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Spotlight: Gretchen Gales
Interview by Dr. M. Leona Godin
Image by Alexander J. Clark
*Editor's Note: This interview project was created to help you as readers get to know our writers as well as the Quail Bell Crew to get to know each other better. This interview was conducted by "Distill My Heart" columnist Dr. M. Leona Godin and focuses on managing editor Gretchen Gales.
How did you become associated with Quail Bell?
A friend invited me out to an “Art Walk” near my college campus. Basically every first Friday of the month, the local art galleries put out new art and other fun activities. Founding editor Christine Stoddard was outside tabling with our anthologies. I bought both of them, started reading them, and desperately wanted to have my own work in Quail Bell. I had a lot of luck in the writing department while I was in high school, winning a county-wide literature award and getting two poems published in the literary magazine after three years of rejections.
But once I started college, nothing I submitted to my college literary magazines were accepted. I got an acceptance twice from one, but then they never published the material. I submitted a poem I had recently written and expected the typical “Thanks, but no thanks.” The next morning I got an acceptance from my predecessor Deniz Ataman. A month later I applied to be a contributor or to at least inquire about possible internship opportunities. Suddenly I was a part of the writing crew and wanted to prove I was a reliable and capable writer. Anytime a topic was suggested, even if I had no interest in writing about it, I volunteered to write something for the topic. I knew if I wanted to be a writer, I had to show I was willing to work with any topic given to me and to do it well. And now I’m managing editor. Funny how things happen.
In addition to being managing editor at Quail Bell, you also write. What kinds of writing do you do for Quail Bell? And outside of Quail Bell?
I’ve done a lot of nonfiction material for Quail Bell because we get so much poetry and fiction. I enjoy writing about feminism, book reviews, little-known historical happenings, current events, and more. I occasionally also publish poetry on the site. I’d write fiction, but my fiction writing has had a dry spell recently. As for essays, reported pieces, and other nonfiction outside of Quail Bell, I’ve had bylines in The Establishment, The Huffington Post, Bustle, For Her, Wear Your Voice, MCXV, projects of SFG Media, and more. For more creative stuff, my most recent pieces have appeared in the East Jasmine Review, Yellow Chair Review, 50 Word Stories, and Yes Poetry. I also do copywriting, transcription work, resumes, advertorials, and more for a variety of clients.
Who are the biggest influences on your writing?
I know I’m supposed to say different authors, but I also have to credit my 6th grade English teacher for being particularly encouraging about my writing. I remember we made this little book with different flaps and tabs that had different prompts. I don’t remember a thing I wrote in it, but I remember for our “critique” of it I was fairly hard on myself. I remember a little note she left that said to not be so hard on myself with a smiley face next to it. She also came to an event at the state library after I won some sort of poetry award. She was also at my college graduation party, so the support alone has been a huge influence on why I kept writing.
As for actual authors, I’m obsessed with Oscar Wilde, because I think he was as sassy as I tend to be. I’d like to think I have wit and decent fashion sense, so that kind of makes us literary siblings, yes? I always really love Sherman Alexie’s work for being able to blend the funniest, smartest, and most depressing topics all into one. The first book of his I read was The True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and I kept opening it up and showing people how great it was. Try not to get a hernia from laughing too hard, though. I’ve also recently come to appreciate Jane Austen a lot more as well. You kind of see her as a good author because everyone told you she was, but her writing is clever and rich. I ended up taking an intensive course on Pride and Prejudice and how it’s been adapted throughout time. Her writing is a lot more evergreen than you’d think with topics such as family dysfunction, class, gender roles, etc.
What are your hobbies that don’t involve writing?
Reading is kind of an obvious one, but I do that. I also play the violin, piano, and guitar when I feel like doing nothing relevant to reading or writing whatsoever. I actually used to teach at a music school for nearly two years. I’m surprised I’ve never actually written about working there because I have a lot of heartwarming and bizarre stories. I’ll get around to it eventually. I’ve also started messing around with photography and art again since my boyfriend is really into graphic art and photography. I wanted to be an art teacher briefly in middle school, but my talent never went beyond a 7th grade level. I’m not a pro at it, but it helps keep me sane.
You may also catch me holed up in a Snuggie playing Fallout 3 or 4.
What are your duties as managing editor at Quail Bell? What's your favorite part of the job?
I help oversee submissions and funnel them to the appropriate editor. I also reach out to writers and artists for curated content and occasionally still do articles. I’ve really been getting into making visual art lately and Quail Bell is a good place to experiment.
Most of all (besides getting happy and polite acceptance emails), I love seeing the final product of a piece. There’s something satisfying about being able to press ‘publish’ and let the baby bird fly into the literary nest. (Yes, really — I made a bird reference. Fight me.)
What’s a book by a local or indie author you would recommend to someone? I get to review a lot of poetry collections for Quail Bell, but one collection that most recently resonated with me was Joanna Valente’s Marys of the Sea. I wrote a review that appears in our recent political pamphlet as well as on the site.
Why are small presses so important in the industry?
We publish what matters: voices that wouldn’t be heard in mainstream media.
You just finished undergrad! What did you major in and what are your plans now?
I did! I majored in English and history and had a minor in creative writing. I just started graduate school to get my teaching license. I’m doing freelance and other writing on the side and that continues to be my plan. I really like teaching, but I’m open to exploring other opportunities if they come up (but they have to be really interesting and weirdly cool).
You recently took on the #52essays2017 Challenge. What do you hope to gain from that (besides 52 essays) and what topics do you plan to cover?
This is the part where I shamelessly plug my Medium blog. That’s where I’ve been keeping my essays. I’d love to republish some of them in different small online magazines and venues, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’ve covered everything from writing, the women’s march, anxiety, and more.
Finally, what's your favorite piece you've done for Quail Bell?
This is a really hard question to answer. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for my first piece accepted by Quail Bell called “Little Red Riding Hood.” The poem had been rejected by my school literary magazine and allegedly passed on to another lit mag on campus, but I never heard anything. So I gave Quail Bell a shot. Previous questions answered what ended up happening. It’s not my strongest by any means, but I love it for the sentimental reasons. Also, for some reason, my piece on Sophie Scholl is really popular.
Welcome to our staff blog, where you can learn more about The Quail Bell Crew.
Christine Stoddard conceived the idea for Quail Bell in late 2009 after writing a children's story by the same name, and launched the website as a college blog in 2010. In June 2013, Christine and former art director Kristen Rebelo officially launched Quail Bell Magazine as a global web magazine. Read our editorial mission statement to learn more.