I'm very excited to share this insightful interview with Emily Riches from Aniko Press, a fantastic Australian literary magazine! We're discussing her writing and publishing journey, what it's like being the editor of a literary magazine, and what it is literary magazines look for in submissions.
Find out more about Aniko Press.
Q: Tell me about your career/journey in writing, leading you to start Aniko Press
A: I loved writing and books as a child, and always knew I wanted to be a writer. I studied art and creative writing at uni, and did occasional editing work for family friends as well as working on my own writing. After uni, I still felt a bit lost and found it difficult to break into the publishing industry. I didn’t have the lightbulb ‘I want to be an editor’ moment until a few years of working jobs in different fields. I then took an editing and publishing course at UTS, joined a freelancing platform and was lucky enough to pick up two long-term editing jobs as the managing editor of a digital travel publisher and a copyeditor/proofreader at an author mentoring service. I have always loved literary journals and I had a dream of running my own publishing house ‘some day’ but COVID-19 had other plans. Aniko Press began as a lockdown project - a way to connect with other writers, do something creative and follow that passion for writing and literature I’d always had.
Q: Were there any difficulties in starting Aniko Press that you didn’t expect?
A: The difficulty of starting Aniko Press wasn’t any one big challenge but rather a lot of the small challenges of starting a small business, such as working out how to make a website, purchasing a domain name, setting up an email address, registering a business name and ABN, setting up social accounts etc. There is a lot of creative freedom in starting your own creative project, but I realised early on it also means trusting yourself and backing yourself too.
Q: What’s your favourite thing about being an editor of a literary magazine?
A: The writers! It blows me away seeing what they come up with for their submissions, and I love working with them to bring their pieces to life. It’s wonderful developing relationships with them, reading their work and seeing all the great things they go on to do afterwards. I definitely keep an eye not only on the writers whose pieces are chosen for the journal but lots of the submitters as well. I love how starting this magazine has connected me to so many people in the creative and literary community both here and overseas.
Q: Why do you believe literary magazines are important in the creative writing industry?
A: They are places where you can find unique, exciting or more experimental writing that perhaps you wouldn’t see published by one of the bigger publishing houses. You can discover new writers and new voices. Literary magazines themselves are all so different, niche and playful. They are often where emerging writers get their first shot at being published and sharing their work, and can be an important stepping stone in a writer’s journey and career.
Q: What are the benefits to writers in having their work published in a literary magazine?
A: It can definitely help you build up your own publishing portfolio and writing CV. If you are planning on submitting manuscripts to publishers, having been published in a literary magazine shows them that you have experience working with an editor and completing a piece of writing to a high standard. It can also put you in touch with editors and people in the publishing industry, as well as a creative community of other writers. I think it can also sometimes give you a necessary boost on your writing journey - as one of my writers said to me recently, the ripple effects of being published in Issue 1 are still carrying on for her two years later in unexpected ways.
Q: What’s your favourite part of the creative writing/publishing industry?
A: Probably being surrounded by people who love writing and books just as much as me. It might be a faux pas to say ‘I love books’ when you work in publishing (the same way you don’t say ‘I love kids’ if you work with children) but it’s absolutely true.
Q: What are some winning aspects you look for in submissions?
A: Each issue of Aniko Magazine is based on a theme, so exploring the theme in a critical and creative way really makes a piece stand out to me. Sometimes, a submission can be a brilliant piece of writing but if it doesn’t relate to the theme it would be hard to include it.
Being surprising with your imagery (I’m a sucker for a great simile), plot (when pieces take unexpected turns) or structure (trying something different or unconventional) can really make a piece stand out.
I receive a lot of pieces about husband-and-wife relationships or pieces that are monologues from the point of view of a (usually unnamed) first person narrator, so if you’re writing a story like this, make sure you add your own creative flair and voice to it to make it stand out.
Q: What’s something that instantly tells you a submission isn’t right for Aniko Press? (Or a common mistake you see)
A: The first interaction I have with a writer submitting their work is through their submission email, and if they’ve submitted their work without a title, bio or even their name it can make a bad impression because it tells me they haven’t read the submission guidelines. I can be somewhat flexible with word limits, but when a piece is way over the word limit, I know straight away that I won’t have the resources to publish it - even if it’s brilliant, the magazine can only be so long. I also love interesting or unique titles, as they tell you so much about the tone and style of you’re about to read - so a generic or uninspiring title can sometimes set the tone for the piece itself.
Q: What’s your #1 piece of writing advice for amateur writers?
A: Edit once, edit twice, edit thrice. It’s really important to edit your work, not just for spelling and grammar, but for structure, pacing, unnecessary words or sentences: revisit and refine what’s on the page. The finished product might not look anything like what you started with, but that’s what editing is all about. However, I say all of this with the caveat that you shouldn’t let trying to “perfect” a piece of writing hold you back from submitting it: at some point you just need to take the plunge!
Q: Anything else you’d like to say regarding creative writing/publishing?
A: I love this quote from Amelia Joy, the first writer we interviewed for our Emerging Writers series, on writing and self-publishing her first book: “It was really helpful for me to remember that this is just the first book. It’s not the one defining piece of art that I’m ever going to create in my life that will define me as a writer forever - this is just the beginning.” Treat all your writing like an exploration, a learning process, and a development of your style and craft. And most of all have fun!
A huge thank you to Emily for participating in this interview and giving such great answers! Visit Aniko Press's Website and/or buy a copy of the magazine here.