Getting into writing – an interview with Tamara Burross Grisanti, Editor-in-Chief of Coffin Bell

Tamara Burross Grisanti, Editor-in-Chief of Coffin Bell

Tamara Burross Grisanti is a writer and editor living in Buffalo, New York. She enjoys dark literature, proofing, editing, rare typos, literary journals, and Oxford commas. Tamara is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, and her poetry and fiction appear or are forthcoming in New World Writing, Eunoia Review, Chicago Literati, Former Cactus, and Corvus Review. In 2014 she joined the masthead of ELJ (Elm Leaves Journal) as associate editor, and in 2017 she launched an online journal for dark literature, Coffin Bell Journal.

Why did you start your publication?

I have always loved dark literature. If I were pressed to name only one favorite book, I would name Mary Shelley’s Shelley’s masterpiece is so much more than just horror. I think that dark literature can reveal a lot about dark times. I started Coffin Bell because I wanted to give a platform to great dark work that interrogates and challenges traditional horror narratives, work that opens minds by opening wounds.

What is the most gratifying element of publishing the written word?

I’m a believer in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s assertion that “fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.” Bringing that truth, those words, out into the world so they can be read and experienced by as many people as possible is the biggest reward for me.

Coffin Bell

What are your happiest memories in your writing/publishing career?

Of course my first publication was a thrill, joining the masthead of ELJ as associate editor was very exciting, and launching Coffin Bell and producing a successful first issue was a joy. I recently added two assistant editors to the masthead of Coffin Bell, as well. Seeing the journal grow is very gratifying.

How do you handle success and failure?

Success pairs well with moscato. I try not to let failures dampen my spirits. There will be missteps and rejections, and I must learn from them and keep up the effort of writing and submitting. A mentor of mine once equated it to having to keep putting gas in your car, which is a perfect analogy.

What makes you write when you’re exhausted and your fingers ache?

Trying not to write is like trying to dam a river with my bare hands. I’ve written since I was old enough to hold a pencil. It’s become a way of life for me. I write to explore the world, to explore myself, to find my truth, so it becomes a sort of haven for me when I’m exhausted or drained.

What is your advice to young and new writers?

Give yourself permission to write badly. Consider it clearing your throat. Don’t expect everything you write to be publishable. You have to get the bad writing out to get to the good. And read your work aloud before submitting it. Speaking the text often highlights imperfections that aren’t apparent when reading silently.

Are you a traditionalist or a digital? (paper or eBook)

I am a traditionalist—I don’t read eBooks. I have packed bookshelves all over my house. I love the physicality of printed books and literary journals, the whisper of turning pages, admiring the design of the cover, spine, and masthead, the fonts. I like finishing a book and closing it. And books never need to be charged.

Do you blog?

I blogged prolifically in the heyday of Blogger and MySpace, but now I prefer using my time to work on fiction and editing. Though I do hope to find a volunteer blog editor for Coffin Bell (dark bloggers, get in touch!).

Do you have a designated writing space?

I write in our third-floor attic room, where I carved out enough space for a passable office. All my writing, editing, and other work gets done at that desk. I have a corkboard beside my desk that’s filled with notes on my novel in progress, motivational quotations, and postcards from countries I’ve visited.

If you have a publication or promotion – tell us.

Coffin Bell Journal reads submissions year-round, and publishes four online issues a year. We’re looking for poetry, flash, short story, and CNF that explore dark themes. Send us your waking nightmares, dystopian flash, dark CNF, and cursed verse. Make us think in a new way. Make our skin crawl. To submit, visit Follow us at,, and like us on Facebook at

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