For the first time in the short history of the journal, for Elsewhere No.05 we did the submissions process a little differently. Unlike with the previous four editions of the journal, we had a call for submissions and a specific window of time in which people had to get us their work. On top of that, Elsewhere No.05 is also the first time we had a theme. So we were certainly interested, as the 31 March deadline approached, as to what writing and visual art on the theme of place and transition we would receive.
This week, after weeks of reading, I sat down with our editor Tim Woods and our creative director Julia Stone, at Elsewhere HQ Berlin-Neukölln to discuss the submissions and, slowly but surely, build a contents list for the fifth edition of the journal. With the number of submissions, we were unable to give personal feedback to every person who sent us their work, but we thought it might be a nice idea to share some general thoughts from our perspective, which might be food-for-thought for anyone submitting to us or another magazine/journal in the future:
Elsewhere is a “journal of place” and we decided, for issue No.05 to add the theme of “transition” into the mix. Now, within both of these there is an awful lot of room for manoeuvre. We had said from the beginning that genre or style of writing is not a deciding factor. Fiction or non-fiction. Poetry or prose. We will consider writing that could be labelled memoir or travel-writing, psychogeography or local history, reportage or experimental fiction … we really don’t care. What we are interested in is that it is good, and that it somehow conveys some sense of place within the topic of transition. Unfortunately, some submissions either did not relate to the issue theme of transition and/or were not related to the topic of place, and so however well-written they might have been, they were just not right for us.
That said, we did receive an incredible mix of writing and other submissions that DID fit the theme of the issue; from prose essays to poetry; illustration to photography; interview suggestions and book reviews. What was most gratifying was not only the quality of the work shared with us, but the diversity of approaches and styles that made it so much fun to read and also so difficult to come to a final decision. It meant that the decision-making process took a bit longer than we would have hoped, but it was certainly never boring!
Talking of the theme, and this is not a criticism but more an observation; we were interested in how many of the writers sending us the work interpreted the theme of transition on a very personal level, relating to movement, home and emotion, rather than on a political or societal level. As you will hopefully see when Elsewhere No.05 is published, we have tried to put together a journal that offers a mix of different perspectives on that theme.
Paris and Berlin
Perhaps because of where we are based, we often get a lot of submissions on the topic of Berlin. And for this issue, the German capital was joined by its French counterpart as the most popular place to write about in our submissions pile. But especially when it comes to Berlin and other places we know well and – more crucially – have been written about a lot, we are extremely picky. It is a reminder that writing about places that have been covered a lot, or with which your audience are familiar, it can sometimes be more difficult to make your writing stand out.
At Elsewhere we consider every submission that arrives, however it is formatted and even if it is clear at first glance that someone hasn’t read our submissions guidelines. Sometimes, in very rare cases, we also receive submissions from people who appear to think we are someone else, or haven’t actually looked at what we DO publish. It would not take long on our blog, for example, to know that we are unlikely to publish a listicle piece about 30 Ways To Get Cheap Spring Break Tickets To Europe. It is also better not to send submissions addressed to our friends at The Berlin Quarterly or Gorse.
In general though, what was really nice about this submissions window was how many people did appear to be following what we do, both in print and online, and had sent us pieces that they thought would interest us. In the vast, vast majority of cases this was true, and the reading process was all the more pleasurable for it. We also wanted to use the blog to say thank you to everyone who took the time to send us their work. We really appreciate it. And we can’t wait to share the details of Elsewhere No.05 in the coming weeks.