December’s Lit Mag Spotlight is honoring New Madrid, the national journal of the low-residency MFA program at Murray State University. While celebrating their roots in the Ohio River Valley, New Madrid also aims to showcase new and established talents across all genres.
CONTEST: Leave a comment on this blog post by December 23 to enter to win a one-year subscription to New Madrid, one hat with the Murray State University MFA program logo, and one New Madrid XL T-shirt (pictured below)! This contest is now closed. Congratulations to our winner, Tom! Thank you to all who participated.
If you subscribe to New Madrid after reading this interview, you’ll receive a two-year subscription for the price of a one-year subscription ($15.00).
Let the Q&A begin!
Give us the lowdown on your journal’s mission.
New Madrid is the national journal of the low-residency MFA program at Murray State University. Our mission is to publish quality work in all literary genres by established and emerging writers. We celebrate our roots in the Ohio River Valley. At the same time, we strive to be a journal of national consequence. New Madrid also allows us to offer literary internships to our MFA students, with the opportunity to break into bookreviewing.
Describe your ideal submission in 15 words or less.
We seek submissions of unimpeachable literary merit—work that is fresh, committed, and formally aware.
Tell us about a piece you recently published that got the staff really excited. Why did you love it? Why did it strike a chord?
We all loved “The Story of the Blue Ring” by Sandra Simonds, which appeared in our Summer 2014 issue. Its opening line is, “Daniel is teaching me, my younger sister Sylvie and my cousin Lailah how to catch crabs with a chicken neck.” Reading it was like stepping back into our own strange and inimitable worlds on the cusp of adolescence. As Simonds writes, “I knew then that there was no going back, that there was some invisible line between girlhood and womanhood that you could only see once you had crossed it.” The thrill of the memoir is walking that invisible line. “The Story of the Blue Ring” reminded us, too, that boredom can be a gift.
Regarding submissions: What’s the most common turnoff that you encounter (in terms of craft)?
Bad grammar! A dangling participle in the first sentence is generally a good sign that we can move on. Dale Ray Phillips, our fiction editor, often recites a mantra that we have all taken to heart: Take care of the sentence, and the sentence will take care of you.
What’s the most common oversight (in terms of submission guidelines)?
Unfortunately, we have to turn away many submissions because writers disregard our submission periods (which, we admit, are a little off the beaten path—August 15 to October 15 for our (themed) winter issue; January 15 to March 15 for our (open) summer issue).
Why is your journal awesome?
In an era when many journals are complicit with writers who are merely out to “strut their stuff,” we continue to insist on asking the important questions, especially in our special issues. For example, in our issue dedicated to the theme of “The Great Hunger,” we reexamined the legacy of the Great Famine in Ireland between 1845 and 1852, with the aim of calling attention to the gulf between the rich and the poor today. In 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 14.5 percent of the U.S. population—17.6 million households—qualified as food insecure, and forty-nine million Americans lived in food-insecure households.
Where can readers find your submission guidelines?
On our website!
Where did you get the name New Madrid?
Our journal takes its name (accent on the first syllable of the second word) from the New Madrid seismic zone, which falls within the central Mississippi Valley and extends through western Kentucky. Between 1811 and 1812, four earthquakes with magnitudes greater than 7.0 struck this region—changing the course of the Mississippi River, creating Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee, and ringing church bells as far away as Boston. As editors, we hope to have a seismic impact too!
Contest: Leave a comment on this blog post by December 23 to win a one-year subscription, New Madrid T-shirt, and a Murray State University MFA program hat! This contest is now closed. Congratulations to our winner, Tom! Thank you to all who participated.