An Interview With an Editor: Lenny DellaRocca
Last week, Featured Poet shined a spotlight on Lenny DellaRocca who is the founder and publisher of South Florida Poetry Journal- SoFloPoJo. We asked if he would return to answer some questions about the journal and give us an insiders look at the editorial process.
Featured Poet: As a poet yourself, you have numerous publications of your own, what made you decide to start?
Lenny DellaRocca: Some of my early poems were published in South Florida Poetry Review, which is now long gone. It was a print lit mag, but these days the cost of printing anything is out of reach for anyone outside the university presses and other long established poetry journals that are funded by grants and other revenue sources. So, with the plethora of available “free” website makers such a Weebly, Wix, et al, I thought it might be great to start my own online poetry journal. It’s inexpensive and relatively easy even for someone not tech savvy like me. Also, it’s my way of bringing back SFPR, only now it’s SoFloPoJo.
Featured Poet: Does SoFloPoJo have an ongoing theme or do you try to find something new for every issue?
Lenny DellaRocca: I’m not a big fan of themes. I tend not to submit to places that have them. I find them too limiting. So, we try to get the very best work we can get our hands on regardless of subject matter. And just because it’s South Florida Poetry Journal, we don’t necessarily seek poets or poetry from or about South Florida. We have a poet in the August issue who lives in Turkey.
Featured Poet: Can you tell us a little about the submission process?
Lenny DellaRocca: Yes. We invite poets to send up to three unpublished poems, the best they have, via e-mail- no attachments- to me at firstname.lastname@example.org after Sept. 5, 2016. We are currently closed to submissions until then. We ask folks not to bold the titles or center the tiles or poems- have everything justified left, and in a popular font. We ask they include a short third-person bio and tell us where they live.
Featured Poet: I’m sure every poet out there who actively submits poems wishes they knew what the editor was looking for or what will grab their attention. Do you have any pointers for submission to SoFloPoJo or literary journals in general?
Lenny DellaRocca: Sure. The old rule of thumb always applies doesn’t it? Read the journal, or at least some of the poems in it to get an idea of what is represented there. We use several readers/associate editors who read the poems, and they have a wide range of tastes. My job is to send the poets’ work to at least two of the editors so that an acceptance or rejection is based on more than one person’s opinion. Sometimes I send the same poems to three or four of our editors. We have about 10 reader/editors. In the end, one of them is chosen to make the final selection. We choose a different final decision maker for each issue. Poems that were rejected in one issue were accepted in the next issue. I sometimes encourage the poet to resend if I think the work has merit and should be given another bite at the apple.
Featured Poet: Do you have any goals for SoFloPoJo or is it already exactly what you envisioned?
Lenny DellaRocca: One goal is to make SoFloPoJo both an online and print journal. If we can get the funds, we’ll do it. Co-publisher and old friend Michael O’Mara has been great at adding audio files (MP3) (among many other things) so that viewers can read and hear the poet at the same time, and he is trying be able to link each poet’s name with his or her respective poem so viewers don’t have to scroll through to find the poets they want to read. That’s labor intensive and a bit technically tricky. Hopefully we can manage that in the near future. We’d love to add video, too. We shall see.
Featured Poet: What advice can you offer poets who are new to publishing or trying to gain recognition?
Lenny DellaRocca: You mean other than to stand naked in the middle of a busy intersection? Make contacts wherever you can, engage the editors of the lit mags you send to- especially if they publish you more than once. Read the journals in which you want to appear and become very familiar with the work they print. Go to poetry festivals, book fairs, meet poets and editors and give them your chapbook (if you have one). Where applicable, send a message to poets you read online telling them how much you enjoyed their work. In the 90s, I sent a message to what I thought was the webmaster of a poetry site saying how much I liked Denise Duhamel’s poem. It turned out it wasn’t the webmaster, it was Denise. We e-mailed each other several times talking poetry and readings. I happened to be president of a poetry foundation at the time and we brought her down for a reading in Miami at Florida International University. Well, she’s still there- teaching. It’s all about networking. You have to be a salesperson and what you’re selling is you. Get your name out there as much and as often as you can.
Featured Poet: Lenny, I want to thank you for speaking with me on behalf of Featured Poet. Any final words?
Lenny DellaRocca: Yes. Vote for Hillary.
Interview was conducted between Katie Kahn, Founder of Featured Poet and Lenny DellaRocca, Founder of SoFloPo.
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