Sapling is a curated weekly e-newsletter highlighting the best of the small press world for writers looking for new venues for their work. The editors believe in small press publishing and they’re committed to showcasing up-to-date, streamlined information on the best of the independent publishing world. Each issue of Sapling profiles a contest, a small press, and a literary journal, and features an interview with an editor, publisher or emerging writer.
In Issue 380, Sapling‘s editor Yvonne Garrett (2013-present) talks with M.J. Fievre, founding editor, Sliver of Stone Magazine.
Sapling: What should people know who may not be familiar with Sliver of Stone?
M.J. Fievre: Sliver of Stone is a nonprofit literary magazine officially based in Davie, Florida, although our editors hail (or have hailed) from Miami, Pembroke Pines, Tallahassee, San Antonio, Pittsburgh, Albuquerque, Columbia, Port-au-Prince, and Bridgetown. We are a fun bunch: we’re artists and writers, musicians and gamers, nerds and misfits, expats and world travelers. We love efficient stories that let the reader imagine a bigger world beyond the frame of the narrative. We love poetry and artwork that move us with their careful observations of both the profane and the exceptional.
Sapling: How did your name come about?
M.J. Fievre: Seven years ago, I drove through Lunettes, a Haitian village near the Dominican border. In some areas, treetops and pillars of pastel-colored concrete (the tops of what once were houses) broke the still surface of Lake Azuei, which had submerged thousands of acres of land. When the water level began to rise relentlessly, Lunettes residents piled up stones to protect their homes, but the lake overran the stones. After the flood, some of these stones still reflected the Caribbean sun, bearing witness to the fertile land that used to be, to the community that once thrived there. They became a metaphor for writers – writers-as-witnesses – as they showed me something about the fallibility of the world, and the place of writers in the midst of such uncertainty. I’d been thinking about starting a magazine for a while, but that’s the moment the name Sliver of Stone came to me. The endeavor was and remains a labor of love.
Sapling: What do you pay close attention to when reading submissions? Any deal breakers?
M.J. Fievre: Our first round involves first pages—and only first pages. 90% of the submissions don’t make it past this stage. I’m unapologetically curious, but I’m also extremely impatient. If the first page doesn’t pique my curiosity, doesn’t take me away from the real world right away, I don’t read any further. During the second round, our editors read stories in their entirety. We keep an open mind, yes, but we’re human. We have personal tastes. We have prerogatives. We have pet peeves. One of our past editors, for instance, automatically rejected stories about God or cancer. I personally love stories that are glaringly and uncomfortably honest. Another editor might appreciate more subtlety. The selection is a very subjective process.
Sapling: Where do you imagine Sliver of Stone to be headed over the next couple years? What’s on the horizon?
M.J. Fievre: We don’t want to become another cliché, one of these journals that start strong, but then fizzle out. Well-respected magazines succeed because they stay the course. I don’t ever want Sliver of Stone to die so, as the editor in chief, I’m always checking on the editorial staff, making sure they don’t get distracted or burnt out. Our editors only commit to one issue at a time and work with realistic deadlines, because the journal is, after all, a labor of love: Life gets in the way, earning a living gets in the way. We’ve been rethinking our mission a lot. We live in such difficult times. We want to bear witness to our times. We’re thinking Sliver of Stone might want to become more involved in social activism.
Sapling: As an editor, what is the hardest part of your job? The best part?
M.J. Fievre: We run the magazine pro bono. Finding the time to do it: that’s the toughest part of the job. As for the best part, for me it’s feeling part of something so much greater than myself.
Sapling: If you were stranded on a desert island for a week with only three books, what books would you want to have with you?
M.J. Fievre: An anthology of Chekhov stories. Any book of poems by Allison Joseph (author of Worldly Pleasures). Tsugumi Ohba’s manga, Death Note (I’m currently reading Vol. 5).
Sapling: Just for fun (because we like fun and the number three), if Sliver of Stone was a person, what three things would it be thinking about obsessively?
M.J. Fievre: Sliver of Stone is an addict, always on the hunt for her next fix: incredible stories, poems, and artwork. She relentlessly goes through an existential crisis (Who am I? Do I matter? Do you still love me, you fine, fine, fine editors?). She also obsessively thinks about money (Should I change my model? What are ways to start paying editors and writers?).
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