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Bonfire magazine Interview

Posted on 05 February 2005. © Copyright 2004-2018 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to Carrie Berry, editor of literary magazineBonfire, an international conflagration, and Gator Springs Gazette

Tell us something about your background.

Before I came to Scotland seven years ago, I was a production manager in the electronics industry and co-owned an antiques and collectibles shop in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before that I served a short stint in the US Navy as a photographer and worked for a year in the Lower East Side of Manhattan as a Vista Volunteer. A full-time working mother of two, I never had time to write, though I have rarely been without a book in hand since I taught myself to read at 4. When I eventually started writing poetry, I had no idea that’s what it was, but communicating about it with other writers in online forums was the beginning of something much bigger than myself.

My own writing is occasionally competent, but the real fix for me has been reading the work of others. Searching out new sources for this powerful drug led me to start dealing directly, pure and uncut, and finding ways to distribute it to other word junkies around the world. Fandango Virtual came together ten years ago in 1995 with online poetry forums and ezines, including Metamorphosis and two incarnations of iguanaland, the hottest poetry rag south of the virtual border. During this time I met Jim Maddocks (now my husband) and together we created a cooperative online writing community to which he gave the name Bonfire.

The main emphasis of the forum was poetry, but both of us found ourselves spending more time writing fiction—novels and short stories, and we eventually closed the site to new submissions and archived what was there.
Realising that poetry was not going to be enough, I started trafficking in the hardcore realm of fiction online with Gator Springs Gazette, a literary journal of the fictional persuasion, which evolved into a bi-monthly print magazine featuring, “unusual and wonderful examples of the written word in all forms with an eye towards irony, a mind tilted on its edge and a tongue planted firmly in cheek.”

Gator Springs has always been a fun place to read and enjoys its own success. Still, a part of me always wanted to produce something slightly more elegant, showcasing the up-and-coming international writers whose fire is destined to brighten the literary world—a journal that presents diverse examples of compelling fiction along with refreshing contemporary poetry. Bonfire is the realisation of this desire.

How do you find writers?

Sometimes we go looking for them and sometimes they find us. We are fortunate to live in a time when there are so many opportunities for writers and readers to find each other. Sadly, only a very small percentage of the best work comes to us through open submissions. In early days at GSG we humorously acknowledged the use of a ‘telepathic’ submission process, but this word described fairly well the process of seeking out writers who were on our wavelength

What kind of work are you looking for now?

Bonfire is looking for writers who express themselves in original and compelling ways. We are looking for people who are redefining the market with their unique voices in fiction and poetry, but who also respect and honour the craft enough to present their efforts in the best light possible. While we describe the profile of a writer who is beginning to find success, nothing would make us happier than to introduce a 21st century Richard Brautigan or Iris Murdoch to the world, so if you are one of the rare ones, don’t let your lack of publishing credits keep you from submitting.



Who are your favourite writers and why?

Jeanette Winterson, Tom Robbins, Iris Murdoch, Richard Brautigan, Tobias Wolff, Ian McEwan, A.L. Kennedy, Gail Anderson-Dargatz, Gabriel García Márquez, Joan Barfoot, Sarah Waters, Yann Martel, Patrick Neate, Amélie Nothom, Donald Rawley, Tom Franklin, PD James, Philip K Dick, Mark Twain, Ken Kesey, Harper Lee, John Steinbeck; some that died long ago, others who are still working on their first major work. I love a good story with brilliant characterisation and a well-developed plot; that indefinable something that transports me to another world, makes me miss my bus stop, forget to eat, laugh till my sides split, cry inconsolably, fall in love and plot revenge. Any writer who can do these things brings me joy and earns a place on my favourites list.


What excites you about a piece of writing-

All the things I said in the last answer, and more. I get excited when I am floored by an opening paragraph and find myself forgetting that I have other things to do as I move further in through work that is original, imaginative and spellbinding. Characters evolve gracefully through their interactions with each other. Their lives may be ordinary, but their perspective is not

and what makes your heart sink?

Gimmicky formatting, unnecessary external descriptions, repeated words, overly poetic or cliché-ridden prose, unconvincing dialogue, gratuitous descriptions of bodily functions and assurances by the author in a cover letter that the work is exceptional. (The best work seems to stand on its own.)



A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.







Comments by other Members



Nell at 19:44 on 05 February 2005  Report this post
Carrie,

Great interview and some really good advice. Looking forward to my copy, every success!

Nell.

anisoara at 09:25 on 06 February 2005  Report this post
Yes, a wonderful interview, with very good advice which I am writing down for myself.

Ani

Zigeroon at 16:23 on 11 February 2005  Report this post

Great interview. Reiterates the need to read, write and review your work at a distance; in time rather than myopic squinting.

Andrew



fandango at 23:31 on 07 March 2005  Report this post
Thanks to all of you. I have received several comments from writers in the US and the UK about this interview. I want to thank all of you for the opportunity. I have put a link to the interview on the Fandango Virtual page and have suggested that full membership is well worth the price, even though a free trial would allow them the opportunity to read the interview.

I look forward to the day when I will have more time to participate in what seems to be a genuinely helpful community of writers.

Anna Reynolds at 17:59 on 25 June 2005  Report this post
Just got this from Bonfire: 'We are pleased to announce that all contributors published in Bonfire will now receive a year’s subscription to the journal instead of only one complimentary copy'.

Dee at 18:04 on 25 June 2005  Report this post
Excellent! If that doesn’t inspire us to contribute…

Dee


Dee at 18:04 on 25 June 2005  Report this post
Excellent! If that doesn’t inspire us to contribute…

Dee


Dee at 18:05 on 25 June 2005  Report this post
Excellent! If that doesn’t inspire us to contribute…

Dee


<Added>

How the hell???



Dee at 18:36 on 25 June 2005  Report this post
Sorry... got over-excited...

:)


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