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A Conversation with Nolan Liebert

To celebrate Be Kind to Editors Month, Staff Interviewer Lori Hettler sits down for a conversation with author and editor, NOLAN LIEBERT. Nolan edits Pidgeonholes, a webzine of experimental and international writing. He writes short fiction and poetry that can be found littering the Internet in places like freeze frame fiction, Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry, An Alphabet of Embers, and elsewhere. Interacting with authors, both new and established, is important to him, so feel free to harass him on Twitter at @nliebert or at @pidgeonholes. You can read more about him and his work at nolanliebert.wordpress.com.

LORI HETTLER: We totally met on Twitter, like, a day ago. At the risk of sounding incredibly cheesy, do you hang out there often?
NOLAN LIEBERT: I hang out on Twitter quite a bit, sometimes as myself, sometimes as @pidgeonholes. I spend quite a bit of time catching up on writing news I’ve missed while busy with work or my family.

Darn those family people and jobs that keep us away from socializing online! What do you do for a day job?
I work in the IT industry, so generally, I spend days getting my wires crossed. During the school year, I also volunteer as a youth soccer coach.

IT and coaching soccer. And then you moonlight as Editor-in-Chief for Pidgeonholes Magazine. How do you manage the whole work/life balance?
I have a great support team. My wife, Sara, and our kids largely work and school from home, so the house is always in order. This gives us more time together to unwind when I’m home, whether it’s a hike on one of the many trails here in the Black Hills, or binge-watching Doctor Who or something on Netflix. Additionally, I have a great staff coming on next month at Pidgeonholes to help with reading, which should allow me more time to put together even more beautiful quarterly volumes, find funding to pay authors, and do some more writing of my own.

Ah, binge-watching on Netflix, everyone’s guilty pleasure! When was Pidgeonholes born? What literary gap(s) do you think it fills?
Pidgeonholes launched in January 2015, so we’re coming up on our one-year anniversary. A lot was weighed and considered regarding what gap(s) such a publication should fill. Ultimately, I wanted to publish works I felt were underrepresented—microfiction and micropoetry, experimental works, and works from international and diverse authors. I have a soft spot for micro works; we’re actually doing a feature on them throughout November. In such a socially-connected world, I find it incredibly important to publish works people can read on a tube ride or a smoke break or in the limited time they get to themselves at home, works that can be read quickly but digested long after. If there’s one positive thing Twitter has taught us, I would like to think it’s how to provide more impact in fewer words across a variety of subject matter.

Are you a writer, as well? Do you find your writing to be similar to, or much different from, that which you publish at Pidgeonholes?
I do write, a fair mix of poetry and fiction. For the most part, I would say what I produce is in the same vein as what I’m interested in publishing. Most of my work scattered around the Internet is short and experimental, and a lot of the work I currently have on submission deals with diversity issues. I’ve found during my editorial process that I’ve been able to connect with not just great writers, but great writers who produce work I want to read elsewhere, not just because it’s similar in style but because it takes risks. It’s important to me in both capacities, as an editor and as a writer, to support the other writers and small zines trying to make it out there. Structo had a great idea this month to require a photograph of a recently purchased zine, paper or electronic, in order to submit—as an editor, I think this is a great way to show solidarity within both the publishing and writing communities, and as a writer, I think this is a brilliant alternative to regular reading fees.

Sorry, that one got away from me a little...

I like that idea, too, not just from a “covering the submission fees” perspective, but because it shows they are familiar with your publication and they aren’t just submitting blindly on a wish and a hope. Would it be too weird to ask which piece or author you were most stoked to publish at Pidgeonholes?
Honestly, I’m most stoked when I learn Pidgeonholes will be someone’s first publication or acceptance. To be the one to give a new writer her break is an honor. Other than that, I’m thrilled to be publishing all the authors in our 90s Mixtape special volume later this month.

If you could solicit any writer, living or dead, to write a piece for the magazine, who would it be?
As for solicitations, that’s hard. To me, soliciting work can be a process that excludes so many writers. That said, I would love to have the opportunity to promote the works of people like Natalia Theodoridou or Vajra Chandrasekera, who I think have important things to say.

Tell me more about the 90s Mixtape special volume!
This is something I’m really excited about! Earlier this year, I put out a call for submissions inspired by 90s music. The response was overwhelming, and from well over 100 submissions, I chose ten stories, about the same length as a typical 90s album. The stories run from humor to social commentary, from literary to science fiction. Music has been something that has connected people across generations, and the music of this decade really affected Generation X and The Millennials, both. The represented authors range from their 20s to their 50s and hail from the US, Canada, and the UK. The volume is my way of trying to reconnect people in an age where we are so often separated from each other by politics and phone screens. The stories will appear on the Pidgeonholes website throughout September, alongside our regular publications, and will be released in a special volume for download and reading on Issuu at the end of the month.

Since it’s Be Kind to Editors Month, are there any editors you’d want to give a shout-out to? Was there one in particular who inspired you to start your own mag? Or one who’s doing something fresh or interesting that’s caught your eye?
I was originally inspired by Dino Laserbeam during my time reading for freeze frame fiction. I’m also a big fan of the work being done by Brian Lewis and Empire & Great Jones Little Press, who publish Spark: A Creative Anthology and Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things, and recently put George Wells’ Managing Editor’s chair up for a new venture, Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry. I’m excited to watch the growth and progress of a number of other zines, like the brand new Indianoa Review, the risk-taking Lockjaw Magazine, and the fledgling surrealist journal, Peculiar Mormyrid. So many great projects out there! Really. This is what Twitter is for—finding new things to explore constantly. I do my best to highlight editors and journals doing great things each #FollowFriday.

What’s your favorite—
Piece of short fiction written by someone else? Oh, wow... I read a lot of beautiful work. This year my favorite pieces have included the likes of Ani King’s “Conjugate ‘to be,’ using complete sentences,” or Alexis A. Hunter’s “Be Not Unequally Yoked,” or Natalia Theodoridou’s “Android Whores Can’t Cry.”

Piece of short fiction written by you? As for my own work, my favorite pieces have yet to find homes. But, thinking about what’s out in the wild, I think “Oil and Cherries” is probably my favorite, along with my piece, “The Swing, Or How to Ricochet According to Sylvia Plath,” forthcoming in An Alphabet of Embers.

Place to get your editing on? I edit from the left side of my antique sofa. Usually surrounded by our family’s cats and with the dog snoring by my feet.

Word in the English language? My favorite word in English... Petrichor? I love the fresh rain smell, and think the phonetics here capture that complexity. Phosphenes? It’s nice to have a word to describe the lights we see when we rub our eyes. Lots of words invented over at The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.

Word in any language? My favorite word in any language is probably “luftmensch,” a Yiddish term derived from the German words for “air” and “human.” Its translations range from “daydreamer” to “someone more concerned with intellectual pursuits than practical work.” This is tied with “hiraeth,” a Welsh term for a home you can no longer return to or that never existed.

Lori Hettler is our Chief Staff Interviewer and handles our interview series for The Inductor. Lori founded the book blog, independent press resource community, and book club The Next Best Book Club (TNBBC) in 2007. An advocate for the small press and self-publishing communities, she has been featured from coast to coast, in both The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times. Portions of her reviews have been quoted for a number of books (most notably in the press release for Graywolf Press’ I Curse the River of Time, Red Hen Press’ catalog for David Maine’s An Age of Madness, and Heather Fowler’s Elegantly Naked in My Sexy Mental Illness). Formerly the Marketing Director for Chicago Center for Literature and Photography (CCLaP), Lori has now begun to take on freelance work under TNBBC Publicity. When she’s not curled up on the couch with a good book, you can find Lori on Twitter, TNBBC’s blog, Goodreads, and Facebook talking about it.

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