Friday, May 26, 2017

Six Questions for Jake Schneider, Editor in Chief, SAND Journal, and the editorial team


SAND Journal is a biannual print publication containing short stories, poetry, flash fiction, creative nonfiction, translations, photography, drawing, painting, and other art forms. Learn more here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Jake Schneider, editor in chief: Actually, I didn’t: our founding editor in chief was Becky Crook, and you sent this questionnaire to my recent predecessor, Lyz Pfister. In a city as transient as Berlin, the secret to our eight-year survival as a volunteer-run literary magazine is that we’ve always been an evolving, collaborative effort defined by the passions of our current group of people. It’s never been a private project, and each successive group has had its own tastes and definitions of what SAND should be. But that’s exactly what expat Berlin is like: marked by arrivals and departures, driven more by common cause than by personal ambition, inheriting the city and redefining it.

So, long story short, I can only speak for myself and my own goals: I’d like to see SAND bring together more underrepresented voices from more places, especially in the Global South. Berlin is one endpoint on many people’s migrations. As transplants, we are always looking farther afield for inspiration. Just as our own lives don’t match what we were raised to expect, we are intrinsically interested in poems and stories that defy those expectations. That includes translations.


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

Florian Duijsens, fiction editor: I look for three things: surprise (not in terms of twist endings, but in terms of surprising voices, observations, textures, and also surprising choices in where stories start and stop), confidence (a cohesive, effective style, conscious stylistic/linguistic/narrative decisions), and truth (characters and settings that not only feel true to life, but also true to themselves; not necessarily likable, or even realistic, but alive and singular). So anything but the cliché, the wishy-washy, and the fake, basically.


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

Andrew Scheinman, nonfiction editor: A story of any sort needs a raison d'être—not a moral, not necessarily even a delineated plotline—but some searching or wandering, some exploration that occurs or is at least suggested between the beginning, middle, and end. Too many memoirs, essays, and the like proclaim their meaning from the get-go, delivering something akin to a news lede, and then elucidate the details as a matter of course. But literary writing is narrative—exciting only when it entertains or perplexes throughout the reading process, factuality notwithstanding. A simple record of events, however true or profound to the author her/himself, does not a good story make. Good nonfiction should be more about seeking than finding and should take the reader along for the ride.


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

Jake Schneider: Because of the hundreds of submissions we receive, we can’t always provide comments. But we always send personal responses to writers from our shortlist who don’t quite make into the issue.


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

Andrew Scheinman: Hemingway said “the most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.” Well, I may not be built-in, but as an editor, I suppose this sort of thing is my job vis-à-vis other writers. As I grow a bit more practiced at seeing others’ prose plainly, even bluntly, I notice how much of writing is really just that—the simple act of being attentive to lapse of voice, to strength of story arc, to depth of character, and refining these features draft after draft after draft. Whatever happens to the blank page is only the beginning. The metamorphosis that comes afterward—the “getting the words right,” as Hemingway put it—this is where writing becomes extraordinary.


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

Jake Schneider: I don’t necessarily wish you asked it, but you might be wondering where our name comes from. The answer is the 1985 song “Sand” as performed by Einstürzende Neubauten, which is a radically altered cover of this 1966 version by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood. The lyrics go “I am a stranger in your land / wandering man / call me Sand.” The shoe fits.

Thank you, Jake, Andrew, and Florian. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Six Questions for Sara Roberts , Editor, Cafe Aphra

Cafe Aphra publishes poetry to 25 lines and flash fiction to 500 words. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Sara Roberts: We set up Cafe Aphra together with a small group of writing friends back in Autumn 2012. We had met through a short writing course organised by the Arvon Foundation at a wonderful place called Moniack Mhor up in the Scottish Highlands. We all felt somewhat frustrated by our unsuccessful attempts to submit work to many of the established literary journals, both in print and online, and we knew that there were a lot of great aspiring writers out there working in isolation and getting discouraged. So we decided to set up an online platform for writers to share their work and support and encourage each other, offering feedback and getting their work read by other people. It was about helping ourselves and each other through showcasing our writing, and encouraging writers to be collaborative and supportive, rather than competitive.


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

SR: 

  • Writing that moves me in some way emotionally. It may make me laugh, smile, feel sad, nostalgic, horrified, or whatever - it's not so much about which emotion or emotions, but it must move me in some way.
  • Writing that is in some way true. That makes me nod or smile wryly in recognition. That contains an essence of human truth.
  • Writing that makes me see something familiar in a completely new way.


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

SR:

  • Ranting (political, social, moral, spiritual or other). 
  • Poor grammar or spelling; blatant typos that have been overlooked. Incorrect use of apostrophes, etc. 
  • A story or piece of prose or verse that does not make any kind of sense, that is just a string of words for the sake of it, that hasn't really been thought about carefully. That hasn't been honed or polished or crafted. 
  • In terms of flash fiction, above all else the character or characters have to be strong, have to feel real, have to convince me of their existence beyond the page. 
  • In terms of verse, I personally find rhyming poetry can often feel twee and too easy or simplistic. I think it's very hard, actually, to write really good rhyming poetry today. So I would say that I have a definite preference for verse that does not follow an obvious rhyme scheme, but that's just me.

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

SR: Sometimes. Not often. Generally we only offer feedback if we feel that it was a strong submission that was nearly there and is worth taking the time to comment on, perhaps so that the author can re-work it and re-submit.


SQF: What magazines/zines do you read on a ‘regular’ basis?

SR: Gosh. That's a hard question! There are lots of them, but it depends what you mean by "on a regular basis"! Here are some literary journals and anthologies or publishing houses that I tend to go for when I can, in no particular order (some of them very big, some very small):

Glimmertrain Press, (previously) NanoFiction, Room, Granta, Tin House, The Fiction Desk, Aesthetica Magazine, Momaya Press, Brittle Star Magazine, Fish Publishing, Structo, The Sandspout, SickLit, Litro, Ad Hoc Fiction, Red Hen Press, East Coast Literary Review, Corvus review, From the Depths, Ink in Thirds, Haque Magazine, FlashFlood NFFD journal/anthology.

(And I'm sure I've forgotten at least half a dozen of really obvious ones.)


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

SR: What are the things that annoy you the most when contributors submit work for the first time?

  • People not writing a proper email, e.g. Hi Cafe Aphra / Dear Editor (or something to that effect), Please find attached my flash fiction submission entitled X. Thanks for your time. Best, Joe Bloggs. A surprising number of people just copy and paste the text of their submission straight into an email without any kind of explanation whatsoever, even to say whether it is a poetry or prose submission (and believe me, sometimes it is not obvious!). That always riles me because it just seems so lazy and as if the person submitting is not even acknowledging that there is a human being on the receiving end of their email.
  • People who don't read the submission guidelines and send in short stories, say, of 2000 words without first checking what we actually post up on the website (which is flash fiction up to 500 words or poetry of up to 25 lines max). Please do check at least the last few posts to get a sense of what we publish before submitting.

SQF: Are you reading anyone else's blog about writing at the moment, and if so who?

SR: Yes, at the moment I find myself ready Emma Darwin's blog quite often, This Itch of Writing. I have read several of her articles and always found them to be really spot-on and sometimes quite brilliant. I would thoroughly recommend.

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

Six Questions for Tolulope Oke and Damilare Bello, Co-founding Editors, Lunaris Review

Lunaris Review publishes literary flash fiction to 1,000 words, and short stories and creative non-fiction to 4,000 words. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this journal? 

Lunaris Review: As at its foundation, there were none or few magazines and journals of art in Africa that published non-Africans. Hence, Lunaris Review started as a platform to harness and project creativity from around the globe.


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

LR:
For Prose:

  1. A story that has followed submission guidelines. Too many submissions dwell on a badly structured story! 
  2. Flow. Every sentence should feed into the next in a not so forced way. A story that fulfills its mandate. No one wants a story whose plot is plagued with pretensions. 
  3. Character development. All characters must want something. We look for a story with well thought-out and harnessed philosophical/psychological thrust.

For Poetry: 1. Essence 2. Aesthetics 3. Originality

On every work that I sit to look at and pick from the numerous submissions, essence quickly becomes the first thing that I look out for. Essence to me is what defines the time frame of how impactful such work would be, say, thirty years from now. Essence gives me an impression of the depth and how profound that kind of work is and would be to humanity. Aesthetics is also an interesting thing that draws me to particular submissions from the lot. Aesthetics —the beau and aura— of works stimulates me to take a further read and critical yet objective selection of a person's work. Aesthetics, be it imagistic expressions and detailed metaphoric usage would get me selecting one kind of work over another. Finally, originality can't be ruled out when I am making selections from submissions. Originality holds a powerful light into the eyes of the readership — a kind way— measuring the prowess of the writer.


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

LR:

For Prose:

  • Verbosity. Most often than not you will find you are telling and not showing.
  • Dial down the suspense a notch. We need as much info as possible as soon as possible. 
  • Comma splices and punctuation errors.
  • Counter narratives and disjointed plots.

For Poetry: Poor verbiage and lack of essence. I believe that poetry, or any other kind of writing, should not be a centrality scope for looking for verbosity –a situation that draws so much into wrong usage. Without essence, a work loses its power; its feel... its growth over time.


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

LR: Sometimes. Feedback always builds writers. Also, if the writer demands, and sometimes if a story we desire needs a good deal of reworking.


SQF: What magazines/zines do you read on a “regular” basis? 

LR: Granta, Jalada, Enkare, The New Yorker, Afreada, Creative non/fiction, Aeon, Hazlitt. Ploughshares, One Throne Magazine.


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

LR: If you had asked what keeps Lunaris Review going? The answer is simple. A strong, dedicated and passionate Editorial Team, the love of art and the lovely responses we get from our contributors and readers.

Thank you, Tolulope and the Editorial Team. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Six Questions for Dr Ho Cheung LEE, Founder/Editor-in-Chief, BALLOONS Lit. Journal (BLJ)

BALLOONS Lit. Journal (BLJ) publishes poetry and fiction (to 2,000 words) appropriate for its audience. "We are primarily looking for quality materials for school-aged readers from around 12 years onwards. Having said that, we won't be too excited seeing conventional materials for children. Rather than writing anything specifically for BLJ's readers, you should consider if we could find in your submission, however complex and philosophical, the elements that could enlighten and amaze the young minds." Read the complete guidelines here.


SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Ho Cheung LEE: First, I love writing, and I have been submitting my literary works to different journals, and I think it's an exciting thing to do. So, when I had accumulated some experience in publishing my work, I wanted to contribute to the literary world from a higher perspective - as an editor/publisher. Second, I have had a lot of joy managing websites and editing magazines for my school; I thought it would be a great idea that I do these things for my own independent project as well! Third, as a language educator, promoting reading among the young is one of my key missions.


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

HCL:

  1. Whether or not the submission shows that the sender has read BLJ with interest. Why? It's because if they don't care about BLJ, why should I care about their work?
  2. Whether or not the piece(s) of work is/are accessible. Why? It's because BLJ aims at a younger audience.
  3. Their bio note. Why? It's simply because a person's background may have an impact on how readers read his/her work.

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

HCL:  This is easy - many submissions are rejected and deleted without a word from me because they ignore the submission instructions. If they don't even read BLJ's website, I don't think I should spend time considering their work. (I hope I don't sound too harsh here, but I think it's just common sense.)


SQF: Are there any subjects/topics you’d like to receive more of in your submissions?

HCL: As BLJ is a youngster-oriented magazine, we do prefer topics that are of interest to the young. Having said that, we have accepted and published a lot of beautiful pieces which touch the heart of adults as well.


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

HCL: How you present and/or package your writing to a publisher is as important as the writing quality of the entry itself. Also, read as much as you can in order to produce something good.


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

HCL: I always ask this question to myself - What do I want BLJ to grow into? Well, actually there can be endless possibilities but one of my visions is that BLJ can be a widely used material in language classrooms, where teachers and students can enjoy the fun and depth of the art and literature offered by BLJ.

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

Friday, April 28, 2017

Six Questions for Elizabeth Gibson, Editor, Foxglove Journal

Foxglove Journal publishes poems to 60 lines and fiction to 600 words. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Elizabeth Gibson: I began Foxglove in October 2016. It had been about five years since I started sending my own writing out to literary magazines, and in that time I had also been a section editor for a creative journal, Miracle Magazine. I wanted to use all that I had learnt about the publishing world to start my own platform for poetry and fiction. I chose the name Foxglove as it is a plant I find fascinating and because there is a folkloric feel to the word.


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

EG: Firstly, originality - much of the work I receive either deals with the same few ideas and cliches, or is clearly mimicking the style of a well-known writer. Every individual has their own worldview and I would like to see that, not one I've seen a hundred times. Secondly, honesty - the tales you tell don't have to be true but the sentiment should be real. If it isn't, it's very obvious. Finally, general respect, both in the writing itself and in the cover letter. Fortunately, Foxglove's submissions tend to be pretty respectful. It only takes a minute on the website, however, to find out what my name is and to read the guidelines as regards length of work, simsubs (I don't want them) and the number of pieces allowed.


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

EG: The glorification of smoking or drug abuse - I've had to turn away a couple of otherwise good submissions as a result of this. The promotion or glorification of animal cruelty. English that's poor to the point of being unreadable - if you're in the process of learning it as a second language, please try to get a native speaker to look over your work before sending it. Political ranting - by all means talk about important issues, but you should be able to tell the difference between a piece of creative writing and a personal rant. Finally, I can't believe I still have to say this but don't submit work that demeans women in awful ways. I can't get my head around the fact that someone would think any respectable journal, let alone one with a young, female editor, would publish some of the things I'm sent.


SQF: What magazines/zines do you read on a “regular” basis?

EG: As a linguist I am often on the move, hopping between the UK, France and Spain, and so being subscribed to physical magazines can be complicated. I therefore read a lot of online zines and journals - I love Sea Foam Mag, which combines words and images really well, and Sincerely Magazine, which has a gorgeous design. There's also Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Cadaverine, Severine, Myths of the Near Future, Picaroon Poetry... So many. There are also the Word Life sections of Now Then Sheffield and Now Then Manchester, the latter of which I am have recently begun to edit. They are a great way to discover new writing from the North of England and beyond.


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

EG: I've learnt a lot more than I had expected, even in just the four months that Foxglove has been going. I've noticed various mistakes that writers seem to make over and over and I've resolved to work on them in my own writing. For example, endings - I've received a number of poems that are powerful but fall flat in the last couple of lines, and it's made me realise how important nailing the ending is. I also feel that the whole Foxglove experience has helped me see my own work from a distance, and through a different lens - it's as if me the writer and me the editor are slightly different people, so if I read my work through my editing eyes, I can see how another person might interpret it.


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

EG: Perhaps what makes Foxglove different to other journals. At first, I didn't really know what it would be that would make my journal special or unique - I just followed my instincts and hoped that it would develop its own colour and flavour. Now, looking at it, I feel that what makes it a bit different is the photography element. I am a photographer as well as a writer and from the start it just seemed logical to me to accompany each poem or fiction piece with a relevant photo I had taken. However, as time has gone on, it seems this has become an integral part of Foxglove's identity, and many people have told me that they like it or that it's what attracted them to read or submit work to the journal. Sometimes the link between the writing and the image is apparent; sometimes it's more open to interpretation. I like to make people think more laterally or see things from a new angle.

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