Tori! I’m so excited to chat. I know you, but for everyone who doesn’t, tell us who you are and what you have going on.
My name is Victoria-Lynn Bell, and I’m the current Editor-in-Chief of The Helix magazine. The Helix is a completely undergraduate-run literary and art magazine on the Central Connecticut State University campus. Since its first publication in 1977, The Helix has published one magazine every academic semester. We accept literature and art from all over the globe; our latest edition features writing from our own students here at CCSU as well as pieces from India, Turkey, and New Zealand!
That is an impressively far reach. Congratulations on being able to work with such a diverse population of writers. What’s the editorial process like on your side of the table? What’s one thing that makes a submission jump out at you?
Finding quality submissions is the best part of this job. Our team is not looking for anything in a specific style or genre. What really draws us in is a strong lead to a piece or a poem and attention to detail and craft. We look for pieces that we haven’t seen before, something unique and executed well. When an author marries originality and quality, you know you’ve found a true gem.
And when you find that gem I bet it’s amazing. On the flipside, is there anything that is an immediate disqualifier?
Not reading through the submission guidelines. This is something that has nothing to do with the quality of the writing or the artwork, but unfortunately causes some of our submissions to go unopened. If we receive multiple pieces in one document or open a poem that’s formatted in papyrus font for example, we reject the submission and encourage the submitter to try again when they’ve adjusted their piece. Reading through submission guidelines shows us that the artist or author is serious about their work appearing in our magazine.
Which they should be. In your time at Helix, what has been something that you’ve learned that you wish you had known when you started?
Something I didn’t expect was how long it would take up to go through our submission queue. I’ve heard horror stories about publishing companies with tangible slush piles—mountains of submissions that teeter by intern desks and constantly shift like a mud slide—and working at a literary mag is a micro version of that. Our Submittable portal opened about a year ago, and it was more successful than we had anticipated. In an effort to make sure authors didn’t have to wait more than eight months to hear back about their submission, we had to read through a lot of pieces each week.
Was there anything that was sort of eye-opening? Seeing things from the editor’s chair versus behind the writer’s screen?
As a writer, I’m constantly struggling to find ways to improve my pieces. It hard to see the strengths of your own writing when you scrutinize it so closely. During an initial read of a piece I’m reviewing for the magazine however, I find that I fall into a natural balance of enjoying the piece and analyzing whether it will work for The Helix. Seeing what works and what doesn’t work in other’s writing has helped me make decisions with my own craft.
So what would be the most challenging part of the job?
Being Editor-in-Chief is like being a spokesperson, a ringmaster, and an editor all in one. Juggling tasks is the most challenging part of the job. You have to be great at communication and knowledgeable about running a team of editors while communicating with authors and artists. In the weeks leading up to publication, I can be emailing our faculty advisor, meeting with the graphic designer, and editing pieces in the same day.
An impressive feat. Kudos. Taking a step away from the editor’s role, are you working on any projects in your downtime?
When am I not working on a project is a better question! But in all seriousness, I have a few things in the works, including a novel and a collection of poetry and nonfiction essays.
So, I have a very important question. What’s your weapon of choice in the zombie apocalypse?
What am awesome question! My weapon of choice would be a bow and arrows. In a fight-or-flight situation I tend to always flee if I can. A bow and arrows would mean I could protect myself from a distance while still looking completely bad ass. Think Robin Hood meets Daryl from The Walking Dead.
Okay, so before you go, rapid fire time. Answer without thinking. Ready? Set. Go!
Yeah, that is a God-awful word. Thanks for dropping in and shedding some light on the process of being an editor-in-chief. Congratulations with the success you’ve had with Helix and I can’t wait to read more of your work. Where can people get in touch with you if they want to find out more?
I have an Instagram @indexblog and blog tinybitofeverything.net and can be reached through my email firstname.lastname@example.org