Interview with Associate Editor Vanessa Cuti

Vanessa Cuti, a graduate of the Stony Brook Southampton MFA program and current associate editor of The Southampton Review, was recently published in the Kenyon Review. Her short story, “A Box to the Moon,” appears in their November/December 2017 issue. Assistant editor Lindsay Adkins interviews Vanessa for TSR Online.

How long did it take to write “A Box to the Moon” and get it to a place where you were ready to submit it for publication? Could you describe your rewriting process a little bit?

A woman left a note on the front door of my house with wording pretty similar to what I use in the story. I found it so strange and creepy and I knew I wanted to do something with it but I couldn’t find my way in right away. I had several stops and starts and the document just hibernated in my drafts for about a year. I would go back in, make some attempts, and then put it back to bed for a while. I thought about it all the time but I had no idea what I was doing. It was frustrating. I don't remember how it happened, but I got an idea how to use it and the draft came together pretty quickly after that. Within a few days, I’d say.

What was it like working with the editorial team at the Kenyon Review?
Everyone was lovely. The edits and suggestions were careful and considered and just so smart. They really made the story a hundred times what it was.

As the associate editor for The Southampton Review, what is it like sending work out and being on the other side of the table?
It's so helpful to be able to see both sides of the process. Especially with rejections. I used to take rejections too personally. Like, question-my-worth-as-a-writer-maybe-I'm-not-cut-out-for-this personally. This is going to sound a little strange but I think I've begun to appreciate rejections. The way I look at it now, if I don't submit a story there's absolutely no chance it can be accepted. No one is going to stumble into my saved work and select something to publish. It’s just a chance you have to take. And what I've really come to understand from working on TSR is that a piece can be declined for any number of reasons and it isn’t necessarily about the quality of the work. Different editors have different tastes so you just have to keep submitting.

What are you working on now? Can we look forward to reading your work in any other journals or magazines in the near future?
I’m in the middle of revising a novel and I'm struggling with the beginning of another one. But the short story, its economy and precision and controlled energy, that’s my real joy. Finishing a short story is just such happiness for me. I'm working on two right now. I’ve been submitting a lot, so I'm hoping some of them are picked up soon. Fingers crossed.


Vanessa Cuti’s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in the Kenyon ReviewBeloit Fiction Journal, TSR: The Southampton Review, HobartWord Riot, and others. She received her MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from Stony Brook Southampton.