20 June 2018

The Mysterious Women of Dell Magazines: Jackie Sherbow

Jackie Sherbow
photo by Ché Ryback

Leigh Lundin had the wonderful idea of inviting some of our favorite editors to sit for interviews. As the guiding hands at the mystery side of Dell Magazines (EQMM and AHMM) they have a huge influence on our field by bringing new readers and writers into it. Tomorrow we will feature Janet Hutchings, and Friday will star Linda Landrigan. But today we have the delightful Jackie Sherbow.
— Robert Lopresti

Jackie Sherbow is the Associate Editor of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. She is also the editor of Newtown Literary Journal and her poetry has appeared in places like Day One, Moonchild Magazine, and Luna Luna Magazine. She lives in Queens, New York.

What is one thing you wish everyone would know about your publications?

First and foremost, that they (still) exist. This of course seems like child’s play to anyone reading SleuthSayers, but you don’t know how many people come up to us at events and say the words “I didn’t know you were still around,” or otherwise think we’re publishing reprints of older issues. It’s wonderful to speak with readers who have a long-time, nostalgic connection to the magazines (and/or have unearthed their parents’ or grandparents’ collections, which they remember from childhood), but I think there’s no reason why short mystery fiction shouldn’t have a wide and growing audience—especially since so many different modes of contemporary and traditional fiction fall under that umbrella and can be found in the magazines.

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading the short-story collection Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti, and Eye Level, poems by Jenny Xie. I am usually reading two or three books concurrently, and trying to catch up on magazine or journal subscriptions too—I try to balance my reading between short stories, novels, poetry, and nonfiction at all times. Looks like I need to pick up some nonfiction.

What other hobbies or jobs do you have?

I’m the editor of a community-based literary journal in Queens called Newtown Literary, and I’m involved with the nonprofit organization that publishes it. I am also a writer (of poetry) and a runner (albeit a very slow one).

Do you have any pets?

I’ve somewhat recently adopted a small asthmatic cat named Dottie (after Miss Fisher’s companion in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries). And now I’m the kind of person who has attached a photo of the cat to this e-mail.

What great short story or collection have you read recently?

I loved Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado, which came out last year from Graywolf Press and has received a handful of awards and nominations since then. A story that really unnerved me recently was “The Midnight Zone” by Lauren Groff, originally published in the New Yorker and reprinted in The Best American Short Stories of 2017. I had to put it down and give it a break before finishing it. I read a lot of short horror as well as—naturally—crime and thriller, but I can’t remember the last time I had such a visceral reaction to a story. Very uncomfortable, but very memorable.

What do you love about short stories?

As a poet, I’m always impressed by fiction in general: what an author can pull off in terms of plot while also concentrating on theme and form—and as we know this is accentuated in a short story, where there’s less wordly “real estate.” As an editor and reader of short fiction, I particularly find intriguing the plot and character arcs in a short story (especially when there’s a mystery—which there almost always is!). I find that in a short story, imaginative leaps, experimental form, and other playful or innovative methods can be pulled off more successfully. And I really love how reading a short story on its own and then among others (whether in a single-author collection or a periodical or anthology) can bring out something new in the work. In terms of practicality, I’m a fairly slow reader, so short stories tend to strike me more in this way than a series of novels do.

Who is your favorite author?

Gabriel García Marquéz.

If you knew you’d be deserted on an island, what book would you bring?

One Hundred Years of Solitude.

What is your personal editorial philosophy?

In general I edit for clarity, consistency, and then refinement in service of the author’s voice and the entirety of the piece. I think that everything in a piece of writing matters, down to the smallest element of punctuation, but that it’s important as an editor to examine the power structures underlying the use of different types of language. I think it’s irresponsible not to do this. In everyday life, I think it can be pernicious to promote unsolicited, moralized adherence to traditional correctness without thinking about it. Language is a gift and powerful tool, and I think the words, style, and usages we choose to employ (or choose not to) have a cumulative effect on our communities.

Aside from short mystery fiction, what other parts of the genre do you enjoy?

I am a fan of mystery novels, television shows, and movies, and I am fascinated by true crime, but I would have to say the community of writers, readers, and fans. I think mysteries bring people together. Speaking of which, thank you, SleuthSayers, for inviting me, Janet, and Linda to participate.

Thank you, Jackie. Tomorrow, Janet Hutchings.


  1. Nice interview, Jackie. And Dottie is adorable. Is it the angle, or does she have really big paws?

  2. Interesting piece. Nice to know Jackie's thoughts, especially her editorial philosophy. So correct - "Language is a gift and powerful tool." Reading AHMM and EQMM is always a pleasure and I think we're learning why from this series.

  3. Jackie, it's interesting to find out more about the people we know and work with and the philosophy behind what they do. And as for Dottie, welcome to the world of people who put up their animal pix :-) . It's hard not to.

  4. Hi, Jackie! Great interview! (I could spend the next hundred years on a desert island rereading ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE and never get tired of it!...)

  5. Great interview here! And got some reading for the TBR pile: That Lauren Groff story.... I'll brace myself.

    Thanks for joining us at SleuthSayers!

  6. Hey Jackie! What a great interview--thanks for doing this. And welcome to SleuthSayers!

  7. Terrific. I am so glad to know you write poetry, too. Nice to think a fellow writer is on the other side of the editorial desk!

  8. Great interview, Jackie, from another cat person. Our himalayan Jewel, also had asthma.

    I especially like your take on editing, and, like Art, I'll be looking for the Lauren Groff story.

  9. Wonderful to get your insights, Jackie!

  10. Hi Jackie! Okay, now I have my summer reading list. I'm always looking for great short story collections. So nice to learn more about you. Love Dottie (the show and your gal there)!

  11. Hi Jackie, great post! Thanks for the reading recommendations. And Dottie is a real cutie!

  12. Jackie, thanks for gracing the pages of our SleuthSayer blog. Best wishes with your poetry, and have a great summer.

  13. I love it when someone steps away from the editing desk and lets us see them as a real person. Nice to meet you, Jackie! Now I look forward to meeting Janet and Linda.

  14. Enjoyed the interview, Jackie, and also learned a few things. I didn't know you were a poet, for one. I love horror stories, too, by the way. Dottie was my favorite character on the "Miss Fisher" series. I did not know that she became a cat after it was cancelled.

  15. Thanks so much, Barb! It is partially the angle, but her paws are bigger than average in comparison with the rest of her. (She's pretty small for an adult cat.)

    Many thanks, O'Neil! I really appreciate it (and, of course, your own contributions and your readership).

    Paul, I'm glad to hear so. It's great to get a chance to talk to everyone in a situation other than usual business. Grateful to Leigh, Rob, and you all for this opportunity. I love seeing photos of your dogs!

    Josh—Thanks! And me too. I’m trying to read it now in Spanish, but it's slow going. Hoping it will help me brush up on the language, though.

    Thank you very much, Art! That story really gave me the creeps. I hope you enjoy (?) it too.

    Thanks so much, John! I'm really pleased to appear here in such illustrious company.

    Thank you, Janice! It’s nice the other way around, too—when submitting my own work to another editor.

    Steve—many thanks! Ahh, Himalayan cats are beauties. I really appreciate it, and hope you enjoy (although possibly uncomfortably) the story!

    Thank you for reading, V.S.! I always enjoy keeping up with your own blog.

    Melodie, let me know what you think! And thanks so much for reading the interview. I'm looking forward to seeing your piece for Something Is Going to Happen.

    Thomas, thank you! I hope you enjoy the books. I'm putting together my summer reading list too. (Any suggestions?) And I'm looking forward to posting your piece at Trace Evidence.

    R.T., thanks so much for your kind words. Hope you’ll likewise have a great summer.

    Earl, pleased to meet you! Thanks so much for reading. I think you’ll all enjoy hearing from Janet and Linda.

    David, thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. I know you’re also a practitioner of horror fiction. I loved Dottie too (and the feline version is too shy to carry the name of Phryne!). There’s rumor of a Miss Fisher’s movie happening….


    It's been a treat to chat with you all here. I am sure we’ll be in touch soon—for some reason or another—but again, thanks for reading and for welcoming me to this lovely platform. (And I will pass the love on to Dottie too.)

  16. Jackie, I'm glad you could join us yet again. You do a great interview.

    Your poetic ability is quite an asset, one I envy. We prose writers could use more art in our endeavors.

    Jackie, thank you for all that you do and especially for taking the time to visit with us.

  17. Oh, I guess I came along late to this!
    Great interview, Jackie. I'm adding that story in the NYer to my reading list, too.

  18. Revealing interview! Also the comments -- and I thought it was the angle of the picture that made Dottie's paws seem big.

  19. Really enjoyed reading all about "The Mysterious Women of Dell Magazines."

    Much thanks to Paul D. Marks, and all the other writers over at SleuthSlayers who put these interviews out there. Great reading!

  20. Leigh, thank you! It’s been an honor and pleasure to have been invited here before and to be invited back. Great to work with you, as always. Sometimes I think poetry needs more prose! The forms make a good team.

    Hi, Stephen! Thank you. Let me know what you think about the story.

    Thanks for reading, Debra! Maybe she wouldn’t be too happy with the photo I chose…

    Hi, Lisa! Thanks very much for reading, and I’m glad you enjoyed it.


    See you all tomorrow, when Linda’s piece goes up!


Welcome. Please feel free to comment.

Our corporate secretary is notoriously lax when it comes to comments trapped in the spam folder. It may take Velma a few days to notice, usually after digging in a bottom drawer for a packet of seamed hose, a .38, her flask, or a cigarette.

She’s also sarcastically flip-lipped, but where else can a P.I. find a gal who can wield a candlestick phone, a typewriter, and a gat all at the same time? So bear with us, we value your comment. Once she finishes her Fatima Long Gold.

You can format HTML codes of <b>bold</b>, <i>italics</i>, and links: <a href="https://about.me/SleuthSayers">SleuthSayers</a>