Over the past few years, we’ve also aimed to streamline the process by switching to an online submissions manager, eliminating the paper shuffle. Unsolicited submissions are assigned to readers. If a reader likes a piece she passes it onto the genre editors. If the genre editors are enthusiastic about the piece it goes on to the editors-in-chief. Ultimately, the editors-in-chief make the decisions as to what goes into the journal, taking into account the feedback and comments we receive from readers and genre editors. Throughout our production schedule, editors-in-chief regularly check in with each other, as well as with the genre editors, to determine what may be needed to round out an issue.


Literary Magazine Club / 1 Comment
April 19th, 2012 / 12:30 pm

Things I’ve Been Thinking About (Promotion, Links, Salter, Soap Operas, Etc)

1. Last year, I watched a documentary called I Am Comic which featured comedians talking about the challenges and joys of performing comedy. I love watching stand up so I watch almost anything involving behind the scenes stuff about comedy. It was really interesting to see just how demanding and relentless it is to perform comedy. The kind of drive a comedian needs to succeed is intense. They are relentless in marketing themselves and completely shameless about it and I found that combination inspiring. Writers could benefit from that energy.

I tend to believe writers have to be the most vigorous advocates for themselves. If you won’t fight for your writing, who will? Closed mouths don’t get fed. I love that saying because it is so true. If you want an opportunity, ask for it. A lot of people believe there’s some kind of magical formula for certain writing and award opportunities but most of the time, it is writers who have chosen to advocate for themselves who benefit from these opportunities. Every day, I hear a writer lament about how uncomfortable they are with sharing something as innocuous as a link to their work. Relax. Share the damn link. If you write and submit your work to a magazine and consent to have that work published, you want to be read. Accept that you want to be read. Make peace with yourself. There is no shame in it. There is a difference between self-promotion and being obnoxious. In the time you Tweeted about feeling bad about sharing a link you could totally just share the link.


Roundup / 30 Comments
April 17th, 2012 / 11:40 am

{LMC}: “Foreign Wedding” by Maile Chapman



It’s all these damn faces. They’re all over issue 28 of Salt Hill, and I can’t get them out of my mind. Frederik Heyman’s watercolors and pencils grace both the cover and an inside portfolio—faces in profile, faces looking at the reader, ghostly watercolored faces looking at each other. Then on page one, before the title of the journal or the table of contents or anything else, we’re confronted with the first of Andrew Jilka’s many pencil drawings. The Jilka drawings resonate. They’re layered and repeated, almost like a collage, close-up drawings of faces twisted in ecstasy and reproduced over and over—each time the same face, yet each slightly different. Mouth wide, eyes screwed shut or gaping. The Jilka drawings are meant to be sexual, reverent, and horrifying.

How fitting then to find Maile Chapman’s wondrous short story “Foreign Wedding,” where looking at other people, faces thrust together, examining each other’s movement and motivations, figures so heavily.


Literary Magazine Club / 1 Comment
April 16th, 2012 / 12:30 pm

{LMC}: Salt Hill 28


I admire Salt Hill because of the  strong writing found in each issue and the impeccable production values. I first learned about the magazine at AWP in 2009, when I came across their table and found  two issues, one a hardbound book, and the other, a paperback filled with glossy, color pages. In both instances, the design was gorgeous and clean and showed that the editors valued both form and function. Each issue looks different, not radically so, but enough to get the reader’s attention and in each issue there is always something that stuns me. Salt Hill 28 did not disappoint in this regard. Laura Eve Engel’s, “For You Out of Soft Materials,” is one of those poems I loved starting with the title, all the way through the last line. There is no unnecessary flourish in the language and still each stanza evokes something really interesting. I loved lines like Once I admitted I made my face/for you out of soft materials,/so you’d have a place to put all your fingers and the final stanza, There are all these ways/we can decide not to be very tender. Another standout was the work of H.L. Hix, and “Counterexamples,” with the last line, “You say what we can imagine matters most. I say what we cannot.” “Gown Rain,” by Sarah Rose Etter was as imaginative as I have come to expect from her. The sky is raining gowns, you see, an unstoppable downpour of fabric. The writing is as strong as the premise and the ending is both satisfying and unsettling. The strongest work in a very strong issue was, Maile Chapman’s exceedingly smart “Foreign Wedding.”  There’s a woman, likable in her unlikability, attending a foreign wedding, not connecting to anyone, just out of a marriage, having awkward encounters as she takes in France, and you think with all that you know where the story is going. “Foreign Wedding,” is not going there and the ending is not only unexpected, it is quite chilling. The issue also contains art and an interview with Dana Spiotta, author of Stone Arabia.

Have you read Salt Hill 28? What did you think? What pieces stood out to you? Why? Why is Ben Mirov’s “Destruction Manual” oriented differently? Did some of the art disturb you?

Let’s talk in the comments.


Literary Magazine Club / 3 Comments
April 13th, 2012 / 2:00 pm

“I know you are reading this poem …”

It is June 1993 and I’m halfway through a roadtrip that will kill a friendship. I’ve fled the campground for the beach, trudging through the sandy tunnel under the highway with a notebook and a copy of An Atlas of the Difficult World. Because I can’t imagine spending fifteen dollars to tour Hearst Castle, my roadtrip companion has gone off to do it herself, in a huff. I take my chair, my notebook, my Adrienne Rich volumes and head out to the beach, free for two or three hours to read and write.

The trip is going very badly, and I can’t quite articulate why, even to myself. I am 29 years old, in the summer between a masters and Phd program.  I’ve started a novel, and been admitted to a PhD program where I hope I’ll have time to finish it. I’m terrified of taking on more debt but stopping now means I’ll have to get a “real” job to pay off the MA I’ve just finished, and if I do that I doubt I’ll finish my novel. I’m betting on myself in a way that seems outrageous. I’m broke, but I’ve always been broke, so I’m used to it, but my friend is not, and although I told her before we started that I didn’t have any money, she seems startled by how little money no money actually is.


Massive People / 4 Comments
April 4th, 2012 / 2:14 pm

Chiasmus Press is Looking For a Managing Editor

chiasmus press is slowly unfurling out of hiatus. we have a big idea about our reincarnation and they want you.


want to run a nationally recognized micro indie press. like head honcho big mamma jamma.

want to work with Lidia Yuknavitch.

want to reinvent online, print publication, and cross genre media projects.

big time digital savvy and skills, including web, blog and podcasting.

large experience with alternative press world–all facets.

impeccable literary and media counter culture taste.

crazy good organization skills.

a relentless desire to correct culture.

alternative forms of marketing do not frighten you. in fact, they turn you on.

you have big ideas everyone else thinks are nutso.

it’s likely you drink and enter altered states on occasion.

compensation negotiable. if you know what “micro indie press” means then you have realistic expectations.

it is not mandatory that you live in Portlandia, though it would be helpful. We have heard of Skype and shit before though, so you know, we are down.

if this is YOU, send a 500 word description detailing your experience and desire and why we should pick YOU to: lidiamiles at by April 15.

yes, really.

Presses / 4 Comments
April 1st, 2012 / 3:54 pm

RIP Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich, a pioneering feminist poet and essayist who challenged what she considered to be the myths of the American dream, has died. She was 82.

Author News / 6 Comments
March 28th, 2012 / 5:34 pm


I am drowning in books. I  want these books to be read. If you are interested in any of these titles, I will send them to you (one per person). If you write a review of the book, I will publish it on the PANK blog. Some of these have been lightly used but the pages aren’t sticky or anything. If you want a book, claim it in the comments AND e-mail me your mailing address (roxane at and I will get it out to you sometime this week. Seriously, though, email me your address. I can’t track you down.  Enjoy! (These books can only be shipped within the United States unless you want to pay for shipping. Sorry!)


Cream of Kohlrabi by Floyd Skloot

Nothing Can Make Me Do This by David Huddle

The Postmortal by Drew Magary

Umberto Umberto Lamberto Lamberto Lamberto by Gianni Rodari

LA Is the Capital of Kansas by Richard Meltzer

Luminarium by Alex Shakar

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

One of These Things Is Not Like the Other by Stephanie Johnson

Traffic With Macbeth by Larissa Szporluk

Mama’s Homesick Pie by Donia Bijan

The Best Of (What’s Left of Heaven) by Mairéad Byrne

She’d Waited Millennia by Lizzie Hutton

A Man of Glass & All The Ways We Have Failed by JA Tyler

The Hieroglyphics by Michael Stewart

The Nostalgia Echo by Mickey Hess

The Harbor by Ernest Poole

The Girl With the Crooked Nose by Ted Botha

Love and Shame and Love by Peter Orner

Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron

The Buenos Aires Quintet by Manuel Vazquez Montalban

Pocket Kings by Ted Heller

Dead Man Upright by Derek Raymond

The Coldest Night by Robert Olmstead

Until the Next Time by Kevin Fox

Dogma by Lars Iyer (2)

Radio Iris by Anne Marie Kinney

Red Weather by Pauls Toutonghi

Livability by Jon Raymond

Walking With the Comrades by Arundhati Roy

God’s Hotel by Victoria Sweet

Hurricane Story by Jennifer Shaw

The Watery Part of the World by Michael Parker

A Very Minor Prophet by James Bernard Frost

Random / 70 Comments
March 25th, 2012 / 2:32 pm

Goodbye to All That

When I was a kid, my mother assigned homework to my brothers and I in addition to any homework we may have been assigned in school. My mother’s homework was generally more of a priority. Some of her assignments came from Little Professor workbooks but most of her assignments came from the Encyclopedia Britannica, which she made us read, a lot. I have, in my lifetime, read the entire compendium. I know things.

My mother would give us a page range and we’d read and write little reports on what we learned. Other times we had to do assignments that reflected critical thinking—comparing and contrasting different topics, creating new entries or using existing entries as the starting point for a story or article of some kind. At times, I did not understand why we were being forced to read that stupid thing, but I know now—my mother wanted, in her way, for us to understand that knowledge is important, that knowledge is a tool for better thinking.


Random / 33 Comments
March 14th, 2012 / 1:00 am

Do As Franzen Does. Do What You Like

In some ways, we’ve brought this on ourselves; it is a slippery slope. First you wonder what Angelina Jolie had for breakfast because she was so great in that one movie or whatever and then you’re buying cereal and thinking, “Does Oprah eat Raisin Bran?” Eventually, you even start to give a damn about what famous writers think about the weather or, say, social networking, and someone like Jonathan Franzen revels in his dislike of Twitter and other means of social networking from his Important Writer perch and we respond because if Franzen hates Twitter does he hate us too? The angst is unbearable and yet it’s all sort of inevitable.

Franzen’s A Great American Writer and all but I don’t give a much of a damn about his opinions on anything (see: Edith Wharton obvi). Or I do. Is it really surprising that Franzen doesn’t care for Facebook or Twitter? His overall comportment does not suggest an affinity for the levity of social networking. I can’t really say I love Facebook, myself. It has become increasingly hard to make sense of the interface and I keep getting invited to parties and readings in Bali and Temecula and I don’t live in those places so the experience is, at best, fragmented. At the same time, I don’t need to proselytize my dislike unless I’m on Twitter. Who cares? My opinion doesn’t matter nor does Franzen’s, though he is Very Fancy so in the calculus of mattering, his irrelevant opinion is less irrelevant than mine. Math.

J. Franz talking smack about Twitter, though, thems fighting words.


Random & Web Hype / 67 Comments
March 6th, 2012 / 3:13 pm