Rick Rofihe is a Scorpio. Rick Rofihe is sort of like an owl, though nicer. He is not concerned with, “Who, Who?” But rather, “What What?” Rick Rofihe sat down with me for an interview in his office for two hours. Rick Rofihe sent me home with a bag of sweets and an armful of books. In this bag of sweets, Rick Rofihe inadvertently reminded me that there is nowhere is the world where a person can get a pastry like New York.
Rick Rofihe has had more stories in the New Yorker than just about anybody, nine. The New Yorker has a 1 to 20,000 publish to submission rate. This means Rick Rofihe has a 1 to 180,000 publishing rate. Rick Rofihe once crashed on his friend’s couch in Boston. Rick Rofihe was a publisher at twenty years old. Rick Rofihe says, “If a publisher commits to a book, everybody in the publishing house should be behind the book. My sympathies are with the people in publishing houses, by the way. Those people have to pay the rent.”
I came to ask Rick Rofihe for advice on publishing and how to keep journals afloat, I came to ask Rick Rofihe for advice on writing. “If you want your literary journal to succeed, you have to do it on the cheap,” Rick Rofihe told me. He told me the Anderbo legend. “A student came to me to start it up. I said, ‘I can’t do it because I can’t type,’ he said, ‘We’ll do it on my computer.’ I said, ‘I can’t do it because I don’t have any money.’ So I got two of my students and one learned to build HTML. We’re still on our first issue in our 4th year. 80 poets, 40 story-writers.”
Rick Rofihe published Susan Breen’s story on anderbo.com and it is in Best Non-Required Reading 2009. Rick Rofihe and Anderbo.com have an average 24-36 hour reading/response turn-around rate. On the internet, Rick Rofihe: “It’s all right. The possibilities. I’ve gone from being a Luddite to a spammer. 4,000 people are on the mailing list. Not everyone asked to be on our list, but we provide them free entertainment.” When Rick Rofihe had more time he was reading 6-7 newspapers a day. Now he reads 2-3, which is still 6-7 dollars day. Rick Rofihe “came from a town which had no bookstore, no library, not even in school.” Rick Rofihe has work published on slushpilemag.com and says, “I’m so happy with it because it’s available at anyone’s computer.”
Anderbo.com is worth more than the Boston Globe is now, technically speaking; you can look into the figures published from when the Times bought it out and what it’s worth/not worth now. Rick Rofihe champions free work on the internet. “Now, some people are mad at me for giving it away for free, but the print book is not long for this world. “Three Point Back” was a story that I published on epiphanyzine.com and I had more feedback on that story than the nine stories I had in the New Yorker. It was also in print, it was a good-looking journal and they gave me six copies and that was nice but I was like, ‘What am I going to do with these? Send them to people? Why not just email them a link?’ You can read anderbo.com on your iphone, by the way.”
Rick Rofihe let me ask him about writing. “I advise anybody who wants to be a writer to live a very narrow life. Stop going to movies, stop reading books, and be a writer.” Rick Rofihe was patient when I asked him to spell 19th-Century novelist’s George Gissing’s name because he quoted him. “Gissing says writing is a mug’s game. I say, If it is a fool’s game, publishing is worse.” On writing: “I’m more concerned personally with the integrity of the story than anything. If a person accepts that a story, like a joke in western civilization, must be structured a certain way for it to be funny. A story must be structured a certain way. A story is not like life. There must be form. Fiction is completely unlike any other medium. In movies, you can’t tell what is going on inside a character, only in fiction do you get a chance to have any omniscience. To find what the character, another person, is thinking. Also, as a writer, it doesn’t matter what the world thinks of you, it’s what you end up thinking of yourself.”