Spy in the Slushpile #11: EX/POST

Spy in the Slushpile #11 EX/POST

Psssst! Over here! 
Notebooking Daily snuck agents into the offices of your favorite literary magazines to bring you—the potential submitter—the sweet low down, the inside track, the full two scoops of raisins. Everything you need to know to make as successful of a submission as possible will be here, but remember that the number one rule to putting your best foot forward is to take the time to read the journal you're submitting to and FOLLOW THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES. This is vital to show the editors that you respect their time and effort, and because some journals will reject submissions that don't extend the simple courtesy of following guidelines, without even reading it—and no one wants that.

Today we check in with our spy who hit the offices of the literary magazine EX/POST which dubs themselves as being 'dedicated to the frontier of experimentation'.

Our dossier: 

EX/POST is an online journal of experimental writing that made a splash when they published their first issues in 2020. They READ BLIND, so remove identifying information from submissions before you send them in. They say "We want the raw, unblinking work that will haunt us unapologetically. We want to be a home for timely, experimental, and most of all daring writing. Send us your secret radio transmissions or your experiments gone awry—we will welcome all of it.". About the name: "Ex post" — out of the after. It's a clipped form of "ex post facto," itself a bastardized version of the Latin for "after the fact." Here at EX/POST, though, we aren't interested in reactive action so much as perceptive thought—we want art, poetry, fiction, essays on the craft, one-act plays, and more." 

They just closed on February 15th for submissions but will reopen soon!

With the Postmaster Terrible, or, General, busy in talking to congresspeople, we took this opportunity to send out our agent disguised as a postal worker to get the lay of the land at EX/POST. The ruse seemed to work when our agent greeted the editor Sarah Lao who openly spilled the beans about the journal. 
1) I always recommend that potential submitters read the most recent issue or two of a journal before submitting there (at least the genre which they're submitting), but if you could recommend, say three or so pieces (or however many) that you feel especially exemplify for one reason or another, what you're looking for, or that you are especially proud to have published and think everyone, whether they plan on submitting or not, should read? 
TL;DR Pieces that exemplify the journal. 
What a difficult question! At the moment, though, I think my three picks would have to be Jessica Lee Richardson's "Better than Dancing," Erin L. Miller's "The Goat," and Bailey Cohen-Vera's "Intervention with Absurdity and Parts of Speech."
2) Is there any genre, topic, theme or stylistic that you are surprised you don't see more of, or that you would like to see more of? For instance prose poems, stories about organized sports (or one in particular), non-conventional family narratives, non-standard typography, alternate history, high sci-fi, hybrid pieces utilizing white space... 
TL;DR I wouldn't kick these submissions out of bed for eating crackers. (updateable, if the interview results in an unwanted flux of submissions)
In terms of underrepresented genres, we'd really love to see more submissions of mixed media, comics, and film writing. Other than that, we'd like to see some longer poems (though if you do submit one, please only send one poem) or work that subverts form.
3) Hard sells—and not just the standard (though very important) "don't send hateful, misogynist, racist etc" work. Is there a plot, trope, character, motif, idiom or even phrase you would like people to think twice about before using? One that you see a ton, or that stick out when you're reading, in a negative way for whatever reason.
TL;DR Hard sells.
Hard sells... I think we've struggled with the fact that no matter how style-agnostic our submission guidelines try to be, past issues will increasingly and inevitably define the perceived aesthetic of our magazine, which influences both the pieces we accept and the ones we receive in the first place. To be more specific, we've struggled to accept some more traditional fantasy pieces or genre writing in the past because they clashed with the more contemporary style (the majority of what we attract) of the rest of the issue. This is why I hope our submitters truly take it to heart when we say that a rejection doesn't mean their piece was bad at all—often times, it just means the work didn't fit in with the rest of that cycle's submission pool and issue lineup.

4) If you could pick 2-3 pieces of writing that you just love that are already out in the world and somehow have the ability to have discovered it in your slushpile, itching for you to publish them, what would they be? 
TL;DR Wish I could've published that!
There are so many pieces we love already out there! But here are three: Kimberly Grey's "from A Mother is an Intellectual Thing" in the Adroit Journal, Hala Alyan's "Spoiler" in the New Yorker, and Lucy Wainger's "Scheherezade." in POETRY
5) To your tastes, how would you describe the sort of "experimental" writing you seek? The idea of categorizing experimental or avant-garde writing is very slippery, as it means different things to different people, and it can even change over time from the same person's perspective. So in this moment, allowing that tomorrow you may feel differently and we won't hold you to it, what are you looking for in experimental writing? Is there a 'soft line' where it begins to lose meaning or goes too far (say, where you think the author/artist's intentions are subverted or hurt by the radical level of experimentation—of course allowing exceptions, we're not issuing challenges here), or perhaps a 1-10 scale with 10 fully embracing the avant-garde and 1 wanting no part of it at all. 
TL;DR The journal's place on the spectrum of 'experimental'.
Ahh, we're definitely still struggling with this question, and I think the definition of "experimental" definitely shifts as the literary world's current conventions do. When we first started EX/POST, I was specifically annoyed by conventions like arbitrary word limits, restrictions against genres, etc., but topics like the pushback against tokenizing POC writing as just trauma writing for the sake of winning competitions come to mind when I think deeper about it. There are definitely artforms that our staff have a soft spot for like concrete poetry, but ideally, "experimental" would mean the lack of genre boundaries to our submitters—feel free to submit anything that's not offensive or discriminatory with the knowledge that our staff will approach the weird and new and risky with an open mind.
6) If you could speak directly to a potential submitter as a voice in their head, like their 'submission conscience', neither angel nor devil but bookish nerd that wants the person to have the best chance with their submission as possible, what would you want them to be sure to do or consider when submitting? 
TL;DR Please consider this when submitting.
Hmm, I honestly don't want them to spend that much time prepping for the actual submission; I'd rather reduce the friction of formatting and research involved in the submission cycle compared to the actual act of writing. Please just make sure to remove identifying information from the body of the submission!


The editors hadn't even questioned the postal worker's obnoxious inquisitiveness, but noticed the time and quickly and politely excused themselves to get back to their busy day. Content that the thorough answers would really give readers the inside track, the spy took an extra moment to write this 'outro'. This has been another installment from the Spy in the Slushpile.