The Worst Interviewer in the World
About a year ago I interviewed Kim Jernigan, the editor of the New Quarterly, one of
It was a summery day at the
She was in a tiny office that she shared with an intern. There was nothing golden or jewel encrusted. Nothing luxurious. In fact, it kind of sucked. She took me out to the cafeteria to chat. She paid for my coffee. With change from a change purse, not with a platinum master card.
I turned on my little tape recorder and we chatted about the New Quarterly, Canadian writing, what editors talk about when they get together, the finances of literary journal production (I learned Kim didn’t actually receive a salary. That’s right, she and many other Canadian Literary Journal editors are volunteers! I don’t think she noticed my jaw dusting the floor) and the joys and sorrows of being an aspiring/emerging writer. I remember her saying some very smart things. However, my tape recording is inaudible.
So, over a year later- (It wasn’t two summers ago was it? No, just the one- I think) I’m still thinking, “One of these days, I should try to put my notes and that buzzy hissy tape recording together sometime and write that damn thing up.”
Never hire me to conduct an interview.
I do remember our one point of disagreement. She said she admired a short story that had the courage to be quiet. I thought all Canadian short stories were quiet! I was eager to admire a Canadian short story with explosions and zombies. I was wishing movies would get quieter, but fiction get noisier. She asked me what I’d like to see in the New Quarterly and I don’t think she registered that I said “Pirates.” Also, I remember she asked me something about the story of mine they published. Wasn’t that super nice! When I asked her, on behalf of all my fellow writers aiming to get published, “What are you looking for in a short story?” (Again, never hire me to conduct an interview.) She said, “If I knew that, I’d write it myself.” I think she was quoting someone, but I was sucked up into a vortex of self-recrimination (oh what a dumbass question that was Tibbetts every editor gets asked that every day at least twice can’t you think of something intelligent to ask you utter bonehead) so I didn’t quite catch it. And of course the tape is inaudible.
But there are some things I can confirm for a fact: Kim Jernigan IS nice. She loves fiction. She works hard for very little in the way of tangible reward. She admires the staff/volunteers who work with her at TNQ and the writers who submit their work. She didn’t say anything mean about anyone, even when I begged (Come on! Which of the other editors bugs you? Those Descant people, they suck, right? Mark Anthony Jarman, he must smell. A little? Come on! Isn’t there a writer who keeps sending you stories and you just vomit when you see their return address on the corner of a bulky envelope in your in-box? It’s Pasha Malla, isn’t it? Come on!) I honestly don’t think she was being coy. That’s just not the way she thinks. She’s a little other-worldly actually. Cate Blanchettish. Maybe you have to be, to volunteer to man a slush pile and wrestle a journal to the ground four times a year. Or maybe she was just slightly faint because she can’t afford to eat.
Kim, I apologize for doing such a lame interview and taking so long to do it, too. If it’s any consolation I will never inflict my interviewing self on anyone again. (Unless the CWC gets me the staff they promised or a solid gold diamond encrusted tape recorder!)
Read The New Quarterly!