Interview w/ Philip Elliot

By Carol Smallwood

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Philip Elliot

Philip Elliott is the CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Into the Void, an award-winning international literary magazine founded in 2016. He’s featured in dozens of journals in several countries and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

Please tell readers about Into the Void, located in Toronto, Canada, and shortlisted for Best Magazine in the 2018 Saboteur Awards.

Into the Void is a literary magazine publishing the very best fiction, flash, poetry, CNF, and visual art it comes across, but it is a lot more than that, too. Our mission at Into the Void is to be a publication where diversity is valued and art is treasured. Our editors read only submissions that have identification information removed to further this mission of fairness and equality. We are committed to giving writers and artists of all experience levels an opportunity—it’s all about the art. We also publish book, music, and film reviews, interviews, and articles.

Into the Void Press is a small press publisher that I manage alongside the magazine. Currently, we have published the stunning experimental poetry chapbook In Failure & in Ruins: dreams & fragments by Mark Bolsover, which was a big deal for me because I’m a massive fan of Mark’s poetry; I’ve never read anything quite like it. There are major plans for the press in the very near future, which I am very excited about. I should add that Into the Void Press does not accept unsolicited submissions. Instead, I approach writers I am a huge fan of, often writers who I have discovered through being published in the magazine, and this means that I am totally invested in and passionate about everything we publish.

Working on Into the Void, both the magazine and the press,is essentially a dream come true. I get to read/see the work of and connect with so many excellent writers and artists, and help get that work out into the world through a publication/press where that work and its creator are valued and appreciated. It can be a lot of work, too much sometimes, but it’s always worth it.

You cover a wide net in your nominations for magazine contributors: The Pushcart PrizeO. Henry AwardThe Best American Short StoriesThe Best American Nonrequired ReadingThe Best American EssaysBest of the NetThe Best Small FictionsBettering American Poetry, the VERA, and the Short Story of the Year Award. Nominating is time-consuming, so how do you manage it?

With great difficulty! There are days when sometimes I honestly wonder if all I have to do is even possible. Most days I find myself wondering where the hours have vanished to. But everything always gets done in the end. In the case of nominating, it can be a lot of work indeed, but, luckily, the submission periods vary and are quite long for each, so the work can be spaced out. Also, four of the awards need only a copy of each issue to be mailed to them, so they’re on our mailing list and that’s that. I think it’s important for publications to not just give their writers the best and most professional home possible for their work, but to offer their writers as many opportunities as possible, too, and awards are a great, and easy, way to do this. Recently, Lauren S. Marcus was named a winner of The Best Small Fictions 2018, which is a big deal for any writer and a major milestone in her career. But that wouldn’t have been possible without nominating.

Hunger and Hallelujah won the 2018 Big Pond Rumours Press Chapbook Prize: what is your book about?

Hunger and Hallelujahs is a little collection of mostly flash fiction all centered around the same nameless protagonist—a young Irish woman travelling the U.S. She is also a drug addict and very lost existentially. The collection builds a fragmentary, non-chronological portrait of this period of her life. Hunger and Hallelujahs is a very minimal collection, as is its language, and I think the story is expressed as much through what is omitted than what is included.

What form or style did your novella, Dreaming in Starlight (published by CTU Publishing Group), 2017, take?

Dreaming in Starlight is written entirely through letters by its protagonist, a young Southern American man named JJ who is declared as dead at the beginning of the book. Fleeing a chaotic world he could not understand JJ took sought solace in the solitude of the forest. But he did not find it. Killed by a massive forest fire, the mystery at the heart of the novella is whether or not the fire was started by JJ himself.

Writing Dreaming in Starlight was the most fun I’ve ever had writing anything, partly because I took an entirely opposite approach to how I usually write. Rather than tight, careful sentences revised and pained over again and again, Dreaming in Starlight was written in a frenzied burst of approximately a week where I tried to lose myself in the mind of this very confused and alienated and strangely poetic man, and I succeeded in that more than I thought I would. The result was a strange, quite experimental little book that, even now, I don’t know what to make of! I don’t think I could ever write it again but I am glad I did.

What are some of your goals for Into the Void and your own writing? What editing do you do?

My goals for Into the Void are to continue its mission of being a home to diverse, world-class writing and art, striving always to make each issue our best, as well as making it more accessible to readers: in the last six months we have expanded Into the Void into an online magazine as well as print, and we have also managed to drop the costs of print subscriptions so that they are now only $2.50 Canadian per issue plus shipping. I also intend to focus much more on the press in the coming months and years, which, as I’ve mentioned, has very exciting things coming to it very soon.

For my own writing, I am currently writing a short novel. It’s a classic noir set in the present time, which is something I’ve wanted to write for a very long time and I’m having a lot of fun doing it. I also have a micro-chapbook of experimental poetry due for publication on July 3rd by the excellent Ghost City Press, which is particularly exciting for me because it’s my first poetry book.

I also freelance edit under the banner of Paragon Editing Services for very affordable prices on developmental, line and copyediting for novels, novellas, short story collections, short stories, and novel openings. It’s how I pay my bills and I love it. Helping writers make their books and stories the best they can be is deeply rewarding.

Carol Smallwood