This conversation has been edited for concision and clarity.
Stella Cabot Wilson: I want to start out by saying thank you for talking to me, and also how much I appreciate that you are willing to widely discuss your experience editing Entropy’s Where to Submit. I’d love to hear a little bit about how you ended up being the editor for the page.
Justin Greene: I was entering the third year of my MFA at Louisiana State, and I was editor in chief of New Delta Review. I was in the process of passing that position along to someone else, and I was like, I’m really going to miss this position. I really love editing. I love having that direct connection with authors and other people in the community, so I asked myself: How do I maintain that? Of course, you don’t need an institutional affiliation to do those things, but I wanted something that felt more, for lack of a better word, solid.
I saw that Dennis James Sweeney, in the most recent edition of Where to Submit at the time, put out a call saying, “If someone else is interested in joining, reach out to me.” So I decided to go for it. It was an interesting decision on my part because, as I wrote in the final Where to Submit, this sort of work is absolutely not my skill set. It’s something that I struggle extensively with, anything regarding planning, list making, executive function—I can’t keep a to-do list for myself, so I wondered how I was going to keep this list! But I figured: I got through NDR; I can throw myself into this. I thought it was a good way to find that stability again, and also that personal connection to the community I was looking to maintain. I worked with Dennis, and then he passed the list on to me. And here we are! I’ve worked on the list for about three and a half years.
SCW: I reached out to you because I sawyour Twitter thread last November, in which you quoted from Entropy’s About page: “We like to think of ourselves as more than just a magazine or a website, but also as a community space.” I’d love to learn about what it was like to be a part of a digital publication that really emphasizes community and how Where to Submit relates to that vision.
JG: The Where to Submit list is a resource that . . . I don’t want to say it’s unparalleled, but it is really extensive and also free. Having that kind of accessibility has always been really important to me. That ethos, that it’s truly about community. It was incredibly helpful to me before I was even a part of Entropy, just as a writer wanting to submit, and it has still been really helpful since. I see Entropy, through the list and more generally, as supporting community interests without prioritizing capital or clout or whatever, and, personally, the list allowed me to interact with all of these different editors and discover these different presses that I or our readers might not have been familiar with otherwise.
Over my time editing Where to Submit, I’ve gotten to see all of these different journals begin, first reaching out by saying, “Hey, this is our first issue, we’d love to be added to the list,” and then by the next list they’d tell me, “Oh my God, we got so many submissions by being included.” It was so special to have been able to play a part in facilitating these connections. I guess all of this is a circuitous way of saying that Entropy is invested in the well-being of writers and helps to forge connections between prospective writers, prospective readers, and new publications. That’s very exciting to me, and I also feel it’s very important.
SCW: You know, that’s not something I’ve considered before—since I also came to the list looking for places to submit, I haven’t thought about how important a list is for publications looking to find new readers as well. How have you seen the literary landscape change over your years editing the page?
JG: It’s always been interesting seeing the different sorts of names pop up on the list: lots of “new,” lots of “reviews,” lots of “quarterlies,”—the names tend to change over time and there’s different trends at different times. It’s been really fun to see how that language changes over the years—I wish I had a little graph that I could share. More substantially, a change I’ve noticed is that fees have increased in small increments. I don’t have quantitative data to share, but it’s definitely something I’ve noticed. If there’s a prize, the award amount does tend to go up as well, but there has been a proliferation of journals charging fees, and especially prizes that keep getting more expensive to enter.
Over the past couple of years as well, I have seen an increase in places that have shut down really abruptly. We have a master doc of everything that has ever been on the list, and, for each list, I go back to that master doc to make sure I didn’t miss any publications that are listed as having been open during that submissions period. More and more often, I’ve been noticing certain places on the master doc that have broken websites and don’t seem to be publishing. I think all of these things say something about the nature of the landscape: how much energy, how much money, how much time it takes to start and maintain a journal or press. Of course, the pandemic has affected things a lot too.
SCW: This is a tough question, but do you have any sort of particular hopes and dreams for this industry? Is there some sort of utopian ideal you’d like to see us reach for?
JG: No submission fees would be great, though realistically I don’t see that happening. But I don’t think that anyone’s financial situation should preclude them from submitting their work, and there are a lot of publications that have the financial means to go fee-free, but don’t.
Also, I have to say that when I’m reading, I see a lot of the same names. Like, okay, here’s this person again who is really trending right now. And that’s cool—I’m really happy to see their writing and success! But sometimes I can’t help but think how many other writers are making really great work but haven’t hit their publication stride yet. I appreciate a good curation, but this also makes me wish that there were more space, infinite space—which is obviously a very utopian thought.
SCW: What does being a “good literary citizen” mean to you?
JG: I kind of hate the term literary citizen because citizen, to me, feels predicated on membership, on a dynamic of belonging or being excluded. I’m maybe being pedantic or whatever, but for being a good literary . . . whatever, whatever term we use, I think it’s important to concertedly uplift the work of others in the community, to uplift new writing and publications and just show up, whether virtually or in person. See what’s going on in your place of residence: You don’t have to be in New York or somewhere huge to get involved. Don’t think only of yourself and your own upward trajectory. Be cognizant of your positionality, of the systems you navigate and how you’re able to navigate them. If you’re a press or magazine, support your authors. Publicize and, ideally, pay them.
I think it’s important to concertedly uplift the work of others in the community.
SCW: As I mentioned earlier, I first stumbled across the list when I was really at the beginning of my own writing journey. I felt like I needed to start submitting, and I just had no idea of where to begin! And then, like so many others, I found Where to Submit and felt as if it gave me somewhere to start. What are your recommendations for other people that might just be beginning their submission journeys?
JG: Even though I’ve been the one organizing this list for the past three and a half years, I’m actually a terrible person to be answering this question because I have huge submission anxiety! I don’t submit nearly as much as I think I should or people probably think I do. I think the list is a great resource, but it can also be a potentially overwhelming resource, at least for me. Maybe it’s because I spend so much time looking at all the publications, but I definitely get overwhelmed. I’m happy it’s helpful for people, and it’s been helpful for me too, but there is that side of it as well.
Now that the list is coming to an end, there are other places you can go to find opportunities. Look on Twitter—maybe someone that you follow is publishing in a great magazine that you’ve never heard of. Obviously—or maybe not obviously, I try not to say that anything is obvious—don’t just pick a random publication. Don’t submit somewhere just to submit somewhere; that’s a waste of everyone’s time. Read the guidelines! Format your pages correctly. Submit the right number of poems, don’t list every publication you’ve ever had in your cover letter, and be curious. Return to Where to Submit because it’s a great place to start, but don’t feel like it’s the only resource out there.
SCW: Can we get into the nitty-gritty? How do you go about putting together each list?
JG: The way I would go about putting the list together is first to pull up the previous list—the one that came out the quarter before—the list that went out at the same time last year, and the master doc. The first list will have submissions that are still ongoing, the past year’s list will have the publications that are theoretically open at the same time, and the master doc helps me to catch anything I might miss between the other two. It’s a really time-consuming practice, and not foolproof by any means, but that’s generally how we go about it.
In terms of discovering new places, I don’t allocate research periods because I don’t have time for that. Twitter is what I personally use the most. I’ll see an editor or peer share something that came out, and I’ll go and visit the publication to see what they are about. Slowly, that way, I find new things to put on the following list. Editors also email me to get on the list or make sure they are on the list, so my inbox is always a mess of hundreds of emails . . . which of course I wait for the last minute to do because, again, all of this is very much not my natural skill set. I’m a PhD student with too much to do. [Laughter] But, even with all of these things, I’m still going to miss places. No one should ever expect it to be a comprehensive resource.
SCW: During my time at Catapult, I’ve put together a few shorter lists and it’s so incredibly time-consuming. I’ve always thought to myself, I don’t know how they do this! Is there any advice you have to share for publications or individuals that might want to create something similar to Where to Submit in the future?
JG: So I’ve gotten quite a few DMs and emails pertaining to that. I do feel like Janice Lee has to be an important part of that conversation because this started with her vision. So shout-out to Janice! And Dennis too!
I would say the first thing is this: Don’t underestimate how much work it is and how much time it will take. It is so time-consuming; the week before the list goes out, I’m probably spending five hours a day on the list. But I’d also ask people to consider what exactly they are trying to create. Is it Where to Submit 2.0, or is it something else? Where to Submit 2.0 is a very different conversation because it comes with a certain ethos, an ethos of community engagement, of being accessible in as many respects as possible. So I would say, if you do decide to make something similar and you charge for it, don’t call it Where to Submit. And also don’t take it on to gain clout. I hope people put their own spins on it and it can keep developing. Submitting is scary and submitting is arduous and we’re just writers trying to do right by each other. The fact that this resource even existed and was around for as long as it was is a testament to this.
SCW: What’s next for you? Are there any particular projects you are currently working on?
JG: I recently started a journal calledKi, which opened up on November 15, 2021. It was so cool for me to be able to put it on the list and to be on the other side, hoping that it helps us connect to writers and a new readership. Ki is a companion publication, overseen by the editorial board ofQui Parle, which is an academic journal. But Ki, which means “what” in Punjabi, is really invested in asking questions like What is critical thinking? What is criticality and what is it capable of? Basically we are trying to take poems, stories, and other “creative” forms seriously as modes of critical thought, as being of critical import. Anyone can submit—you don’t have to be an academic, you don’t have to be well versed in critical theory.