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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Behind the Masthead: Sarah Hynes

Today we continue bringing our editors out of the literary journal shadows and into the limelight with our ongoing feature, Behind the Masthead. This week Gloria Bonnell interviewed Sarah Hynes, one of our prose editors.

Gloria Bonnell: What are you reading currently (outside of HFR submissions)?

Sarah Hynes: I’m spending a great deal of time right now reading political reportage and punditry. Ask me: I’ll tell you exactly why I’m voting for who I’m voting for! I’m also reading a lot of literary magazines. There’s so many out there, which is awesome for readers and writers everywhere, but it’s also a bit overwhelming. I’ve decided to take a sort of brute-force approach myself. I’m reading them alphabetically, having started with reading an issue of AGNI; right now, I’m reading an issue of Carolina Quarterly. (Thank you, Review Review for making this so easy for me). It’s fun for me, because it means I get to read things that didn’t quite make it onto various best-of lists but which are still rich with good writing. It’s also meant I haven’t had to struggle over which, of so many good choices, I should delve into next.

GB: What are you writing right now?

SH: I’ve just finished the first draft of my first novel and am incredibly excited about plunging into revision, which I usually think is the most fun part of writing anyway. I’m also working on polishing up some short stories to send into the world.

GB: What kinds of things do you like to see turn up in the submission queue?

SH: I love stories with an international eye. We get a lot of heartland-of-America stories, and while I think these stories are important (my co-editor, Angie and I made it an editorial goal to privilege them, in fact, in issue #51), I myself relish stories about people who live in an external world very different from mine and have inner lives that, even while being recognizable, are surprising. I very much admire writers who dare to empathize with people out in the wider world. I say ‘dare’ because there are so many obvious dangers in doing so: the danger of appropriation, fetishization, defaulting to stereotype, etc. But a story that honestly grapples with the complexities of the human heart while letting me travel out of my familiar places will always grab my attention.

GB: What kinds of things would you like to see more of?

SH: At the risk of subverting your question, I’ll add on to my last response and clarify that I’d like to see fewer stories about Americans on vacation in exotic places and more stories with truly global voices. I’d like to see more stories that access other languages in all their syntatic, idiomatic, rhetorical, and figurative sensibilities.

GB: What’s your favorite element to find in a story? Some people go for dogs; others love to see mountains, or ghosts. What about you?

SH: Ooh, great question, and one I wish I could answer more satisfyingly than by saying unexpected elements or familiar elements treated in a way I didn’t expect.

GB: I understand you are a true desert rat. Everyone who comes to Arizona and stays has their reason. What do you really love about it?

SH: Travel is very important to me as a writer and a person, but the desert has my heart. I’d like to live overseas for a time, but I have no doubt that I’ll always come back to Arizona. A lot of it is the absolute qualities of the Sonoran itself: the huge sky, the space, the fact that I can see the sun rise at one horizon and follow it all the way to the other, nothing in the way, the monsoon. But a part of it is also its relative contrasts. It just turned cool here, after months of being hot enough to obliterate any memory or possibility of it ever being different, the visceral surprise of it ... it’s that surprise that’s addicting to me.


Sarah Hynes loves travel and longs to be a polyglot.  She recently taught creative writing at the National University of Singapore and was the winner of a Piper Center travel fellowship to study writing in Greece.  Next on her travel-wish-list, Bolivia and a long-struggled-toward mastery of Spanish. 

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