Friday, December 19, 2014

Six Questions for Rebecca Starks, Editor-in-Chief, Mud Season Review

Mud Season Review is an international literary journal run by members of the Burlington Writers Workshop. Each issue of its monthly online journal features one work of fiction, one of nonfiction (both up to 7,000 words), one portfolio of poetry and art. “We seek deeply human work that will teach us something about life, but also about the craft of writing or visual art; work that is original in its approach and opens up new ways of perceiving the world.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?

Rebecca Starks: 

  1. A strong voice—for me that indicates earned wisdom, something like James Joyce’s “out of how deep a life does it spring.” That life could be experiential, or stem from reading, but in either case it should be both well-considered and empathic.
  2. A view from elsewhere—a unique perspective, with some element of risk or challenge.
  3. That it be fully realized—that it have a point, whether or not it has a plot (as William Trevor says of the short story).

SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

RS: Shallowness on any level, from verbal to moral: clich├ęs, irony standing in for empathy, unconsidered assumptions. Mistakes don’t bother me—that’s what editors are for—unless they seem to stem from carelessness or a lack of effort.

SQF: Will you publish a submission an author posted on a personal blog? 

RS: No, we want publication in our journal to constitute the first real “making public” of an author’s work. But if a work is shared among friends for feedback, in a limited way, that would not count as publication for us. And an author can always post the work on their personal blog nine months after we have published it.

The one exception to this rule is art: we will still consider artwork that has been posted on a personal blog.

SQF: Readers unfamiliar with Vermont may not know about mud season. What is it? Is there a relationship between mud season and Mud Season Review?

RS: Mud Season is the early spring, throughout New England: the time when the accumulated snow begins to melt and everything turns to mud. Cars have been known to sink halfway down into dirt roads. People have “mud rooms” for taking off their boots before entering the house. It has countless poems named after it—e.g., “Mud Season” by Jane Kenyon, “Two Tramps In Mud Time” by Robert Frost.

We think of it as a creative season: the time when frozen experience begins to thaw into inspiration, ideas take shape, first drafts turn into final drafts. It’s a messy, unfinished time—and then we want the publication itself to feel celebratory of the finished work that comes out of this inner, private, painstaking work: spring proper.

SQF: What is the best part of being an editor?

RS: I love working with writers to get their work into its best shape: both the work we accept and the work that is sent us as a “feedback request.” I think all our editors have enjoyed both that and getting to know the contributors through our interviews.

And of course sending acceptances—I’m not sure it ever balances out the feeling of sending out rejections, but it feels very good to send good news to someone whose work you feel you’ve “found” and can help promote. And I love discussing submissions with the Mud Season staff—as a group we have eclectic taste, and it’s all the more rewarding when we converge on a piece.

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I’d asked that I didn’t? And how would you answer it?

RS: I’m drawn to one of the other questions I’ve seen on this blog: “Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?”

What I’ve learned is that it’s no good rationalizing, as a writer: the poem, the story, the essay—they have to work. Readers feel the flat lines, they puzzle over plot or characters that feel under-motivated, they are really looking for something in some way transformative. Once you realize that real people are reading what you’ve written—taking it very seriously, debating it, wanting to root for it—you realize that what you send out has to be able to stand up to that. You don’t abandon the work—you go back and finish it.  

Thank you, Rebecca. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 1/9—Six Questions for Marjorie Tesser, Editor, Mom Egg Review

Friday, December 12, 2014

Six Questions for Allen Taylor, Publisher, Garden Gnome Publications

Garden Gnome Publications was started to fill a niche in the digital publishing market. We like to straddle the fence between satire and horror. Dark and light. Weird and mainstream. That way, we can dive into either yard and terrorize the chickens. The editors publish flash fiction to 1,234 words, short stories and novellas. Learn more here.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?


  1. Uniqueness. The story has to be something different, something you wouldn't find anywhere else. If it's a take on an old story line, character, plot development, etc., then it has to be a new take. I don't want tired old re-dones.
  2. Quirkiness. I want it to be weird in some way. If you achieve this one, chances are you'll achieve the first one. But that's not always the case. I have rejected weird stories that were too similar to other stories we've published recently. But if you give us a fresh take on the weird, then we'll likely like it. Quirkiness can be weird, odd, nutty, macabre ... any of those as long as the story doesn't fit into any boxes.
  3. Well-told. It's got to be quality writing.

SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission (other than the converse of the above)?

AT: Not following guidelines. If I get an e-mail with no attachment, I don't consider it. Another thing is predictability. If I can tell where the story is going, I don't want it. Otherwise, if it's something that would fit into a mainstream market too well, then it's probably not for us. There are some exceptions, but not many.

SQF: You publish a number of series (Biblical Legends Anthology, Flim-Flam Games, Gaslight, and others). Briefly, tell us about them.

AT: BLAS is a series of digital anthologies we publish in all the major e-book formats. Each theme is announced well in advance and writers are asked to tell a weird story based on that theme. More often than not, they are asked to not include Biblical characters though the setting may very well be Biblical. We've published two so far—Garden of Eden and Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom & Gomorrah. Deluge: Stories of Survival and Tragedy is forthcoming. We're taking submissions for Land of Nod right now.

Flashes in the Pan are another name we give to the Flim-Flam Games. It's flash fiction. All stories should be 1,234 words, give or take a baker's dozen. That's just a clever way of saying "keep it short." If it's good and it's only 350 words, we'll still publish it. But we do want at least 300 words. All flash fiction submitted are included in the Flim-Flam Games, which are monthly contests where the winner receives $5. They are themed, but writers don't have to follow the theme. You get points if you do. Winners are chosen partly on the ability of the writer to address the monthly theme, partly on the reading preference of the garden gnomes, and partly on the prorated social media shares the stories get during the month.

Gaslights are news analyses of weird or odd news. We ask writers to find a recent news story that is odd or bizarre in some way and give a short commentary on it. It can be serious commentary, funny commentary, straight up satire, or odd and quirky, but it should be something original.

In Local Legends, we ask writers to blur the lines between the real and imaginary. We want stories about the legends that are told in your neck of the woods. We don't want retellings of popular legends. We want you to tell us the legends that local people tell where you are located. Writers can tell them exactly as they've been told by the locals or they can embellish them. We just want them well-told. E.S. Wynn hit it on the head. We now pay $5 for well-told local legends.

Gnome Bombs are photo bombs of people with garden gnomes. Don't do anything that will get you into trouble, but send us pictures of yourself, or your friends, with garden gnomes. The quirkier the better.

We're soon introducing a new imprint, the name of which hasn't been decided upon. We'll be seeking fictional interviews. These will be interviews between two or more fictional characters. It can be a job interview, a news interview, feature story interview, anything imaginable, but it has to be written in an interview format where there is an interviewer and at least one interviewee. Points for originality.

We're also accepting submissions for novella-length mythologies. I call them Mythicals. We want retellings of popular myths or original mythmaking. Odd characters, bizarre situations, weird tropes ... these will get our attention.

Unless the story is horror-driven, you'll have an easier time getting published at GGP if you make us laugh. If it's absurd, so much the better. For the record, absurd doesn't necessarily mean funny, but it doesn't hurt to elicit a chuckle.

SQF: What magazines do you read?

AT: Magazines? Ha! We're totally digital. These days I am more likely to read an e-book on my Kindle. There are a number of blogs and online journals that I like. Anything by Thunderune Publishing. This includes: Weird Year, Smashed Cat Magazine, Yesteryear Fiction, Farther Stars.
He's got others, but these are my favorite.

I also like Bizarro Central and Bizarro Fiction Magazine. I've recently taken a liking to Broken Pencil Magazine. Back in the day, I liked reading Omni magazine, but they died a while back. There are various and sundry speculative fiction websites and online journals that I visit every now and then.

SQF: What do you have against chickens?

AT: (Chuckles) Nothing, as long as they stay on their side of the fence.

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

AT: I think you should have asked, "What are your sources of inspiration?"

There's a fairly complex answer, but I'll try to distill it. First, I grew up in Texas in a typical lower-middle income redneck quasi-Christian family with all the typical dysfunctions. So I'm deeply influenced by the absurdly stupid.

Beyond that, my major literary influences (for fiction) have been: Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Heinlein, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., David Lynch, Franz Kafka, Dr Seuss, and various dystopian authors.

I also like to watch weird TV shows. I grew up watching "The Twilight Zone" and "Tales from the Crypt." These days I like "The Walking Dead" (but I don't write about zombies and aren't likely to accept zombie stories at GGP) and anything you'll find on the H2 channel. I particularly like hearing about all the wacky ancient alien theories.

I've always loved a good story. From Homer to Quentin Tarantino, my heroes have always been the people who make us laugh, cry, and want to kill our mothers.

Cult leaders, strong cultish personalities, cultic groups, mind control, the supernatural and the preternatural, serial killers, absurdity, fall-on-the-floor humor ... these are just some of the things that I find inspiring. And chickens. I love chickens.

 Thank you, Allen. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: Six Questions for Rebecca Starks, Editor-in-Chief, Mud Season Review

Friday, December 5, 2014

Six Questions for Beth Ayer, Senior Poetry Editor, Found Poetry Review

Found Poetry Review was founded by editor-in-chief Jenni Baker in 2011. Jenni and I met in graduate school, where we wrote poetry together in several informal writing groups and also worked together on the campus literary magazine. In seeking publication for her own found poems, Jenni discovered that very few publications accept submissions falling under the “found poetry” umbrella. We’ve been working to publish the very best found poetry ever since.

The journal has grown significantly since 2011. Over the last year or so, we’ve taken on a team of readers and two additional blog contributors. We’ve also held contests, produced special issues and coordinated large-scale poetry projects.

FPR publishes two issues per year of previously unpublished found poetry. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: For those unfamiliar with the form, please explain what found poetry is. Can you provide a link to an example?

Beth Ayer: Found poetry has been referred to as "the literary version of a collage." We like this definition, as opposed to the other form of entirely found or "untreated" work. An untreated found poem places most emphasis on the concept of finding, and less on writing. So, if you find an intriguing bit of text and add line breaks, there you have an untreated found poem. At FPR, we favor poetry that significantly transforms the source material.

We accept only submissions of poems sourced from other texts, and by "texts" we mean anything from books to emails to advertising—anything text-based. Types of found poetry we publish include cento (poems composed from the full lines of other works), remix (in which poets pull words and phrases and arrange them free-form into an original poem), and erasure (prominent examples include Jen Bervin's Nets and Austin Kleon's Newspaper Blackout Poems). We post information on found poetry forms and fair use guidelines at

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?


1. Our most important requirement is that the poet transforms the source material, transcending the original meaning. When reviewing a submission, I usually read the poem over a few times first to get a sense of it, then check the source material, then reread. I find that it is important to first form an impression of the poem before considering the source, but we also want to make sure the piece adheres to our guidelines.

2. As with any poetry, we look for submissions that surprise, delight, and speak to us. Regardless of the poet’s form and technique, we want that poem to move us in some way.

3. We also tend to look for poetry that represents the found poetry genre well. There are some types of poems that we see attempted repeatedly; examples include poetry from email spam, poetry from text messages, and poetry from the news. Some of these I just mentioned are difficult to pull off because the source material overwhelms the resulting poem, rather than creating a standalone piece. When a poet submits work that we think furthers the genre and expands the possibilities of poetic appropriation, we are excited to publish it.

SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

BA: Our number one requirement is that the poem significantly transforms the source material, but most rejected submissions simply didn’t make enough of an impact on our particular editors and readers. Like I mentioned above, we want to be surprised and moved. It is always a good idea to read our past issues to get a sense of the kinds of work we publish.

SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?

BA: We provide comments whenever possible, and sometimes provide feedback if there is some specific edit that we would like to see before publishing. We do encourage writers to resubmit if they are not successful with their first submission.

SQF: What song title best describes Found Poetry Review and why?

BA: This is a hard one! I’m going to give you an over thinker answer. I briefly considered the title “Wrapped Up In Books” by Belle and Sebastian. You know...because we love books and celebrating the written word. But that felt insufficient. Then I thought about “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know” by Herman Dune, because, like all editors, we want to learn something new from every poem we read.

Finally I settled on something that I think describes us better: “Homage” by Feist & Timber Timbre. Behind everything FPR does, there is a lot of love and a great appreciation for the writers whose work we (and our poets) appropriate and transform.

(That, or “This is How We Do” by Katy Perry.)

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

 BA: “How else can a poet become involved with Found Poetry Review, aside from submitting to an upcoming issue?”

A: Over the last couple of years, we have worked to build a community around found poetry, and we have found this community to be helpful and motivating for both established and beginning writers. Each year in April, we host a National Poetry Month project. In past years, our projects have included poets from all over the U.S and other countries writing constraint-based poetry every day in April. We also enjoy taking found poetry on the road, with visits to both conferences and college classes—we’d like to do more of this. We also occasionally bring on volunteers to read submissions and write for the FPR blog.

To stay informed of FPR opportunities, follow our activities by signing up for our mailing list, and following us on Facebook, Twitter, and on the blog (all at

Finally, get in touch with your creative ideas. We love to collaborate.

Thank you, Beth. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 12/12—Six Questions for Allen Taylor, Publisher, Garden Gnome Publications

Friday, November 28, 2014

Six Questions for Mel Anastasiou, Jennifer Landels and Susan Pieters, Editors, PULP Literature

PULP Literature publishes fiction from short stories to novel excerpts "that breaks out of the bookshelf boundaries, defies genre, surprises, and delights.” Learn more here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

PULP Literature: Toni Morrison wrote, “If you can’t find the book you want to read, then write it.” Similarly, we couldn’t find a magazine that hit the sweet spot for us, a magazine that had intelligent storytelling combined with fast-paced plot and excellent writing. Fun stories, plus some thoughtful fodder for the mind. So we decided to follow Toni’s advice and launch Pulp Literature.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?

PL: We really only look for one thing: solid storytelling. I suppose this requires three elements: craftsmanship, an idea or plot that grabs us, and a sprinkling of pixie dust. (Yeah, what do they call that magic element that makes some stories sparkle?)

SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

PL: Boredom. I can put up with a bit of bad punctuation, but I need to want to keep reading. I need to care what happens.

SQF: Please tell us a little about your selection process for each issue.

PL: We have first readers who sort through the submissions to filter out the stories that don’t fit our criteria. That’s the easy part. Most stories take longer to decide upon and get multiple reads. We feel like treasure hunters and are willing to work with authors who need just a bit of help to pull off their story. If we decide against a story in the end, we send comments back to the author, and this personal interaction important to us.

SQF: What should readers know about the contests you sponsor?

PL: Great cash prizes, famous judges! Enter early and often. (All entries are juried). Also, all entrants get free e-subscriptions, so depending on which contest you enter, it’s the cheapest way to subscribe.

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

PL: How much DOES a beer cost in Canada?

Our tagline is “Good books for the price of a beer,” so we do get asked this question a fair bit. At a nightclub, beer garden, hockey game, or anywhere else there’s a captive audience you’ll pay a tenner for a plastic cup of indifferent swill.  A good craft beer in a restaurant will also set you back about the same amount and be gone in twenty minutes.  You’re far better spending your $9.99 on a copy of Pulp Lit that will give you 250 pages of good reading.

Thank you, Mel, Jennifer and Susan. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 12/05—Six Questions for Beth Ayer, Senior Poetry Editor, Found Poetry Review