Friday, April 24, 2015

Six Questions for Nolan Liebert, Editor, Pidgeonholes


Pidgeonholes publishes short fiction to 1500 words and poetry no longer than 40 lines. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Nolan Liebert: In reading, I noticed a distinct underrepresentation of "foreignness", in geoidentity, in other types of diversity, in shorter forms, and in the language and ideas being explored. So, I decided to help fill this niche.


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

NL: 

  • Foreignness. Is the piece from an author outside the United States? Does the work take chances with its language, construction, or subject matter? Does the author self-identify, either in their cover-letter or biographical statement, as being part of a diverse group? I should be able to answer "Yes" to at least one of these questions.
  • Work that understands itself. There is a lot of experimental writing that is wild for the sake of being wild. I want the author to show me, through their work, that they understand why they've made the choices they have.
  • Staying power. I want a work to stay with me, to stay with the readers, long after the reading is done. The language, the story, the message. These things have to resonate on some level, whether it disturbs me emotionally or leaves me considering an uncommon point that was made with subtlety.

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

NL: Not following the submission guidelines regarding work length, content, or cover letter. Beyond that, works lacking the things I'm looking for (foreignness, work that understands itself, and resonance).


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

NL: I try to respond personally, with comments, in every rejection. I think it's important to support other writers, and providing some form of constructive feedback is one way I can do that. However, there are times a piece is really excellent but doesn't fit the aesthetic I'm seeking. These works will get something more akin to a form rejection and my sincere best wishes.


SQF: What magazines/zines do you read regularly?

NL: I'm always looking for new and exciting things to read. Some of these come from big names like Strange Horizons and Apex, but I love a lot of the work put out by the likes of Hobart, Wigleaf, A cappella Zoo, Noble / Gas, The Collapsar, and Synaesthesia. These magazines publish strong work, have a focused aesthetic, and aren't afraid to take risks. I appreciate that.


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

NL: If you could see more of any type of submission, what would it be?

Microfiction. There are places out there for it, 50-Word Stories, SpeckLit, and others, but there's a lot that can be done in 50 - 300 words, so much more to explore. There's an art to it separate from that involved with poetry and other forms of fiction, and I would love to be able to help further its craft and readership.

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

NEZT POST: 5/1—Six Questions for Madison Jones (and staff), Editor-in-Chief, Kudzu House Quarterly


Friday, April 17, 2015

Six Questions for R. M. Cooper, Founder & Managing Editor, Sequestrum

Sequestrum is a monthly journal that publishes fiction and creative nonfiction averaging 5000 words (including micro, flash, short-shorts, etc), poetry to thirty-five lines, and visual arts. Free subscription options are available, and contests are held regularly. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: How and why did Sequestrum get its start?

R. M. Cooper: Over the years of researching and writing for literary journals, I found myself returning to certain websites and subscriptions routinely, but I never felt a strong tie to one publication. It turned out my ideal journal (affordable/publishes established and emerging writers equally/pays contributors/has a sizable audience/incorporates a visual component/can be accessed anywhere, anytime digitally) either didn't exist or at best wasn't paired with the sort of literature I enjoy.

Pure and simple. Sequestrum is the sort of publication I want to interact with and publishes the sort of material I want to read. And as it turned out, I wasn’t the only one who wanted to read a publication like Sequestrum.


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

RMC: There are thousands of literary journals today, and they’re all competing for a share of the market. Readers today have a lot of options and can afford to be impatient, so first impressions are vital. I want every reader to be invested as soon as possible in every story or poem we publish, so the top three qualities I look for are:

  • A sense of immediacy which can manifest in language, style, plot, character, setting, etc.
  • A clear passion for craft.
  • Something unexpected. That’s probably a frustrating bit of advice, but discovering something new is the real joy of being an editor (and a reader too, I think).

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

RMC: Predictability. Nothing hinders a submission like the feeling you’ve read it a hundred times.


SQF: Is there a type of submission you’d like to see more of?

RMC: Submissions which take risks. Attention to craft and hard work can take you a long way, but when someone is willing to open themselves up, they bridge that gap between writing and honesty. And it’s my firm belief that honest writing is the best, simplest definition of literature.


SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?

RMC: The importance of a beginning. After a submission is initially read, the first paragraph in prose or those first few lines in a poem are what editors are going to return to again and again as they compare your submission with other finalists. Don’t bury your best, most imaginative bits of writing deep in a submission. The beginning is the most important thing—until you reach the ending.


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

RMC: Given that your archives are open-access and subscribing is free, why do you suppose writers continue submitting without getting a sense of your editorial tastes?

A: I have no earthly idea.

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

NEXT POST: 4/24—Six Questions for Nolan Liebert, Editor, Pidgeonholes


Friday, April 10, 2015

Six Questions for R. L. Black, Editor, Unbroken

Unbroken is a bimonthly online journal that seeks to showcase poetic prose, the prose poem, and the haibun. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

R. L. Black: Like so many journal editors, I am a writer myself. I started out writing flash fiction, and I looked into experimental forms to enhance my writing. Somewhere along the way, I was introduced to the prose poem, and also to the haibun, and it was love at first sight. I revisited some of my flash fiction pieces and turned them into prose poems and I was delighted with the result, but when I began to submit these pieces I found there were not a lot of markets out there for the prose poem or for the haibun. There’s a few, but not many. So, I saw a need that I wanted to help fill, and that is why I started unbroken.


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

RLB: I look for the unlineated form that we like at Unbroken, because this is what we publish. That’s not to say that we won’t look at poetry with line breaks. I look at everything that comes in, but I only publish the unlineated form. Sometimes I get a piece in that I really like, but it’s lined, and I’ll give the author the option of revising it to fit the block form that we publish.

I look for compelling imagery and language, because a prose poem is still a poem, and the best of them utilize poetic elements and techniques.

I look for work that in some way surprises me or makes me look at something in a different way, something that I will remember for a long time after I read it. I guess this is a personal thing, but as a reader, that’s what I like for a piece to do for me.

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

RLB: Foul language that is not organic to the piece. If it fits with the tone and the mood of the piece, that’s awesome, but if it’s clearly only there for the shock value, I will most likely pass on it.

Also, when I see a piece with lots of typos and grammar problems, it makes me feel like the author didn’t care enough to polish their work before sending it in. Doesn’t mean I won’t consider it, but it does kind of start things off on the wrong foot.


SQF: The pieces in your first issue are all short. Is there a maximum word count you prefer? 

RLB: I don’t have a maximum word count. I think prose poems and haibun tend to be shorter, but I have seen some that are several pages long.


SQF: If Unbroken had a theme song, what would it be and why?

RLB: Simply the Best” by Tina Turner, because for me, prose poetry is the best and, like the song says, "... I hang on every word ... "


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

RLB: Two, actually:

What the heck is a prose poem? That’s been the subject of many a heated debate. Some even say there is no such thing as a prose poem. My answer is that a prose poem is a poem in prose form. It’s a poem disguised as prose. Peter Johnson defined it best when he said that, “…the prose poem plants one foot in prose, the other in poetry, both heels resting precariously on banana peels.”

What the heck is a haibun? It’s a prose poem, with a haiku at the end.

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

NEXT POST: 4/17—Six Questions for R. M. Cooper, Founder & Managing Editor, Sequestrum


Friday, April 3, 2015

Six Questions for Sheldon Lee Compton, Editor, Revolution John


Revolution John publishes fiction/nonfiction/creative nonfiction between 1000 and 5000 words, flash fiction to 1000 words, poetry of any length, and photography/artwork. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Sheldon Lee Compton: I started it because I enjoy publishing and sharing work I'm excited about. There's no reason not to do it, especially with an online journal. There's no cost (until the domain is bought anyways, which I've yet to get enough money to do) and honestly, reading submissions isn't that time consuming if you just stay on top of them. I started it because it's fun and easy. That simple.


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

SLC: I look for a strong voice first of all. Then, I skim through and check for any beginner mistakes that are quickly obvious. Once I've done that, I read through and ask myself if the story had that ring to it for me. I can't explain what that ring is, I just know it after I've finished reading a piece. My aesthetic isn't much more complicated than that. I do pay close attention to Appalachian and southern literature that comes my way, but that's because that's what I write and that's what I prefer most to read.


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

SLC: Bad poetry will get my rejection brain working the fastest. But I'm also not a fan of stories that sort of have this preamble beginning that take up the first three paragraphs where some character's not doing anything other than pondering life's big questions. That's just poor storytelling, and if there's no story I don't care if it's the most beautiful writing I've ever read, it's out.


SQF: Your site also contains book reviews. How are the books selected?

SLC: I wish I could say there was a set selection process, but that's not the case. Most often I schedule a review if a writer gets in touch with me about their book. But if there's a book out that I'm really into I'll write a review of that one to show support and jazz up interest for the writer. I guess there's the built in admission that I don't really review books in the normal fashion, which is why you'll see mostly positive reviews at RJ. I'm reviewing books I'm into, not just titles that are coming out from houses at random. It's an act of appreciation more than a showcase for critique.


SQF: If Revolution John had a theme song, what would it be and why?

SLC: John Cougar Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane," because I'm all about the memory of a thing.


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

SLC: I'd like to have been asked about the stellar group of contributing writers who have come on board at RJ since last year. Stacia Fleegal, Gabino Iglesias, Barry Graham, Ryan W. Bradley, Steph Post, and Barrett Warner. You guys rock it like Chuck Norris on a tilt-a-whirl.

Thank you so much for asking these questions, Jim.  I greatly appreciate it!

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

NEXT POST: 4/10—Six Questions for R. L. Black, Editor, Unbroken