An Interview with Matt Borondy

Conducted by Brian Conway, Maura Campbell, Alyssa Caieiro and Meg Brodeur

Matt Borondy is the founder, publisher, and Editor-In-Chief of the online literary magazine Identity Theory. A University of Florida alum, he has edited the publication for over two decades. Borondy currently resides in Henderson, Nevada. In addition to his work on Identity Theory, Borondy works as a writer and web developer.

Editor Interview

I: What led you to choose a career in editing/writing?

Matt Borondy: I have several different careers outside of editing/writing that are more technical and competitive in nature, so the writing and editing work provides a level of satisfaction that other professional pursuits do not, mostly because it gives me a sense of contributing to a community of writers and artists and pushing forward the general conversation of what it means to be human.

I: We are currently in a literary editing and publishing class––would you say there is anything that you studied as an undergrad that made your career in editing possible?

Matt Borondy: I was an undergrad in the late ‘90s when the internet was experiencing what was likely its finest hour in terms of raw creativity. In addition to traditional English courses, I took classes in cultural theory and new media and film. Several classes combined literary and cultural theory with experimental work in hypertext. This is what led me to start a literary website in 2000: a curiosity about ways to blend literature and arts with new media.

I: What are some low or high points in your career?

Matt Borondy: The high points come when I hear about our contributors experiencing additional success, whether it involves their getting noticed by an agent or getting a job in editing or optioning film rights based on a piece we’ve published or publishing a new book. The low points come when the negative feedback outweighs the positive and it feels like the work is not valued. I’m also always a little disappointed when a piece I really like doesn’t get as much traction as I think it should.

I: What is one quality that every piece of work you accept usually has?

Matt Borondy: Honesty, even if it is in the form of lying. Novelty, even (and especially) if it is grounded in tradition. If a piece feels like it opens a crack and lets the light in, to vaguely paraphrase Leonard Cohen, then I’m usually attracted to it, assuming it’s reasonably well written.

I: How would you describe your editing style; soft or harsh?

Matt Borondy: Soft! Everyone on the staff is a volunteer, and we want the work of the writers to shine. We try to hit a sweet spot of offering feedback without dictating the terms of their stories.

I: You often blog on your website and engage with followers on Instagram; how does this impact your relationship with writers and fans of Identity Theory?

Matt Borondy: We’ve been on Instagram for a few months now, and I’m still learning how to best experience that network. Most of our interaction with writers and readers takes place on Twitter. Twitter helps bring in submissions and other contributions to the site, but it does have some drawbacks: the risk of making an offhand comment that may offend or otherwise hurt someone, the sadness that comes with having to reject a piece from a writer I enjoy interacting with on social media, and so on. Since we started the site before social media existed, it was nice to add that extra dimension of feedback, though the corporatization of that realm ultimately dampened the initial sincerity of that platform. I still greatly enjoy interacting with readers on social media, though.

I: Is it your online platform that allows you to cover such a wide variety of stories in all different genres? Does this impact the quantity or quality of accepted work?

Matt Borondy: The benefit of the online format is that it enables us to publish more words without the physical limitations of print. But the drawback is that people are less likely to engage as deeply with a longer piece published online. The online format enables us to publish a wide variety of content at any length we choose, but I don’t think people read the web like they would a bound magazine. I don’t expect people are intensely browsing all the content like they would a print magazine; I expect they click a link from social media or Google and read what they came to read and maybe hop to one more article to skim. The web is more a la carte than all-in-one, and the variety of our site reflects that.

I: What challenges have you experienced as a result of having a fully online journal?

Matt Borondy: One issue is, we have to keep up with technology, and sometimes the technology we use goes defunct or changes in a way that forces us to rework features of the site. Sometimes we publish pieces that writers later want to remove for professional or personal reasons, and we comply with that because, ultimately, we’re here to help writers thrive and build careers. One tricky spot that comes up: writers naturally improve over time and sometimes they want to change stories we’ve already published because they are just online and feel more malleable because of that. I won’t do that, but I certainly will make minor copy edits on age-old pieces if I spot them.

I: In the poetry section, how do you choose what lines from the poem are included with the image, title, and author?

Matt Borondy: Just vibes, as the kids say.

I: Identity Theory literary journal publishes a wide range of genres. What do you look for in someone who wants to be involved in the publishing process that meets the standards of your diverse journal?

Matt Borondy: I think part of the function of literary journals is to help young people break into publishing and to help mid-to-late-career people stay involved in the literary community. So, our staff tends to include people in their early 20s who show a high degree of enthusiasm and talent as well as people who are in different stages and more experienced in publishing and want to interact with other writers and grow. I’m a big believer in constant improvement and in providing a space for that growth to happen.

I: Would you say it is harder or easier to publish so many different genres of writing? If you could choose, would you change your literary journal so that there were fewer genres?

Matt Borondy: I think it is easier for me personally because I’ve never been good at niches. I prefer an open field. In fact, I’m hoping we can add more genres soon, such as hybrid work. We even have some cartoons in the pipeline.

I: How would you describe your role in Identity Theory to someone who is looking to pursue a career in literary editing and publishing?

Matt Borondy: Are there any downsides to your career that people don’t realize when working in this field? My role in Identity Theory consists of different capacities: web development, social media management, editing, writing, HR, and more. It’s more of a hobby or craft than a career, in the sense that it’s not done with any strict intention of making money. Which I suppose would be its biggest drawback. My personality is such that the “traditional” path of undergrad to MFA to writing to academia never appealed to me enough to pursue it, and I think the most interesting way to be involved in the literary world is to have only one foot in it, with another doing something completely different. But on the other hand, a fully funded MFA leading to a stable job probably would have been a sweet life as well. There is no one path, and probably the big theme of our site is that all roads can lead to literature.