Lisa Schantl is Austrian by birth and global by vision. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Tint Journal, a literary magazine that celebrates the use of English as a non-native language. In case you were thinking this is a small slice of the writerly world, think again. The World Economic Forum estimates that, of the 1.5 billion people who speak English, more than 1 billion are non-native speakers. Tint Journal sees non-native English writers as offering readers “an immediate take on their values, ideas, and beliefs. They bridge borders and blend cultures without the third party of the translator and offer the purest and deepest understanding of their fiction and nonfiction worlds.”
Teacher Karen Kao spoke with Lisa Schantl about her vision for Tint, her own writing and, last but not least, her upcoming role as judge for the 2023 International Writers’ Collective Student Reading.
What inspired you to found Tint Journal?
It’s a bit of a personal story [laughs]. While I was studying in the States, I was once given a lower grade than I thought I deserved, simply because the teacher assumed my English would not match the North American standard. A little while later, I took a publishing course where we were asked to pitch an idea for a new journal. I came up with the idea of a journal focused on writing in English as a second language and received tremendous support for the idea. It was synchronicity. I still believe that Tint Journal fills a gap in the world of literary magazines.
When you’re selecting work for Tint Journal, what do you look for?
Tint Journal publishes short prose (fiction, nonfiction, flash) as well as poetry. In prose, we look for a narrative arc. There needs to be some kind of story. In poetry, we’re attracted to word play and especially the use of other languages to enrich and complicate. We think it’s ok for the English to be a little “off” as long as the piece is legible. Put another way, the English as it’s presented on the page should help rather than work against the words.
I’m particularly fond of magic realism, and not so crazy about dream stories (unless extravagantly told) or a whole lot of swearing.
Take us behind the scenes: How do you put together an issue of Tint?
Our poetry editor, John Salimbene, reads all the poetry while our prose editor, Matthew Monroy, reads the prose. I read everything. We each rate the submissions on a scale of 1 to 10. Once we have our top submissions, we look at how they might fit together. We can only publish 25 pieces per issue, so it can be a hard choice! In every issue, we strive toward maximum diversity in content, country of origin, and first language.
Once we select a piece for publication, the writer will be paired with one of our volunteer editors for a period of collaborative editing. It can take approximately two months, which sounds like a long time, but our authors love it. It’s such a privilege to work with a skilled editor who genuinely wants to make your piece shine.
Do you have any tips fro writers interested in submitting to Tint?
Be rigorous in your editing. If you can’t kill your darlings, save them in a separate file. Take advantage of the writers within your community to solicit feedback. You can also purchase feedback from Tint, work on the piece, and resubmit it to us.
How about your own writing? Do you write exclusively in English?
In high school, I boycotted all German-language literature for the sake of English books. English also is the language of my training as a scholar and a writer, and it’s the language in which I can “hide.” It’s a way to detach myself from myself in order to find myself, if that makes sense.
These days, given my chronic lack of time [laughs], I mainly write poetry. I know the rules in English and so it’s fun for me to break them and bend the language. For my creative nonfiction, I find myself gravitating toward German for the colloquial phrases. I also work as a translator German-English, so really I regard myself as a translingual writer.
What can we expect from you as the IWC Student Reading judge?
You don’t need to worry about my personal tastes. As I do as editor-in-chief of Tint, my focus will always be on the text. I’m looking forward to reading all the entries and meeting the community of writers at the International Writers’ Collective!
Photo credit: Tint Journal/Sandra Tanzmeister