The Boiler invites you to turn up the heat. Make it whistle. 100°C +, sputter and steam. We’ll gauge the pressure.” This is the catch phrase for The Boiler Magazine. It has been around for almost five years, and is based at Sarah Lawrence College. It publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction on a quarterly basis. The Boiler prides itself in being an advocate of the writers we publish because we believe in their work. Some writers they have published include Thomas Lux, Bruce Bond, Emma Bolden, Marina Rubin, Paul Lisicky, Raena Shirali, and more. Interview with Sebastian H. Paramo, Editor of The Boiler Magazine
How did The Boiler get started and/or where did the idea come from?
I started with some friends that I met at graduate school. We joked about what the name of our journal would, (I think one name we came up with was, Rice Bowl) and how great it would be to start one. Long before that though, I held a desire to publish a journal of writing where I could publish my friends. Partly, I was inspired by the idea of community and hearing many other experienced writers, emphasizing that the best way to get better as a writer was to contribute to the community in some way. Starting a journal was a way to do that and so far, I’ve found it to be very true. We’ve since grown out of publishing our friends and our issues now publish mostly unsolicited authors. It’s definitely a good way to better understand the other side fence of publishing.
Do you enjoy working for The Boiler? Why or why not?
After graduate school and leaving New York, being behind the editor’s desk has allowed me to keep my foot in the door. It feels good to give a home to new and established writers’ writing. It’s definitely not easy work, but it’s a pride and joy sort of thing, you learn to love it. The beauty of being online also allows for many connections and discoveries to be made on our social media accounts. Writers couldn’t be shared in the way they are now five years ago.
Are there any limitations in accepting submissions?
Are there limitations in accepting submissions? We prefer writers to be brief and to reel us in within the first line. Most of our favorite books and poems have memorable lines and we like to look for that. Of course, it’s not just about though, it has to have substance too. The medium of the internet allows for instantaneous communication. We have twitter, soundbites, Vines, and memes that can feel last year in a month. Which is why, one of the things about us is that we limit prose pieces to be under 3,500 words. We like to think that people wouldn’t be afraid to read novels or novellas online, but we also believe that being capable of writing with such brevity while still having compelling characters, action, and scenes takes remarkable skill and talent.
What do you think the general audience is for The Boiler?
I like to imagine that anyone could pick up our journal and fall in love with the first thing they read, no matter what it is about. But, the great thing about us being online is that we are able to see that we have readers from all over the world visiting our site. We also get a picture of who reads us when we read cover letters. They are expatriates, lawyers, mothers, fathers, ranchers, professors, students, your neighbor. It’s pretty remarkable to me how many different people send us submissions. Even though I can’t say yes or meet each and every one of these people, I’m always glad to know I’ve reached that person in some way. I feel connected to them knowing I’m not the only one invested in the world of writing and sharing words with strangers.
How have your past experiences helped you become a better editor for The Boiler?
One of the many hats I’ve worn in the past few years is as a teacher. I’ve taught adults, grade school kids, and teenagers. I think I’ve learned to appreciate what young writers are doing even if it’s not quite there yet. And when I say young writers, I don’t mean young, what I mean is even your uncle or grandmother starting to write stories or poems for the first time is a young writer. Graduate school helped me too, since it allowed me to serve on the staff of our student-run journal. I learned the ropes of being behind the editor’s desk there. I also briefly interned for a literary agency in New York. I learned to appreciate being an indie because we get to publish more of what we like, even if means we can’t necessarily make a living off it. Graduate school also exposed me to many new and different types of writing and I’ve grown to appreciate many types of writing because they all have their own merits that make them valuable in their own way. Finally, I learn a lot from my editors and I couldn’t make The Boiler happen without them. I’m quite prideful of my editors and the choices we make when we put our issues together. For the most part we agree, but I love that we have our own quirks and tastes in writing and I’d like to think that we publish a pretty eclectic mix of writing that will grab you in one way or another.
Congratulations on two years of publishing online! Are there any major plans for the expansion of The Boiler?
We hope to have a published anthology of our work to commemorate our contributor’s hard work. We may live in the digital age, but we still believe there’s nothing better than holding something you’ve written in a printed volume where it can hang out with all your other favorite writers on a shelf.
Do you have any advice for undergraduate editors?
The number one rule of writing is to not stop reading and writing. Even if it’s not good or you end up hating it, there’s always a takeaway from writing or reading something bad.