Editors’ Letter: The Howl Scale
In the moment of consumption we howl. This is no metaphor; reading has had this effect on us. We holler when satiated, responding physiologically to words with an aching breath, a literal scream, and the feeling of being gutted, turned inside out, clawing to escape our own bodies in reaction to some stretch of words just read. To howl is to feel language turn us bloody and translucent, to be reminded we are alive in one violent exhale.
In the final months before we moved from the town where we met, we considered our need to howl regularly. We developed the idea for a literary journal focused on showcasing the kind of work that could ripple through a person like orgasm or tragedy. A venue for this work needed to exist, and we wanted to be the ones to birth it into being. Sitting in the local downtown Starbucks we had spent so many afternoons in together, studying with friends, crying, bleeding, hollering, etc., we developed the concept for a literary magazine called The Hunger, named after our shared lifelong obsessions with the metaphors (and realities) of emptiness and satiety. We spent three hours choosing precisely the right font, and then, suddenly, The Hunger was a thing that existed in the world.
We placed a call into the void. Wreck us, we begged. Make us throw our mouths open to the sky. We knew only that we wanted to be destroyed and we hoped someone, somewhere would send us some collection of words that would do it. Which is to say: we had little idea of what to expect in terms of the quality and quantity of work we might receive when putting together a first issue of a literary magazine. And we were surprised at the flood of both that came rolling in.
In the spirit of transparency (and just because we think statistics are kinda cool), here are the results of our first open submission period:
4% acceptance rate (13 accepted / 268 submissions)
4% acceptance rate (11 accepted / 261 submissions)
13% acceptance rate (4 accepted / 29 submissions)
27% acceptance rate (5 accepted / 18 submissions)
50% acceptance rate (8 accepted / 17 submissions)
6% overall acceptance rate (42 published pieces / 602 total submissions)
We noticed, after reading over six hundred submissions (which included many very good ones that we were unable to publish) to curate Issue 1 of The Hunger, that some common threads pop up in the work we chose: elements of strangeness, madness, and/or the confessional; dead men and misunderstood men and potentially violent and/or potentially redeemable men (and women, too—everybody has the potential to be dead or messily human); gender identity; love that decays and consumes; at least three babies.
When we encountered the art and writing that people sent us, we found quickly that there was a fairly foolproof way to tell if it was a perfect fit for The Hunger: it made us howl. Literally. Something between a gasp and a scream wracked our bodies, plowed through the fortresses of teeth and lips and released from our mouths this primal exhalation of delight and devastation. We began to refer to this as “The Howl Scale.” That’s not to say that these pieces didn’t inspire deep thought or more rational, intellectual debate about artistic merit, but if we were on the fence about a piece, we always came back to the question: but did it make us howl?
This describes, in simple terms, what we envisioned The Hunger would become: a place to howl. To let art break and rebuild you. To feed off of the same inspiration that we, as writers and readers and lovers of this vast and unsettling world, also find in these pieces.
In the vein of things that inspire howling, we wanted to address Issue 1’s cover image and share why we felt it was undoubtedly the perfect image to represent our first issue. We both relate deeply to the strangeness of the picture, its startling effect, but more than that—we relate to the spirit of longing, the grasping at a hopeless desire for something that can’t be had. The inability to break free from something that’s rotting away, or the blind devotion to conjuring life into something that’s already long dead. The humiliation of being human. A violent, silly longing. A hunger.
Let this collection hollow you out. Let it fill you. May it keep you hungering for more.
Lena & Erin
Editors & Co-Founders