Marissa Bell Toffoli

Interview With Cerise Press Editors

In editors, fiction, literary journals, poetry, translation, writing on August 23, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Cerise Press Summer 2010

Cerise Press Summer 2010 Issue. Cover Art by Mikhail Gubin.

An introduction to Cerise Press and the literary ladies who founded it: Sally Molini, Karen Rigby, and Fiona Sze-Lorrain. Cerise Press is an international online journal that publishes three issues annually. They accept submissions year round.

Quick Facts on Sally Molini (SM), Karen Rigby (KR), and Fiona Sze-Lorrain (FSL)

  • Cerise Press website
  • Home: SM—Nebraska, USA; KR—Arizona, USA; FSL—Paris, France
  • Comfort food: SM—pasta, cheeses, berries; KR—Indian curries, sushi, pita with salt/olive oil; FSL—chocolat chaud, scallops/coquilles St-Jacques, honeydew, salmon maki
  • Top reads: SM—Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, Poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins; KR—The Lover by Marguerite Duras, The Darling Buds of May by HE Bates; FSL—Out of Africa by Karen Blixen, Nadja by André Breton
  • Current reads: SM—Cold Snap by Cynthia Morrison Phoel; KR—Happy Families by Carlos Fuentes; FSL—Just Kids by Patti Smith

How did Cerise Press begin?

Cerise Press was founded in December 2008-January 2009. The first issue was published that July, and since then, the journal has been named one of the “Best of Magazines 2009” by the Library Journal.

We are three writers and editors who first met through correspondence, which eventually led to the idea of designing a journal and opening up spaces for creation. Sally lives in Nebraska, Karen lives in Arizona, and Fiona, who is a Parisian and Francophone, lives in France (which explains the “emphasis on French and Francophone works,” though the journal publishes art, photography, and writing from many countries.) An online journal presented an ideal opportunity for establishing an international community.

What are the advantages to having multiple editors who each live in different places?

In addition to the three of us, we also work with many contributing editors, who are based in France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, China and the U.S. Each editor and contributing editor brings a unique background and perspective, which reflects our intention that Cerise Press is not centered around one country or sensibility but hopes to offer a meaningful selection of human experience and creativity.

What are you working on currently at Cerise Press?

We are always thinking ahead for the future issues, but in addition to planning for the journal, we are also working on gathering an anthology of selected works from the first volume of Cerise Press.

Who do you picture as the ideal audience for Cerise Press?

Cerise Press has published a range of writers and artists, from established and emerging to those who may be less familiar to an Anglophone readership. We have also featured work by talented high school students. We hope our audience reflects a similar diversity, and are always delighted to hear from our readers. We hope they share the same open-minded passion for words and images as we do.

What do you look for in the submissions you select for publication?

We have published novel excerpts as well as short stories and flash fiction. We look for fiction that offers more than intrigue and plot. Perhaps with a philosophical or metaphysical bent, or with strong purpose as far as social engagement is concerned? Of course, we are also eagerly interested in hybridised genres of fiction.

For essays, we are interested in timeless, lively topics that are not written in a strictly scholarly style. We have published essays on poetry, culture and the arts, as well as personal experiences from international perspectives. Our future issues will include essays in translation.

For visual arts (both photography and paintings): they speak for themselves.

What are the most common issues you find with submissions that make them less likely to be published?

We look for writing that expresses a facet of the human experience in ways that reveal a fresh perspective, and that expand the reader’s sensibility. It is also helpful when potential contributors have read Cerise Press for a better understanding of the breadth, vision, and general style of the journal—though of course, we are always open to discovering surprising, unexpected, and riveting work.

What do you consider the greatest challenge in publishing an online journal?

Establishing a consistent, inviting, professional presence can work a long way toward gathering a readership that will look forward to each new issue, but there is always the challenge of keeping those readers while attracting new ones. There is also the larger, more abstract problem of creating something with longevity, that does not simply rely on the “instantaneity” of the medium as a novelty. We welcome these challenges for the opportunities they afford us to think carefully about the works we choose to present, and to continually renew our choices and tastes.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

SM: Be honest, be yourself, and keep your writing simple yet fresh.

KR: Madeline L’Engle wrote in her book Walking on Water: “We cannot Name or be Named without language. If our vocabulary dwindles to a few shopworn words, we are setting ourselves up for takeover by a dictator. When language becomes exhausted, our freedom dwindles—we cannot think, we do not recognize danger; injustice strikes us as nothing more than ‘the way things are.’” It is a quote lifted from its context, but it seems apt as a way of expressing how important that careful turning over of specific words is for any writer. I would tell an aspiring writer to listen to larger currents, to be alert to that “exhausted” language, and most of all, to take time.

FSL: I don’t know. Perhaps simply to live life as concretely and discreetly as possible.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given as a writer?

SM: The same advice as above. Also, to remember that writing is imagination and language.

KR: Someone I knew once quoted Goethe’s “Do not hurry, do not rest.” It struck me as pleasing in its puzzlement, well-suited to the writing life, and far more challenging than it initially seemed.

FSL: Respect others, accept who you are.

Is there a quote about writing that motivates you?

SM: I like Joan Didion’s comment: “I write to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.”

KR:  “And I never believed that the multitude / of dreams and many words were vain.”—Li-Young Lee from “The City in Which I Love You”

FSL: “To refrain from imitation is the best revenge.”—Marcus Aurelius

About the Editors of Cerise Press

Sally Molini: Sally Molini was born in New York City, grew up in North Carolina and Southern California. She was once an office manager and bookkeeper. A graduate of Warren Wilson College’s MFA program and Pushcart nominee, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Southern Humanities Review, Rattle, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Barrow Street. She currently lives in Nebraska.

Karen Rigby: Born in the Republic of Panama, Karen Rigby is the author of the chapbooks Festival Bone (Adastra Press, 2004) and Savage Machinery (Finishing Line Press, 2008). Her work has received a 2007 National Endowment for the Arts literature fellowship, and has been published in places such as Best New Poets 2008, Field, Black Warrior Review, Quarterly West, and (Karen’s website)

Fiona Sze-Lorrain: Born in Singapore, Fiona Sze-Lorrain is a Parisian/Francophone who grew up in a hybrid of cultures. Co-director of Vif éditions, an independent French  publishing house specializing in world literature and fine arts, she is also a zheng concertist. Her CD, In One Take is forthcoming in fall 2010. Author of Water the Moon (Marick Press, 2010), she recently completed a project of Hai Zi’s translations with Ye Chun. She writes and translates in English, French, and Chinese. (Fiona’s website)

[Toffoli, Marissa B. “Interview With Cerise Press Editors.” Words With Writers (August 23, 2010),

Cerise Press Summer 2009

Cerise Press Summer 2009. Cover photo by Andrena Zawinski.

Cerise Press Fall/Winter 2009-10

Cerise Press Fall/Winter 2009-10. Cover art by Yacov Gabay.

Cerise Press Spring 2010

Cerise Press Spring 2010. Cover photo by Jessica Hubbard Marr.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: