Richard Merli is a New York-based author, editor, and investigative journalist whose career in journalism spanned over 30 years. He is the founder and editor of October Hill Magazine, a quarterly literary magazine, now in its fourth year. Merli is the author of a new poetry collection, The Light of Ancient Stars, and the upcoming novel The Animals.
What is your professional background?
I trained as a journalist and creative writer at New York University and spent over thirty years in newspaper and magazine publishing, first as an investigative reporter, then as an editor of four different magazines, and finally as a founder and part-owner of a monthly magazine.
October Hill Magazine is a wonderful platform that enables aspiring and new writers to share their voices. How did you come up with the idea?
I had a number of friends in the literary space who often spoke of how utterly depressing it was to submit a first novel, collection of short stories or a poetry collection to major publishers, only to receive a form letter stating that it was their policy not to read – much less accept – any unsolicited manuscripts. That policy has now spread to all the major publishers (and their numerous acquisitions, or “imprints”). Their policy struck me as incredibly short-sighted and unjust. Where were new and aspiring writers to go with their work? Certainly, they could submit their work to the many literary magazines out there. But many of those publications preferred to publish the work of big-name, established authors, who already have a following and can deliver the “eyeballs.” So, once I walked away from my last position in publishing, I was yearning for a new type of challenge, something I hadn’t done before, something literary. I had enjoyed an extremely rewarding career in newspapers and magazines. Now it was time to build a platform for the many young and aspiring writers who were being shut out, to give them the opportunity to become some of the great authors of the next generation. So I launched October Hill Magazine in May, 2017.
Where do you see October Hill Magazine growing?
Our five-year plan for developing a print companion to our digital product is about a year ahead of schedule. We expect to launch a print magazine within the next year in response to reader demand. Internally, we continue to grow and broaden our editorial offerings. In our third year, we created a new space for visual submissions, including photography and illustration. That has grown. Earlier this year, we launched another section of book reviews for short stories and poetry. At the time of this writing, we will have kicked off our very first Global Authors’ Reading via Zoom, featuring seven readings of new short stories and poems by authors from Alaska to the U.K. to Eastern Europe. The growth opportunities in this space are phenomenal. And, since we just attained our not-for-profit status, every dollar we earn during our fundraising campaign will be used to reinvest in our magazine and to support our staff of volunteers.
What inspired you to write The Light of Ancient Stars?
I’d been writing poetry for years and showcasing some of it at public readings through my writers group, Literary Lights, in Manhattan. I wanted to draw to together my best poetry and make it available to readers in a collection. That became The Light of Ancient Stars. It’s a cross-section of some of my favorite works, grouped in three subject areas: Poems about our inner emotional landscape; poems about historical figures and personalities, both good and evil, heroic and dastardly; and poems about the awe and splendor of the natural world. I write because I feel inspired to write by what I perceive in the natural world, because I feel compelled to write about subjects who engage me, and because I feel challenged to explore that which appears before me in the space between Heaven and Hell. I write because I must write. And poetry is my primary medium of expression.
What other projects are you currently working on now?
My first novel, The Animals, is scheduled for release soon in the U.S. It’s a rollicking and raw fictional account of the rollercoaster ride and rise and fall of one of the British Invasion’s most iconic bands (“House of the Rising Sun”). I have a second novel in the works, as well. It’s also based upon real-world events. An underground cell of radicals takes up arms against the U.S. government and multinational corporations, who have joined together to overthrow a democratically-elected government, resulting in the deaths of 20,000 people. I suspect it’s going to shock a great many people. I’m also topping off the second collection of poetry. I’m hoping it will be available soon.
How can readers get in touch with you?
I’m always pleased to hear from readers and eager to receive feedback on my work. The best way for readers to contact me is through my author web site: RichardMerli.com.