"Salamander" Managing Editor Katie Sticca, student intern Aarathi Prakasen, and Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Barber

Two noted literary collections have chosen short stories first published in Suffolk’s Salamander journal for their 2017 collections.

The O. Henry Prize Stories for 2017 includes two Salamander pieces: “Floating Garden,” by Mary LaChapelle, and “Blue Dot,” by Keith Eisner. Meanwhile, The Best Short Stories of 2017 includes another Salamander selection: "Gabe Dove," by Sonya Larson.

Salamander Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Barber was “really thrilled” when she got word of the selections from the O. Henry editor, noting that the editors read about 180 journals and choose only 20 for inclusion as “best short stories of the year.”

Said Salamander Managing Editor Katie Sticca: “This is really exciting, not only for us, but also for the writers. We’re thrilled to be with such great company. The stories are different from one another and so offer a good representation of the range we publish.”

Fiction contest

All three of the “best” stories came through the Salamander fiction contest held each summer. Contest judge Andre Dubus III chose LaChapelle’s work as the 2015 contest winner, and Larson’s was the runner-up.

“This shows us our contest is working really well,” said Barber, a poet who has published three collections of poetry, the most recent of which is Works on Paper (The Word Works), winner of the 2015 Tenth Gate Prize.

Barber founded the Salamander literary journal 25 years ago to provide an opportunity for readership to “a new generation of writers creating outstanding work.” She published for 12 years out of her home. Then, encouraged by fellow poet Fred Marchant, now a professor emeritus, she joined Suffolk’s English Department as a scholar in residence, bringing the journal with her.

Learning opportunities

Through Salamander, Barber also offers Suffolk students the opportunity to learn about literary publishing, through internships and a practicum she is teaching this semester.

Aarathi Prakasen, Class of 2019, reads fiction and poetry submissions and offers comments as a Salamander intern.

“A couple of the stories I chose made it into the journal,” she said.

Prakasen also helped with the fiction contest this past summer by organizing submissions and reading the top submissions, and she is enrolled in Barber’s practicum.

“I didn’t know much about literary journals before this internship,” said Prakasen, an English major who is focused on creative writing and enjoys sci-fi and fantasy genre in her personal reading and writing. And in the practicum, she is “learning how books are actually made, technical terms, paper, printers and the process of dealing with them, costs, and budgeting,” practical knowledge given that she is aiming for a career in editing at a literary publishing house.

Reviewing submissions

Suffolk students like Prakasen give preliminary evaluations of some submissions, and each work of fiction typically is evaluated by two or three reviewers.

“We have a team of eight fiction readers,” said Barber. “It can be tricky, because, as with any aesthetic judgment, there’s subjectivity involved. No two people read the same way.”

Barber and Sticca make the final decision on fiction, and Barber and Valerie Duff-Strautmann, Salamander’s poetry editor, select the poetry.

“It’s very exciting to discover a story or a poem by a writer whose work we didn’t know previously,” said Barber.

Salamander publishes poetry, fiction, memoir, poetry in translation, and reviews, with 1,200 copies printed twice yearly and offered in bookstores nationwide. The journal also is available online.

The journal occasionally publishes pieces by English Department faculty, and a poem by Suffolk alumna Kristen Bulger will appear in the Winter 2017 issue.

—Nancy Kelleher