Friday Feature: Interview with Penguin Review Co-Editors

Each week, the editors of Jenny Magazine sit down with either fellow literary magazine editors or past Jenny contributors for short interviews. This week’s interview is with Tom Pugh and Rebecca Brown, co-editors of Penguin Review — a yearly print literary magazine at Youngstown State University.

What style of work do you prefer, if any?

T: I wouldn’t say that I prefer one type of work over another, but I feel strongest suited to edit nonfiction.

R: Since Penguin Review publishes work by YSU undergraduates, I tend to prefer a certain quality of work above a particular style. I think one of the great things about Penguin Review is that we publish all different kinds of work.

What other literary magazines do you admire?

T: I admire Jenny and Akron University’s Rubbertop Review. I also think that Paris Review, Georgia Review, Antioch, and Harpers are fantastic.

R: Right now I really love Little River, The Newer York, Drunk in a Midnight Choir, Electric Cereal, Everyday Genius, and Girls Get Busy, just to name a few.

What can a writer do to increase chances of being accepted?

T: Practice their craft. Write as much as possible (I understand that daily can be a challenge). Join workshops with people that enjoy things other than what you write. Sometimes, they give you the best outside advice. Listen to any advice. Yes, haters will hate. Don’t listen to that. Also don’t listen to the extreme gushers (though it’s occasionally nice to hear gushing). If someone points out a flaw or so, look at your work. No one writes perfectly on the first draft. After doing that and editing, submit, submit, and submit some more. You have to submit before something can be accepted anywhere.

R: Send us your best work. Make sure it’s edited. Have other people read it and make changes. Send us multiple pieces — we publish up to 1,500 words of prose or 5 pages of poetry, so if you send us multiple pieces it increases your chances.

What do you feel makes your journal distinctive?

T: Penguin Review is Youngstown State’s only yearly print literary magazine. We publish the work of undergraduates, which makes for less of an overwhelming feeling of “Will I have to submit against people working on higher education degrees etc.” We publish artwork, nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and excerpts from screenplays — the latter is something that I haven’t seen done with many (or any) local college literary journals. I may be very wrong though.

R: Penguin Review is run solely by YSU students and only publishes the work of YSU undergraduates. This gives us a unique opportunity to capture a snapshot of the university each year, which is an incredible opportunity.

What types of submissions are on your wish list?

T: Great question. This is something that I have discussed many times with staff members. We accept poetry, fiction, nonfiction, screenplays, and art. That said, I would love to see someone submit a page of a created comic. Maybe it could even be a page from a graphic novel they’re working on. That would be different. That would be cool.

R: Submissions that grab my attention from the very beginning and don’t let go. Pieces that punch me in the gut repeatedly and unapologetically. Literature and art that is intelligent and fragile, bold and repulsive. I like work that creates a visceral reaction in the reader.

What made you want to be an editor?

T: Well, I like a challenge. Before I became editor of Penguin Review, I knew two things about the magazine. The things I knew: Penguin Review is a literary magazine on YSU’s campus and that I had a couple on my bookshelf that I read and enjoyed. Some of my friends worked on the staff of Penguin Review in previous years. This was different though. Everyone from the previous year was gone. I was jumping in as an editor and had to build a brand new staff.

R: I love having the opportunity to bring new work into the world — it’s a privilege to publish someone for the first time and to be a part of the process as a collection of individual submissions come together to create a new, greater work.

What kind of things do you write?

T: I write creative nonfiction essays. Most of the essays that I write are about my childhoods and my family. I come from a large family, so I have a lot to write about.

R: I mainly write narrative poetry in experimental forms. I’ve also been experimenting with surrealism and prose poetry lately.

Where did you get the name of your magazine?

T: Penguin Review had been around for 48 years when I took over as editor. It was named already. However, there was a year when the staff decided they didn’t want to be associated with anything that had the name of the sports teams, so they just called the magazine The Review. It was during the 70’s.

R: Penguin Review got its name in 1964! I wish I knew how the editors chose the name, but unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to ask.

What inspired your aesthetic?

T: The overall look of the magazine is the result of our wonderful layout designer/co-editor, Rebecca Brown. She looked at the past two issues of Penguin Review and some other literary journals and came up with the design after hours and hours of work. She did a great job.

R: My personal aesthetic is inspired by my life experiences and the world around me. Growing up in Youngstown has been a major influence. I’m also inspired by writers like Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, Gertrude Stein, and Dalton Day.

What do you hope to accomplish with your magazine?

T: Next semester and the Spring ’15 issue are my last at Youngstown State University. I know that I am leaving the magazine in very capable hands.

I hope that what was built by the entire staff over the past two and a half years continues getting bigger and better. I want Penguin Review to continue being a place that students in all fields can feel safe sending their work to. Blood, sweat, and tears go into each piece that is sent to us and it is important that each person submitting knows that we at the very least care about their work enough to read/edit/judge it. I want Penguin Review to continue on as an undergraduate magazine. This university needs multiple voices and undergraduates deserve for their voices to be heard.

To see Penguin Review being entered in contests for collegiate literary magazines and winning would be an amazing feeling. It would be a testament not only to what the staffs of the past two and a half years have built, but to the legacy of Penguin Review. I want to come back in fifty years for a 100th anniversary Penguin Review launch party. I will be 80 and I will find any way possible to make it to that event.

R: I hope that Penguin Review continues to publish absolutely incredible work from YSU undergraduates. Even more, I hope that as an organization we can encourage writers at YSU to find their niche and to continue to develop their voice.

You can find Penguin Review on Twitter and Facebook.


Are you a past Jenny contributor or an editor at a literary magazine and interested in an interview? Send us an email.

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