‘Don’t Be Boring’: An interview with Matthew Lamb, new editor of Island

Matthew Lamb, the new editor of Island magazine, is also the editor and co-founder of the digital short-story publication Review of Australian Fiction. This makes for an interesting and varied perspective on the world of literary magazines in Australia.

We spoke to Matthew about the changes afoot at Island, his approach to editing a publication, the fact that submissions to literary magazines far outweigh subscribers … and the fact that there’s a lot of boring writing out there in Australia, because boring equals safe. ‘Don’t be boring’ he says. ‘It may not lead to immediate publication, but at least your integrity will be intact.’

You’ve recently come on board as an editor at Island –what drew you to the magazine?

In terms of becoming an editor of Island, I honestly don’t know what drew me to the magazine. I guess it was partly the challenge, partly a sense of curiosity. I am interested how the infrastructure of our literary culture is put together, in particular the role that lit mags have to play in that environment. I wanted to see how that worked from the inside.

I moved to Tasmania from Queensland in February 2012. Supposedly for the quiet life. I had actually known about Island long before, as being one of the stalwarts of Australian literary magazines. I had even submitted a few stories to it over the years, and been rejected every time.

Soon after moving here I fell in with the Island crowd. Dale Campisi had also recently come down to Tasmania, so we were both strangers in a strange town. He was the new editor and change-manager of the magazine, tasked with steering it through what was a difficult year. Its course righted, Campisi left, like The Littlest Hobo. Then I came on board.

I like to tell people I won it from him in a poker game. But that’s not true. It was a craps game.