1. Who are you and what do you do for The Offbeat?

My name is Martha, and I’m a fourth-year English literature and professional writing student at Michigan State. I’m the Assistant Managing Editor for another of our campus literary journals, Red Cedar Review. For The Offbeat, I manage the submissions reading process, and I read, edit, and layout pieces as well (as all of us do).

2. What do you love most about The Offbeat?

I love the inventiveness, unconventionality, eccentricity, and bizarreness in so many of the submissions we get. Reading submissions is my favorite part of working on literary journals, and it’s so exciting when we get the chance to publish a really original, far out piece.

I also love that our staff is made up almost entirely of undergraduates, which means the production of the journal is very much a learning process for most everyone. I’ve learned so much about editing and publishing just in the couple of months since I’ve started working on The Offbeat—in much the same way, I suppose, as a person who can’t swim learns to very quickly when thrown in the middle of a deep, dark lake. In a good way!

3. What are your favorite kinds of offbeat stories?

I’m a big fan of stories that play with structure; for example, stories presented in list format, or as computer code, or a recipe, things like that. There are so many kinds of texts that we come across in our day-to-day lives that we never think of as vehicles for stories, but they’re everywhere! I love when writers embrace that.

4. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and what would you do?

If I could go anywhere right now, I’d be off to Cornwall in a heartbeat. I’d stay in Padstow, and eat a lot of oysters and pasties, and read a lot of books near the Camel Estuary. Then I’d go wander Bodmin Moor and write and have a very tranquil, capital-R Romantic time. I wish I was there now… 🙁

5. If you could live in any time period, what would it be and why?

I’m in love with America at the turn of the century, around 1890-1910. The literature, the fashion, the architecture, the cultural zeitgeist surrounding scientific, medical, and technological advancement… I think it must have been a breathless, fascinating time to live. I would love to have experienced it.

6. What is one fact The Offbeaters MUST learn about you?

One time I went to the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia and I saw a chest of drawers filled with objects that had been collected from people’s stomachs, like buttons and rocks and safety pins and all kinds of stuff.
Another time I went to the Hunterian Museum in London and I saw surgical instruments carried by Scottish explorer Mungo Park during his ill-fated journey to Africa. Oh, and eight floor-to-ceiling glass cases containing over 3,000 preparations from John Hunter’s collection of specimens.
Basically, if I’m traveling anywhere near a medical museum, I’m THERE. And I’m dragging my traveling companions with me. (Sorry, Mom.)

Interview with The Offbeat Staff: Martha Spall, Submissions Manager

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