Thursday, September 2, 2010

Talking with Nicole and Denise Bouchard Editors of Literary Magazine, The Write Place At The Write Time Followed With Live Chat at 2 Today!

Have desk, will writeImage by Bright Meadow via FlickrToday, I'm so happy to have Nicole and Denise Bouchard from The Write Place At the Write Time site and to share that you have indeed succeeded in what you set out to do, in my opinion!

Thank you so much for spending some time here at Book Reader's Heaven where we’re all about authors and what they’ve brought to the literary world. Readers may visit this site by clicking the title of this article!

"Community" seems to be a large part of what your publication is about. How do you correspond with your writers and what do you feel is most important about the editor/writer relationship?

Nicole- I’ve always felt that the editors need to work with the writer and not go forward making significant changes without their feedback and consent. It’s an issue that I’ve witnessed and experienced myself, so I and my staff take special pains to work closely with the authentic voice of the writer. It’s important to remember first and foremost, the story is theirs. It is simply a matter of using my outside perspective, skills and experience to help uncover and highlight what truths the author wants to convey... to give them the feedback that helps them to say what they really meant. Similar to an archeological excavation, the bones of the story are there; we, as editors, use fine tools to brush away the surface impurities and preserve or reconstruct the fossils so that they are in their best form, all pieces cohesively assembled; giving the reader every clue they need to imagine the circumstance in their real, present day lives.

It’s a process that requires meticulous attention to detail and a certain tenderness in handling the material. The human touch, constructive feedback and the encouraging of inherent strengths are such important elements. Writing is such a personal process. When you hand something so intimate and sacred to another, you want to know that those hands are not only capable, but caring as well.

Many, many of our writers have become dear friends and in our correspondence we are constantly learning, sharing and connecting through mutual life experiences, literature and the arts. I feel honored and blessed when writers truly open up in their work. I’m often reading e-mails with a range of emotions on my face as I get to know the people behind the art- laugh, smile, cry and relate to them.

I was intrigued from the beginning with the artwork throughout your site, I totally enjoyed it, by the way, but would love to know what's behind its inclusion...

N- When I began the process of sketching how I would want the magazine to look, I knew that I wanted it to be visually warm and inviting to echo the sentiment of how we’d be running the publication.

Our logo, the dove painting on our home page with the branch in its mouth is the ultimate symbol of this communication. I'd always intended to start a literary periodical much later in my life. Yet I was called to this venture when I finished that painting. I was certain that it would be the logo, certain as I whisked it home from the gallery show it'd been featured in (thrilled that it hadn't been purchased yet and taken from my possession), certain as I hung it above my desk. Sketches of ideas, visual plans, contacts, counsel filling notebooks.

I saw many templates, did a great deal of research and then, in a sense, tossed out the rulebook. I chose to design every aspect- from the larger color palette to the font color/size/style. Having seen many black and white formats, I knew it was a risk--but I thought, If someone is going to take time out of their day to visit our site, shouldn’t they feel soothed by the colors on the screen? Shouldn’t it be personalized rather than so many of the institutional layouts they’ve been looking at all day? Shouldn’t it look like fun?

And then I received an incredible photo submission- one of our first submissions in fact long before the first issue launched. What I needed/wanted arrived to knock on my cyber door. We still use the work of that husband/wife team of photographers and beyond being fantastic people, I’m always amazed by their work and how it enhances the magazine.

I hand pick images, often seek out artists whose work speaks to me and without trying too hard to choose visual themes for each issue, the layouts come together in a beautiful way. Luckily, the reader/writer feedback on the aesthetic mirrors what I had meant to do--to warmly bring people together in a cozy, inspiring atmosphere.

Denise- Not because it's our magazine, but the beautiful artwork brings everyone's words to life. There are many writers' magazines out there; the artwork helps to make ours unique and simply beautiful. We take great pleasure in finding the right piece of work to enhance different sections. We also like the idea of helping to get our artists out there as well as our writers. The feedback on the artwork has been phenomenal.

This issue we came upon a new artist at the proverbial 'right place at the right time' and Nicole paired his work with the Frances Mayes interview, gracing it with a Tuscan farmhouse and this has received enormous praise. How divine!

I found it interesting that your nonfiction takes the form of memoir "Our Stories" and am curious how this section came about?

D- When I first came upon the idea of a non-fiction section for the magazine, I was writing about an experience of mine which had been serendipitous. I titled the piece 'spiritual emergency'. It was one of those times in life when I needed an answer and that exact answer came to me in the most amazing way. I love it when I'm in touch with the intangible and it's as if I'm not alone.

I thought, wouldn't it be great if we could share the personal stories of our lives in a safe and warm atmosphere? Our writers are a very special group of people, so I knew I could bare my soul and not feel judged. I knew by their letters to us that they had much to share as well. It was then that I decided to call it "Our Stories". We've all been writing about the good, the bad, the ugly and the hysterically funny ever since and we've received great feedback on it from readers as well.

This section portrays our own personal journeys which make us unique but keeps our voices authentic. Each one is a personal vignette; a portrait of a moment in our lives. From a past in Ireland, a dying father's last moments, a monster retching and running away through a hotel courtyard, or a hidden emotional treasure discovered when cleaning out a basement.

Our writers have created a beautiful word collage here and it has become more than I initially imagined. I love it.

What is your percentage of acceptance for submissions versus rejections; do you offer feedback on both accepted materials and rejected materials? What's your editing process in terms of getting an accepted piece 'print ready'?

N- We have a pretty fair balance between our acceptance and rejection percentages and of course it shifts unpredictably issue to issue as the authors/submissions vary. There are different factors to consider when there isn’t an immediate acceptance. There is the publication’s needs to consider--we do not publish certain genres or themes and we need to keep our readership’s wants/needs/expectations in mind, there is the author themselves and our wish that they find the ideal place for their work that matches their voice/style/content, there is the overall quality of the work and that is a large umbrella of standards concerning character, plot arc, description, literary devices, grammar, chosen vocabulary, emotive power (the capacity to make the reader feel or relate) etc... and all of these either fit into a working equation, with minimal work can get to that equation, or it simply doesn’t seem to work. We do generally give a good deal of feedback on submissions. That said, if an accepted or rejected submission doesn’t particularly require the feedback, then the correspondence is briefer. The editing process of an accepted piece looks at the story from many different facets, angles and directions to see if, as described above, it fits into a working equation and has lasting power to leave the reader with a lingering impression. The story goes through a ‘work out’ between ourselves and the writer and is then released in its fittest form.

Now, tell me, how is it, really, to work as mother and daughter???

D- I love, love, love working with my daughter. It has become commonplace for me to say "I wish I could meet with or interview this person" and BAM! it's done. That's how Nicole works; she's a genie in every sense of the word. Is it 'uncool' to say we have a great relationship? Nicole was born talking and we talk as we're working all day long, still having more to say at lunch. We are one another's editors so we can yell, "Help!" and help arrives instantaneously. Do we always agree? Mostly yes, because we often see things the same way but someone has had to referee once or twice! She often lets my deadlines slide and we have a standing joke that I'm the only writer who causes trouble!

N- In the writing world, it’s always being said that if you have someone to bounce ideas off of that you trust, whose work/opinions you respect, who is capable of understanding you and your writing well enough to give great feedback, then you’ve got it made. They just forgot to add the "if they’re absolute fun" part; luckily I can say all of this of my colleague who happens to also be my mother. Always inspiring me and bringing to light the best of my creative impulse, it felt very natural to choose to work together. We compliment one another in our work and that’s something that we’ve done for as long as I can remember. Our plays and poetry collaborations go all the way back to the early years when rainy days paired with pen and paper created enchanted worlds full of rhythmic pentameter and whimsical characters the burst off the page to entertain.

There was always a rich learning environment of amazing books and discussions at home to supplement school years. I approached my long-time mentor and best friend with the concept of this publication, honored by her acceptance, and it’s been magic ever since. We can laugh like we’re drunk (though we’re not), brainstorm, creatively problem solve, delve deeply to find the pulse of a story, toss papers at each other saying "Do it again, could be better" and still find time to chat about relationships, contentedly exchange complaints over chocolate and shop and debate HGTV as mothers and daughters do. Both parents are a constant source of motivation, inspiration and support in my life. It is those grounding principles that I carry with me into my work.

Is there anything that’s been said by your colleagues and readers in the last two years of the publication that made you feel that you had done what you set out to do?

N- In our recent Two Year Anniversary Issue, we posted feedback from our writers, readers and colleagues on the Commentary and Reflections page. Here are just a few of the comments that make every single moment of work on the publication worthwhile:

Summer 2008 (Premier Issue) “Your debut issue is really impressive. I'm pleased with the hard work you and your staff have done to create such an attractive venue for writers and artists”- Vince Corvaia

Spring 2009 “You have done a fabulous job creating an exciting yet comfortable publication. It will raise the standard in the world of online publishing”- Cheryl Sommese

Autumn 2009 “Congratulations on attracting all this wonderful new talent and again I feel very blessed to be included amongst such gifted writers. The fall issue is a credit to your own talents and the energy and passion that you have put into the growth process of each issue. Thanks to you and Denise for all your hard work. You have created a real gem and it's getting more attractive as it ages”- Pat Greene

Current- “Thank you so much for your support and encouragement. You have created a wise and important journal that speaks to the way we live today. Congratulations on two years! May THE WRITE PLACE AT THE WRITE TIME continue to grow, to endure, and to offer a place where creative artists of all kinds can thrive” - Christopher Woods

Current- “To my submissions, suggestions, and information, you invariably respond promptly (a rarity for an editor), thoughtfully, enthusiastically, and generously. Never having met or even spoken, we have developed a warm relationship, which I cherish. These qualities of caring, consideration, and the highest standards are reflected in the magazine.

Your demand for excellence and constant search for more features to aid and provoke writers make the magazine fresh and original. And your creative adventurousness and aesthetic sense in publishing wonderful photographs and paintings that complement the texts set the magazine apart from others online today”- Noelle Sterne

Today, September 2nd from 2-4:00 PM EST, a continuation of the discussion with Nicole Bouchard, Editor-in-Chief, The Write Place At The Write Time, is taking place on the Discussion Board at Facebook's Reviewers Roundup! Click on over around 2!

Click on Over for Live Chat!

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