Interviews – Kerry Holjes as Managing Editor

March 10, 2015 | By | Reply More

Duotrope allows managing editors to answer questions that are very interesting. Kerry Holjes was senior editor for When Women Waken for part of 2013 and managing editor for the three issues in 2014. These were her answers.


Question: Describe what you publish in 25 characters or less.

Kerry Holjes: Women’s Literary Journal 


Question: What other current publications (or publishers) do you admire most?

Kerry Holjes: 13th Moon, Crone, New England Review, Southern Review, Asheville Review, Persimmon Tree, Carolina Quarterly, Ploughshares, Kenyon Review. 


Question: Who are your favorite writers?


Kerry Holjes: It’s impossible to list all of my favorite authors, but let’s start with Flannery O”Connor, Carson McCullers, Pat Conroy, Tony Morrison, Camus, Lee Smith, William Faulkner, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Billy Collins, Dorianne Laux, Jaki Shelton Green, Robert Frost, Al Maginnes, Sally Buckner, Debra Kaufman, Richard Krawiec, Traci Brimhall, and hundreds more that don’t jump to mind at the moment. My list of poets grows almost daily.


Question: What sets your publication apart from others that publish similar material?

Kerry Holjes: We are dedicated to providing a voice to women from around the globe. Our purpose is to create a supportive place for women writers and artists to share their work. We embrace the established, honored voices in our midst as well as new, emerging voices. We want our contributors to feel as though they have entered a sisterhood of creativity. In that same spirit, we want our readers to feel the connectivity and warmth in When Women Waken that a welcoming sisterhood provides. As the managing editor, I try to provide guidance to new writers. It saddens me that so many journals are impersonal in their communications with artists and authors. It’s important to me that we find the time to give a more personal approach in our interactions.

Question: What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to your publication?

Kerry Holjes: Go to our website and read our submission guidelines and follow them. Each issue has a theme. It’s important that people only send work that supports the theme for the submission period to which they’re responding. Also, we’re proud of our global standing. Every issue contains work from around the world. As such, we want to know the contributor’s geographic location. In addition, our onsite issues provide spaces for comments under each piece. We encourage our readers to provide feedback whenever they’re affected by what they just read or viewed. It’s valuable to the author or artist to receive such comments. For that reason, we insist that our contributors participate in leaving comments in prior issues.


Question: Describe the ideal submission.

Kerry Holjes: The ideal submission is original in content and perspective and fits within the parameters of the theme for the targeted issue. We encourage fresh voices and prefer to see work that isn’t filled with cliches. We accept essays and other prose, but we limit the word count to 1,000. The ideal prose submission stays within that limit. Although our journal is dedicated to publishing female artists and authors, we encourage submissions that can be appreciated by a non-gender-specific audience.


Question: What do submitters most often get wrong about your submissions process?

Kerry Holjes: We automatically reject work that doesn’t honor the theme for the issue in question. It’s important to note, though, that every theme is elastic. For instance, in our Knowing theme, there was great latitude for subject matter. We try to find themes that provide myriad interpretations.


Question: How much do you want to know about the person submitting to you?

Kerry Holjes: We don’t request cover letters, but we do request bios in two formats: a short paragraph bio and a 2-line bio.


Question: How much of a piece do you read before making the decision to reject it?
Do you read every piece to the end, or can you generally tell if the piece isn’t right for you within the first few paragraphs or pages?

Kerry Holjes: Our review process requires that several of our editors/readers read the entire piece and comment on whether or not they think the piece is suitable for the issue, and if not, explain why. I personally read every submission received, and I don’t always agree with the initial votes. When I disagree, I pass the piece to other editors who haven’t read it and ask for their advice.


Question: What additional evaluations, if any, does a piece go through before it is accepted?

Kerry Holjes: Pieces that don’t immediately get voted into an issue will be evaluated by several more people before being rejected. It’s important to us that we give each piece a fair critique. Often the editors will comment that they would accept a piece if such and such were changed—and they state the condition. If I agree with them, I’ll contact the author and initiate an editing give-and-take, suggesting revisions. It’s then up to the author to accept or reject our request.


Question: What is a day in the life of an editor like for you?

Kerry Holjes: It’s rare for two days to be the same, and my process for the day is largely determined by where we are in the preparation for the current issue. During the submission and reading period, I’m usually reading, editing, discussing submissions with editors and readers and interacting with authors and artists. I basically live at my computer, and the days are always long. The submission period and the month that follows the close of submissions is exceptionally demanding because that’s when we make our final selections.


Question: How important do you feel it is for publishers to embrace modern technologies?

Kerry Holjes: I think modern technology is wonderful in many ways, but I don’t want When Women Waken to use services that remove the personal touch from the review process. If a writer is only notified of an acceptance or a rejection without comment, then that writer is denied an opportunity for growth. It’s extremely important to us to give as much back to our contributors as time allows. After all, they are allowing us into their world via their work. I personally think it’s rude to use a computerized service to notify a person that their work has been rejected and then post that rejection information online, so that any other publisher can see the name of the piece that was rejected. Human nature being what it is, that type of information is bound to prejudice an editor against a given piece. And more than likely, the author has no idea their rejection history is available online.


As of January 2015, Kerry Holjes’ work with When Women Waken ended. She began working with SistaWRITE in the fall, with Jaki Shelton Green and Melissa Hassard. Kerry made a substantial contribution to the journal and to the contributors with whom she worked.

Category: Interviews, When Women Waken Literary Journal

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