A sparkling initiative by Eimear Ryan, Claire Hennessy and Laura Jane Cassidy, the new literary journal Banshee launched last month. Events in Cork, as part of the Cork International Short Story Festival, and Dublin – in The Liquor Rooms, with the fabulous Tara Flynn – ushered it into the world. In the interest of saving you all some time, here they answer some frequently asked questions:
“No, it’s actually in print!”
“Sure, we’d love to hear about why print is dead. Mm-hmm. Yes. Oh dear we’ve left the immersion on. Must be off.”
“It’ll be published twice a year – September and April.”
“No, men are actually allowed submit. Or indeed anyone regardless of their gender identity. We’re looking for good work.”
“No, it’s not really a feminist manifesto.”
“Well, yes, of course we’re feminists. That’s a bit like saying ‘are you a decent person’, no?”
“No, really, you don’t need to submit your work in an A4 envelope sealed with the tears of the patriarchy. That was a joke.”
“We love lots of things! We’re taking non-fiction essays – personal, cultural, political – as well as short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. The best thing to do is to visit our website at www.bansheelit.com, read ‘about’ us, check the submission guidelines, and follow them.”
“We’re open all throughout October for submissions for Issue #2, which will be published in spring 2016.”
“You can purchase issue #1 or a one- or two-year subscription from the website, or pick up a copy in a number of bookshops, including Waterstones Cork, Hodges Figgis, Books Upstairs, Liberties Upstairs, Blackbird Books, and Dubray Grafton St.”
“Yes, we pay contributors a small fee as well as providing them with a contributor’s copy of the journal.”
“Hahahahaha, excuse me, we need to go rethink our life choices now, bye.” (In response to how much money we’re making out of all this)
And not a frequently asked question but a frequently given response: “Thank you so much for your support.” Because we have been so lucky with the support we’ve had so far – from official types like Kildare County Council and the Cork International Short Story Festival to the individuals who supported our Kickstarter funding campaign and purchased early-bird subscriptions and patronships, along with everyone who came to our launches and/or purchased a copy.
So Issue #1 is out in the world. We’re proud of it, and our contributors. We’re also very conscious that the work of maintaining and curating a quality literary journal is only just beginning. Submissions for Issue #2 are open throughout October. I asked my fellow editors, “So, obviously we love all our contributors’ pieces, but what I’m curious about is what you’d like to see more of (or less of) for issue #2?”
Laura Jane Cassidy: “Yes! I adore every piece in issue #1 and love how they fit together. For issue #2 part of me wants to simply wait and see what arrives in our inbox, because some of my favourite pieces in issue #1 were ones I hadn’t been expecting. Having said that, I would like to read even more short stories and flash fiction from international writers.”
Eimear Ryan: “I’d love to see more personal essays. We got three amazing essays for issue #1, and I’d love to think that Banshee could build a reputation as a strong outlet for non-fiction. There’s something so ballsy about making a narrative of your own life, confiding in the reader that way. I’d also love to see more magic realism or genre-bending work. I love reading the likes of Karen Russell, George Saunders, Kelly Link. The very last story in Thomas Morris’s new collection is a mix of technology and the supernatural, and it’s brilliant. It’s a difficult thing to pull off.”
CH: “I’d love to see more of that stuff, too – much as I love straightforward realism, it’s terrific to see other slants on human experiences. What – if anything – surprised you about our issue 1 submissions?”
LJC: “Because we were only starting out, I was amazed by the quality of submissions we got. A lot of people brought their A game, and sent us things that were not only exciting but also polished. I’m naturally optimistic but issue #1 surpassed all my expectations.”
ER: “I was surprised and thrilled by the many brilliant pieces by writers that were new to me. I was also pleasantly surprised by our gender balance. We’d been told we’d get far more men submitting than women, but our submissions were about fifty-fifty. I hope that continues.”
CH: “What pulls you into a story? What pulls you out?”
ER: “A strong voice will always pull me in. I also love being dunked straight into a story with little or no scene-setting or explanation. Short stories can be wonderful that way, giving you the sense of trespassing or stumbling across this other life. Endings can sometimes pull me out – particularly endings that try to do too much, or that are done for the surprise effect. The most satisfying endings can sometimes be the quietest.”
LJC: “A brilliant first line – like the opening to Ali Brennan’s ‘Feamainn’. Or a narrator that I can visualize and get a sense of straight away – like Deirdre Sullivan’s narrator in ‘The Bockety Woman’. I tend to zone out when I feel like the writer is putting on a voice that is not their own.”
CH: “What do you consider when considering poetry? What puts you off?”
ER: “I like language that trips me up and demands to be read twice, phrases that are new and strange and inventive. I might overlook the odd cliched phrase in fiction, but I’m less likely to do that with poetry. Wit is also great.”
CH: “I’m going to add that rhyming couplets can often put me off – they’re really hard to do well and it can sound too cutesy or forced. Also, as a city type, I have limited patience for pastoral odes. Finally, I think poetry is often just a bit too long – the poet says the thing, makes the point, and then says it again or explains it. Last lines that serve as a summary or explanation can be off-putting. Okay, final question. Cover letters: how important are they?”
ER: “Not very. It’s a good idea to seem sane, and to keep it short and sweet. But it doesn’t really affect the way the work is read.”
LJC: “I like cover letters to be concise. The work should speak for itself.”
(c) Claire Hennessy and Laura Jane Cassidy
Visit www.bansheelit.com for details of how to purchase Issue #1 and/or submissions guidelines for Issue #2.
Laura Jane Cassidy is a writer from Co. Kildare, represented by the Darley Anderson Literary Agency. Her first two novels were published by Puffin. She received the 2014 Cecil Day Lewis Literary Bursary Award, and is currently working on her next novel. She gives writing workshops and enjoys volunteering with teenagers in Fighting Words. Tweet her at @ljcassidy.
Claire Hennessy is a writer, editor, and creative writing facilitator from Dublin. She is the author of several novels for young adults and children, and is currently working on a collection of short fiction, supported by an Arts Council bursary. She is powered almost entirely by tea and is tweetable at @clairehennessy.
Eimear Ryan is an award-winning short story writer from Co. Tipperary. Her fiction has appeared in The Dublin Review, The Stinging Fly, New Irish Writing and the Faber anthology Town & Country. She was previously an editorial assistant for Conjunctions literary journal in New York. She now lives in Cork and works in educational publishing. Tweet her at @eimear_ryan.