Interview with Michael Palmer of Iron Horse Literary Review

Posted by Andrew Nauffts, GD Art Editor for 3.2

Recently we had the pleasure of sitting down with Michael Palmer, one of the managing editors of Iron Horse Literary Review (IHLR). Our conversation ranged in topic from the magazine’s past, present, to the nature of lit mags, to Michael’s goals for Iron Horse. He was eager to talk about his role as managing editor and the world of literary magazines to our class of emerging writers and editors, and we learned a lot by speaking with him.

Iron Horse Literary Review was founded in 1999 at Texas Tech University to “bring the literary arts to west Texas.” Iron Horse gives exposure to established and emerging writers of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Iron Horse is especially interested in receiving submissions that are unconventional and original, and that challenge the boundaries of established literary art. This was a point that Michael eagerly picked up on in the interview. As a creative non-fiction writer, he is on the look out for lyric pieces–“Things that are experimental, unusual-that hum on the language level. I’m always trying to solicit that kind of writing,” he said, emphasizing the need for more CNF submissions.

From top to bottom: Skyping with Michael Palmer & the staff holding our copies of IHLR!

From top to bottom: Skyping with Michael Palmer & the staff holding our copies of IHLR!

However, IHLR receives hundreds of submissions per year (nine months, actually) for a potential six issues they release every August, October, December, February, April, and June. A lot of work, care, and attention goes into creating these issues. Iron Horse prides itself on paying writers for their work as well as offering them extended bios with room to discuss the work’s genesis. IHLR also sends writers personalized rejection letters when a piece is declined. In every case, at least two associate editors read the submissions and leave commentary, before it is passed on to the genre editor to make the final decision. The personal rejection is a commitment to writers that Michael both appreciates and laments. Citing his “writers empathy,” he told us that it is “soul-sucking” to dole out that kind of sting. But he always is constructive and encouraging and “prompt” in his responses, something that is important to him. He finds the most rewarding part of his job is producing a good journal, and giving new writers their start, which he says is “thrilling, the best part of my job. ”

Lastly we discussed a couple of universal topics in the world of literature in the Digital Age. We touched on the role of social media and its value for literary journals. Michael finds it important in promoting the journal and also in communicating with the writing community. There’s also the issue of print versus digital–an issue that threatens every print publication today, and Iron Horse is no exception. Michael believes that the review will eventually transition more of its work to the internet, but will try to retain some kind of print presence (if that is a thing at all in the future). IHLR would like to see an increase in subscribers and is taking steps to increase readership. This seems like a worthy goal, and quite reachable too, as IHLR is an impressive journal with a great variety in its poems, stories and essays.

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