Banshee is a print journal of exciting accessible, contemporary writing from Ireland and around the world, published twice a year – in spring and autumn – and features short stories, flash fiction, personal essays and interviews. The first issue was launched in September 2015 and Issue 3 is now available. Banshee is edited by three writers in their late 20s and early 30s, Laura Jane Cassidy, Claire Hennessy and Eimear Ryan.
You all come from different writing backgrounds. How does that inform your experience of editing a literary journal?
Even though we write different things, there's a lot of overlap in terms of the topics that interest us - which really becomes evident when we look at the many writers we all love. As editors we're not really thinking as writers but as readers – it wouldn't be helpful to think in terms of 'what we would like to have written' instead of 'this is brilliant, let's champion it!'
Was it difficult to find a niche for a new journal in an increasingly crowded market?
Yes and no. Our niche is threefold and one aspect draws more attention than the other – the fact that we're three women editors. (Heavens!) It means we get a lot more work from women writers than literary journals typically do, and we've published more women, on average, than a typical journal. This isn't intentional on our part – we're interested in good writing, first and foremost – but it is, of course, telling that 'more men' is viewed as the norm while 'more women' is clearly a scary feminist agenda. We still occasionally get people asking if men are 'allowed' submit – though less of it the longer we've been around.
Our two other 'unique selling points' is that all three of us are writers first and foremost - and it is tricky to both write and edit at a very high standard, so we're still learning. Many of the best editors in Ireland at the moment – Declan Meade, Sarah Davis-Goff & Lisa Coen, Brendan Barrington – don't write themselves, and the two things don't necessarily need to go hand-in-hand. But again, it does offer a slightly different perspective, to have writers being the ones assessing submissions.
Finally, we're interested in literary writing that is also accessible – nothing too academic or esoteric. We want the work we publish to be readable and smart and engaging. We love beautiful sentences and striking imagery but we also love story or narrative. We want Banshee to be a thing that readers enjoy.
Banshee casts a wide thematic net. Have the resulting submissions been a breath of fresh air?
When we started, we debated whether to go thematic or not, and the pros and cons of that – the main 'con' being that you might get work that's been written in a rush just to suit the brief, or that you might get something incredible that doesn't fit the theme. So we decided to go keep it wide open, but to note a few different topics that particularly interested us, just to help guide submissions. We've since removed that list from our website, because once submissions come in we're really just looking for great writing – work that excites us and interests us.
And we're looking for writing that avoids certain clichés – does Ireland (or the world) need more stories about substance-abusing young men whose fathers don't understand them, or middle-aged men whose wives don't understand them? Do we need more poems about farming? Well, all right, maybe, if it's done exceptionally well, but we're much more interested in work that looks forwards rather than backwards. Stories that we don't hear often enough. We do get plenty of these – and then it's a case of deciding whether they're actually good or not! – but do also still get plenty of traditional-type work.
Banshee considers flash fiction submissions. From an editor’s point of view, how experimental can an author get with the flash form?
The one rule of writing is: 'you can do anything as long as it's good!' Flash does lend itself to experimentation, though, because even though it may be very intense it is still short, and anything unusual that a writer wants to do with the text feels a bit less intimidating than seeing it in a novel-length form.
- Do you think flash fiction asks more of a reader than longer forms?
Yes and no. It asks less time-wise, but page-for-page, it's more intense than longer forms. You're being pulled into an entire world within a few hundred words. They're very tricky to get right – we've published relatively few in comparison to other forms – but when they work, they're punches to the gut in the best possible way.
- What’s next for Banshee?
Issue 4 will be published in spring 2017. Issue 5 will be open for submissions next year. We hope to include more non-fiction and work in translation, but our main focus is always maintaining and increasing the standard of the work and the journal. We want each and every issue to be as beautiful and engaging as possible, and to never get complacent about it.
We'll also be doing more events – panels, workshops – in 2017 and some scheming for other things down the road. Because we're all used to how much work anything in the arts takes, we're quite realistic about what's possible without stretching ourselves too thin – so at our last editorial meeting we were planning for 2018 and 2019. We're in this for the long haul.
Claire Hennessy is a writer, editor, and creative writing facilitator from Dublin. She is the author of several novels for young adults and children, and is currently working on a collection of short fiction, supported by an Arts Council bursary. She is powered almost entirely by tea.
Eimear Ryan is an award-winning short story writer from Co. Tipperary. Her fiction has appeared in The Dublin Review, The Stinging Fly, New Irish Writing and the Faber anthology Town & Country. She was previously an editorial assistant for Conjunctions literary journal in New York. She now lives in Cork and works in educational publishing.
Interview by Adam Trodd
Adam Trodd’s fiction and poetry have appeared in publications such as The Flash Flood Journal, The Irish Times, The Incubator, KYSO Flash, Crannóg, The Molotov Cocktail , The Launchpad and The Caterpillar. He was shortlisted for the 2015 Bath Flash Fiction Award and has a piece in the 2016 National Flash-Fiction Day Anthology.