In this installment of our interviews with people working at the forefront of the publishing industry, we talked with Lisa Schantl, the editor-in-chief of Tint Journal, a remarkable publication offering unique perspectives of non-native English writers.
Lisa Schantl is a graduate student of American Literature at the University of Graz. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Tint Journal and gained her first insights into book publishing as an assistant editor at Leykam Buchverlag. Motivated by her interest in international relations, she holds the position of President of the Initiative Group Alpbach Graz. Her journalistic and critical work has appeared in Anzeiger, PARADOX, The Montclarion and more, and her creative work has been published by Artists & Climate Change, The Normal Review, PubLab and more.
The Nonconformist: What inspired you to create a journal focused on publishing the works of non-native English writers?
Lisa Schantl: The idea to start a literary journal for non-native English speakers or writers emerged during my study year abroad in the USA, at Montclair State University in New Jersey as part of my Master’s degree in English and American Studies. I realized that non-native speakers of English, and maybe of any language, have to face several prejudices because we sound different, we choose different words and expressions, and more. Non-native speakers use English in a different way than native speakers do — but that doesn’t necessarily make us less capable of the language. An instance at a university course — a professor graded me lower than my fellow students because of my foreignness — sparkled the first idea that I wanted to actively counter these prejudices.
In the summer months after my time at Montclair State, I attended a publishing workshop in Los Angeles, organized by the Los Angeles Review of Books and the University of Southern California. The participants were asked if they had any ideas they would love to work on. I had put my idea aside for a while, but at this moment, it came back to me and I suddenly knew that I had to combine it with what I was most passionate about — literature. I spontaneously proposed a literary magazine for non-native English speakers. My heartbeat fastened as a bunch of workshop fellows indicated their interest in this project. So, we formed a cohort. At the end of the workshop, we had sent out our first call for submissions, thought about website basics, and decided on the overall structure of the magazine. In the following spring, in February 2019, we launched the magazine online at www.tintjournal.com. My vision had turned into a mission, and then into an actual project. It felt great.
Literature written by non-native English writers has a unique quality; it exhibits a layer produced by their mother tongue, their language learnings, their cultural and national background.
NC: Is there a story behind the journal’s name?
LS: Of course, behind every great title there should be a story! It took some time to come up with the perfect name for the magazine, but eventually the term tint showed up on our radar. Windows, for example, can be tinted. If you look through them, you experience the world in a different way. Literature written by non-native English writers has a unique quality; it exhibits a layer produced by their mother tongue, their language learnings, their cultural and national background. This layer is their tint, their idiolect. Boris Dralyuk, editor, translator and author, found beautiful words to describe this quality when I asked him for a comment on Tint for our launch: “The writing in these pages testifies to the fact that foreignness is not a taint, but a tint, without which our world would be hopelessly dull.” I couldn’t describe it better myself.
NC: Let’s talk about your mission. How would you describe it?
LS: Basically, our mission is to encourage writers to stand behind their non-native language backgrounds and understand their unique linguistic qualities as innovative tint, not as stain or taint. Therefore, we want to create a well-rounded platform for emerging and established non-native or ESL (English as a second language) writers. This includes our literary magazine, but we are also working on more formats. For example, we began hosting workshops in Austria, but due to the current health crisis we had to cancel them again. We also want to include a forum on our website, where writers, readers, and English learners can get in touch with others and exchange their thoughts, struggles, and more. Last fall, we also established a non-profit organization called “Tint” which will allow us to develop more formats and expand our journal. We hope that in the future we will be able to showcase also non-native writers from other languages on our platform.
The writing in these pages testifies to the fact that foreignness is not a taint, but a tint, without which our world would be hopelessly dull.
NC: Tell us more about your editorial staff. Was it a collective effort from the beginning?
LS: Having an idea for a literary magazine is one thing, executing it another. I strongly doubt that this project would have made as much progress as it did without an amazing founding team with members from the USA, Mexico, and China. I want to thank them truly. Since our beginnings the team has changed and grown. One of our founding members is still with us as editorial assistant. Our core team consists of two social media managers, two editors — poetry and prose — and me. Besides that, there are more assistant editors who come in when we copy edit the stories, poems, and essays for the next publication. We’ve been working in this constellation for two issues now, and it is fantastic to see how Tint has found a place in their hearts. We are all volunteers, spending our spare time on a common interest. I believe I can speak for all of us that we believe in Tint’s mission and this belief keeps us going — together.
NC: Are you a well-synchronized team or a group of individualists, like a rock band? And if so, how do you resolve creative differences?
LS: My goal is to create a working environment for every volunteer where they can realize their creative efforts and contribute in their unique way and with their outstanding qualities to our common goals.
Since there are a few time zones between us, we usually limit our conversations to text chats. Sometimes, that can be tricky and create misunderstandings, but we are aware of that and try to reply very quickly so everyone is on the same page. I only interfere at some rare occasions in the marketing schedule of Andrea and Rachel who are social media managers at Tint, for example when we launch a new issue or do a donation campaign. I want to provide them with as much freedom and as much guidance as they need. We also talk on the meta level about that, to ensure that everyone is satisfied with their tasks at Tint.
Literature is subjective, and the members of our core editorial staff, John (poetry editor), Vaniele (prose editor), and me (editor-in-chief) naturally bring different perspectives on literature and writing to the table. However, we make our decisions together and discuss everything until we reach a satisfactory conclusion. After we’ve chosen the pieces for the next issue, we reach out to our editing assistants who focus on developmental and line edits. I am in constant exchange with them throughout the editing process before a new issue is released, so each story or poem is turned into the strongest version of itself.
Basically, our mission is to encourage writers to stand behind their non-native language backgrounds and understand their unique linguistic qualities as innovative tint, not as stain or taint.
NC: What do you look for in a submission?
LS: I think the pieces that we publish answer this question best. But in a nutshell: originality, linguistic and stylistic quality, and a message to the world.
NC: If it’s not a secret, how do you assess the works submitted to the journal?
LS: The core editing team, so John, Vaniele, and me, assess the submissions. I read all submissions, John reads the poems, and Vaniele the prose pieces. So each piece is at least evaluated by two of us. Then we discuss the ones that we deem fit for our journal and carefully choose the stories and poems that will be published in the next issue.
Each writer brings their unique tint into our magazine. It is fantastic to watch Tint Journal grow and connect more countries and cultures with each issue.
NC: What are your plans for the future of your publication?
LS: We will continue to publish bi-annual issues, one in spring and one in fall. This is a workload that we can manage as volunteers. One of our goals surely is to keep these issues diverse and showcase how colorful literature can be. So far, we’ve been able to publish writers of 35 different nationalities. Each writer brings their unique tint into our magazine. It is fantastic to watch Tint Journal grow and connect more countries and cultures with each issue.
We want to remain open source, and — as far as time and financial resources allow — implement more features on our website, such as a forum. We also want to host more workshops and writing meet-ups, physically and virtually, to connect more writers, readers, and English learners in Europe, the USA, and beyond.
Also, the health crisis caused us to take our planned physical reading online. Our reading festival “Tinted Tales: reading across cultures” will be live streamed on April 27 and 28 on our YouTube channel. We definitely want to host physical readings again, but we will also most certainly keep doing online ones — simply because our writers are spread across the globe and we want to offer all of them a space to showcase their work in a welcoming environment.
Tint Journal is an online literary publication dedicated to ESL or non-native English creative writing. Read ESL fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, as well as essays, interviews, and reviews related to ESL writing for free on our website. Visit our submission guidelines page for the next open call and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Photo: © UniGraz / Kanizaj