Hawaii Review editor talks with M.I.A. about fishnets, contests, and “inflection”

Even though Rachel Wolf, Editor-in-Chief for the Hawai’i Review, is busy kicking ass in the academic world (currently studying for exams, designing the upcoming issue of the journal, directing the 2012 Children’s Literature Hawaii Conference, and training her pet lizards to speak French), I was able to get her to sit still for a few minutes and answer these questions:

MIA: What is the Hawai’i Review and how long has it been around?

RACHEL WOLF: Hawaii Review is the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s student-run literary journal (that accepts outside/non-student submissions.) The journal has been around since 1973, so 2013 will be the journal’s 40th anniversary!

MIA:. Well, happy almost anniversary! So, I understand that you are the Editor-in-chief of the Hawai’i Review. Is it true that the main responsibility of the Editor-in-chief is to read hundreds of submissions a day while eating Cheetos?

RW: Yes. Except, no. Although that sounds lovely! As the EIC, I am more of a facilitator, as well as the final say on content and design for each issue. We have a team of readers and a few editors, all of which read the “hundreds of submissions.” Then, once submissions have passed review and are deemed suitable for serious consideration, I come in and make the final choices.

MIA: I see. Tell us a little bit about this much heard about Ian MacMillan contest?

RW: Hawaii Review has run a number of contests over the years, much like many other literary journals do. The Ian MacMillan Creative Writing Contest just finished its second consecutive year, and we hope that the contest will become a standing yearly tradition. The awards honor a fiction winner and a poetry winner (each of whom receive a cash prize), as well as two other finalists in each genre.

MIA: Hm…..how does one get a contest named after oneself?

RW: You just generally have to be awesome. Ian MacMillan, specifically, was a renowned author and a professor in UHM’s English Department. He was also a past advisor and contributor to Hawaii Review, and a huge supporter of the journal.

MIA: Very cool. Lots of literary magazines hold annual contests for fiction and poetry. How do you feel, as a writer yourself, about the contest model as a means for exposure? I mean, can’t you just walk around in hot-pink fishnets reciting your literary genius instead?

RW: Who says we don’t encourage hot-pink fishnets!? But seriously, I think that the contest model is an excellent means for exposure, especially for a Hawaii-based, student-run journal. Not only does the contest create publicity for the journal at the international level (via the interwebs, etc.), but it draws attention to the school itself. Holding the contest raises awareness of UHM and the journal, and ultimately (we hope) draws creative attention that wouldn’t otherwise be given.

MIA: What’s rad about the Ian MacMillan contest is that it’s free. This says a lot to me about support for the writing community. Why and how does the Hawai’i Review choose to do this?

RW: While I understand charging a reading fee for contest submissions, I love that we’ve been able to keep the contest free at this point. Incredible thanks to UHM’s Board of Publications for financing us, by the way (quick plug – the BOP is looking for student members for next year; great opportunity, students should apply!) Hawaii Review is, first and foremost, devoted to providing UHM’s students with an outstanding literary publication. This means that don’t charge a fee because a) a free contest draws outside talent (for students to read) that might balk at paying a reading fee to a small(ish) journal, and b) UHM students get an awesome (free) contest venue to which they can submit their own work. The contest gets to be a straight reward, rather than a financial investment.

MIA: I like that idea. You must get tons of submissions a year, so answer this: besides leaving lipstick prints on your paper submission, what are some other things future Hawai’i Review submitters should know when sending their work your way?

RW: So many things! Most of which make me sound like an English teacher. Please, please send submissions as attachments (rather than inserted in the body of an email) in Microsoft Word format (rather than .pdf, etc.) Trust me, we don’t want to make the Content Editors cranky. Also, six poems (at most) are enough; we like to publish as wide an array as possible in each issue, so it’s rare that we will take more than two poems from any one author. Also, we prefer electronic submissions at this point; better for the environment (less paper!), and quicker turnaround for replies.

The best way to figure out how to best submit to journals? Volunteer with us, as a reader! You’ll get valuable experience reading other peoples’ work and learning how to (and how NOT to) submit your work. We’re also currently hiring editors for next year…

MIA: What a great opportunity (wink, wink)! It’s really awesome that you want to collaborate with the M.I.A. Art & Literary Series to give the winners of the Ian MacMillan contest a place to read their work. How do you feel about public readings and why do you feel like it’s important to hear the work out loud?

RW: I think that so much is gained from public readings. Think about it – as writers, how often do we wish we could imbue something like “inflection” into our written words? And as readers, how often does hearing work spoken aloud touch us in a way that those black marks on the page can’t? I think that reading a work aloud changes it into a completely different, unique animal, for both the audience and the author.

MIA:. I absolutely agree. We can’t wait to hear you read your work at M.I.A. this month. Oh, and by the way, congrats on returning as Editor-in-Chief for the 2012-2013 academic year! Are there any plans for the Hawai’i Review you’d like to share, or is there anyone you’d like to thank, like your mom or God or Tim Tebow?

RW: I said it before, I’ll say it again: super thanks to the BOP (apply!) and to our advisers and collaborators at Ka Leo, UHM Productions, and KTUH.

Also (again), Hawaii Review is hiring for next year – copy editor, poetry editor, art editor, design editor, managing editor. Visit our website or email us at hawaiireview@gmail.com to find out how to apply!

And of course, thanks, Mom.

And thank YOU, Rachel Wolf for sharing. We’re all looking forward to April 16th at Fresh cafe’s Loft in Space (7:30pm, be there!) where you can get fall up in “inflection’s” face, buy some books, and learn more about the Hawai’i Review!



Author: MIA Honolulu

We are a Honolulu-based literary series featuring local, national, and international writers and artists every third Thursday in Chinatown.

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