What is Potomac Review?
Potomac Review (PR) is a literary journal that publishes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. It is also shorthand for Potomac Review: A Journal of Arts & Humanities. Who doesn’t love the ampersand? We publish biannually in spring and fall and are housed at Paul Peck Humanities Institute at Montgomery College in Rockville, MD.
The staff consists of Editor-in-Chief Julie Wakeman-Linn, who recovered PR from the ashes 5 years ago, Katherine Smith and Robert Giron, who are the Poetry Editors, our cherished interns, and a slew of sharp associate editors. I wouldn’t be here, typing to this virtual audience, without the guidance and greatness of the first Managing Editor: Leila Emery
What would you like our readers to know about you?
I’ve been telling anyone that looks at me that Potomac Review just received a Notable Story in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2009 edited by Dave Eggers for Rebekah Yeager’s “The Couch” and a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2009 edited by Mary Oliver for Andrea Nolan’s “Edges.” Both were in Issue 44 (a few issues are still available to purchase at The Writer’s Center!). This is wonderful news; even typing it I feel all giddy, like Kyle Semmel listening to a new Bob Dylan single.
Rebekah’s story brings up an interesting aspect of PR because she won the F. Scott Fitzgerald Short Story Contest. PR helps run the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference every fall and publishes the contest winner. Every year we also publish our contest winner (shameless plug) and now will publish the Split this Rock Poetry Contest winner.
What makes it unique?
I’m sure other literary journals will sell you on how closely they look at every submission, but I’m certain they are lying. Well not certain, I’m sure a few of their readers don’t read every word of every line. Maybe not a few, maybe there is one bad egg with errands to do and no time for your nonlinear chapter construction. Or maybe the one egg isn’t even wholly bad, maybe he/she is near-rotten, just had twins and slowly going insane. The fact is, we don’t have any near-rotten eggs in our basket; I don’t think any of our readers just had twins this past year. We read everything, and 95% of our content comes from the slushpile (other 5% are the aforementioned contest winners and our featured poet).
What really makes us unique is the great blend of local and national writers; we’ll have Writer’s Center instructor Ramola D next to up-and-coming fiction writers Myfanwy Collins and Irene Keliher next to T.J. Forrester, whose novel and short story collection is coming out from Simon & Schuster (that ampersand again). We’ve always published a few people from DC/MD/VA, not out of necessity, but because for so many years Potomac Review stressed publishing Mid-Atlantic writers. Even though are focus now is more on publishing great literary work than where the author is from, that reputation still exists among Mid-Atlantic writers who submit, and this works to our advantage as we try and keep our feet grounded in the DC Metro-area literary community while also publishing people nationally and internationally.
Can you tell us a little bit about what you like to publish?
That’s hard to say. We like work of literary merit? We like what would render the Godmother of American Poetry Emily Dickinson’s “whole body so cold no fire could ever warm” her. I know she’s talking about poetry, but we like fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that feels like “the top of my head were taken off.” Or, more succinct, we like good stuff. There’s not one set tone or point of view we hunt for in our content.
What advice do you have for anyone submitting a manuscript?
Everyone says you should know the review you are submitting to, then they say buy our issues, which makes sense, and if you have the money you should do just that. Buy as many Potomac Reviews as your monthly budget allows. In these economic times though, I understand if that’s not the case (I’m actually impressed you’re still reading down here, what with these economical times and all). So I’ll make it easy for you. We do have some online content from our latest issue, free! content from our Pushcart nominees and Fiction Contest winner. We also blog regularly, which means you’d be able to see what our sensibilities are (and Julie Wakeman-Linn has this awesome feature called the “Maybe Dialogue Blog” where she chats with a submitter who was on the cusp of being accepted but still has some kinks in the story to work out).
Also keep your cover letters to a small-to-medium sized paragraph, unless your cover letter is your submission. Memoir as cover letter, I’ve never seen someone consciously do that before.