Friday, August 28, 2015

Six Questions for Jane L. Carman, Editor, Festival Writer

"We are looking for inventive, challenging, exciting, and engaging work. Politically charged and informed pieces are encouraged as well as hybrid work that is informed by (or blatantly displays) a theoretical approach." Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Jane L Carman: I wanted to create a venue for underpublished voices, one that celebrates experiments, that provides a place where people can publish without genre if they would like, one that doesn’t demand work or writers identify within tightly conceived boxes. Having said this, we have had a lot of fun publishing special issues such as bizzaro and sestina issues among others.

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


  • Something that surprises me in a good way.
  • Writing that works against tradition.
  • Work that makes me laugh out loud or cry or want to scream, that haunts me long after I read it.

SQF: What common mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a submission?


  • Submissions that are sent to a long list of editors in the same email. This shows a real lack of understanding or interest in any of the places the work is submitted.
  • Submissions sent without regard to the guidelines or where it is clear the submitter has not read the journal (or work by the press).
  • Bios that are way too long. If an editor asks for 100 words, your bio should be 100 words (within a few words either way).
  • Submissions sent in the form of online links, especially when the call is for unpublished work.
  • Submitters that keep submitting work when they have not heard back from you about their last submission.

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

JLC: Not very often. I barely have time to read the work. If I comment, it means that I see promise. It is impossible to publish all of the good work.

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

JLC: I have learned how desperate some writers are and how lazy others are (i.e. sending the same submission to several journals in the same email without ever having read the journals or guidelines). I have also learned a lot about what is happening in the writing world beyond my circle of friends. Most telling is that most of my submissions are from white men; just an observation and call for more diversity in submissions.

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

JLC: How do you feel about print vs. electronic publishing?

I think this is an important question and one that writers and publishers need to consider. I believe that electronic journals are for the most part replacing (or at least hurting) print journals and that this trend will continue as writers more often than not use journals as a step toward the book. Journals have as many or more submitters than they do actual readers. For this reason and because of the cost of printing journals, I believe that journals will continue to move away from print.

When it comes to books, it seems as if the trend toward e-books has reversed and that print books are still preferred, at least by most of the readers I know. This is in part to the difficulty of converting any text that is not straight forward traditional into an e-book (meaning experimental or innovative prose and poetry). It is also in part due to the emotional, cultural, and/or academic value placed on print vs. electronic books and journals.

Print-on-demand services makes it possible to print almost anything but sometimes (in the case of Create Space especially) demands that the publisher choose quality or creative freedom. (This is an entire essay in itself.) If it weren’t for the way Bowker distributes ISBN numbers (with a definite disadvantage to small publishers/journals--another essay) and the need for POD publications to have an ISBN, journals might be moving in the same direction.

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

Friday, August 21, 2015

Six Questions for Sarah Kedar, Editor-in-Chief, The Fable Online

The Fable Online publishes short stories of 1000 to 7000 words, flash fiction of 100 to 1000 words, microfiction of no more than 100 words, and poetry. Learn more here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Sarah Kedar: I always searched for some (any) local publishers to submit my work to. There are no publishing houses in this part of the world, and no online markets either. Since I had the resources and the know-how, I started The Fable Online. Mainly to start the ezine trend and also to provide a local reading and writing avenue.

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


  • Originality. I have seen many submissions that follow a tried and tested method. I like to see what is new and fresh. It is particularly interesting when the author has taken a risk. And also, when the author has shown parts of themselves in the story.
  • The author has followed our submission guidelines. This tells me that they have taken the time to study the guidelines and respects us. 
  • The third point would be whether or not the work resonates with me. Does it linger on after the reading has been done? The language, the story, the message, the emotion. It needs to have a certain staying power. 

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

SK: The first would be a disregard for our guidelines. Second would be glaring grammar errors. Third if every part of the story has equal levels of intensity.

SQF: Do stories have to be fable-like to be accepted?

SK: Oh, no. The name Fable was chosen because it is one of the oldest forms of story-telling. If one reads our publications so far, you will find a wide range of stories and almost none to be Fable-like. As I said that I wanted to start the publishing trend, I figured no other name would resonate that.

SQF: You’ve published five issues, with number six on the way. What has surprised you the most about managing an zine?

SK: Three aspects:

One, that it’s not difficult. Managing a zine is much easier than I thought it would be.

The second element that has surprised me is how few submissions we've had locally. And the quality of that work.

And the third element of surprise would be the amount of faith our regular contributors have shown in us. It has kept us running for six months now in a highly competitive environment.

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

SK: What does the future hold for Fable?

Long term includes starting print issues and becoming a paid market. We are still working on that. After we have crossed our first year, we will do our best to pay authors and poets for their contributions.

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

Friday, August 14, 2015

Six Questions For Lindsay Ahl, Publisher/Editor, Shadowgraph Magazine

Shadowgraph Magazine is an annual print journal and online quarterly that publishes interviews, essays, fiction, poetry, cross-genre work, art and photography. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Lindsay Ahl: Strangely, I started Shadowgraph because of my annoyance at the presidential debates. No one seemed to me to be really discussing the actual issues, they were promoting their point of view by banging away at simple points that were intended to represent their political position. Perhaps I’m terribly na├»ve, but I’d love to have people in office who could actually discuss what the real issues are and come up with real solutions. So I started thinking about interviews and conversations and debates and where that depth I was looking for was in America. It does exist, and it’s wonderful to see. I’m not creating a political magazine at all, so any depth that exists in the interviews is more about the creative process or how to live with creative grace in this crazy world. So it started with a search for livable ideas and has branched out to include the best poetry, fiction, cross-genre work, art and images I can find.

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

LA: There are a lot of different kinds of writing. A lot of different kinds of minds and ways to make something (a story, a poem, an image) work. This kind of question is maybe one of the markings of how people think today. “Top ten tips for …” whatever. Usually, this kind of thinking doesn’t really interest me. It’s practical, yes. Practical can be good. But I’m looking for writing that will take me on a kind-of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. And I don’t mean the edge-of-your-seat-ride, like the new TV shows which have to sustain themselves forever so use every plot twist imaginable. I mean, show me your soul. Each mind is radically unique if given the time and space to find that. Henry Miller says every page should start a fire. Dickenson says that a poem should take the top of her head off. Janis says she’s feeling it all, right there, on stage. There’s a place for that. And there is a place for Michael Cunningham’s quiet grace. I’m not doing a very good job of answering your question. Three top things … it’s really only one thing I look for: tell me something only you can tell me.

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

LA: I sit around at night and make jokes about this kind of thing. These aren’t true, but they are, if you know what I mean.

  • horrible fonts
  • typos 
  • unintelligent writing
  • forgot to use punctuation 

That said, if Shadowgraph Magazine rejects your work, it may have nothing to do with the quality of the work. I try to publish a wide variety of high-quality fiction, poetry, and cross-genre work and have no conscious prevailing aesthetic. We publish established and emerging writers (several of our authors have never been published before) – but I have rejected lovely pieces by good writers that I actually quite like, for the simple reason that they don’t fit into what I’m trying to represent. So in that instance, it has nothing to do with the work.

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

LA: I personally, occasionally provide comments, yes. But not usually. If I want to see a piece again, I’ll tell the author my thoughts and see if they’d like to do a re-write. My fiction editor will provide extensive notes if he really thinks the piece has potential. As a general sort of rule, however, we can’t possibly respond personally to most pieces.

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

LA: I don’t wish for any particular question unless it’s unanswerable. And in the searching I’ll find something else unanswerable. You, however, seemed to want a particular answer in which editors “list, in excruciating detail, all that each editor desires in his/her stories." This is, of course, impossible and takes the fun out finding something unique and radical, (by definition indescribable), something that works and yet walks a razor’s edge of beauty, freedom, and daring.

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

Friday, August 7, 2015

Six Questions for Constance Brewer and Kathleen Cassen Mickelson, Editors, Gyroscope Review

Gyroscope Review publishes fine contemporary poetry in a variety of forms and themes, including fantasy, science fiction and horror. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Constance Brewer: We wanted to fill a niche between magazines that are associated with colleges and universities, and the experimental magazines out there. There’s a lot of poets that don’t comfortably fit in either realm, but still produce great work. We love poetry and want to share that love with our readers. It’s so exciting to dig into the slush pile and find those gems.

Kathleen Cassen Mickelson: Constance and I already knew that we worked together well from having been on the staff at Every Day Poets for several years. I agree that there’s plenty of room for non-academic poetry journals that seek to present contemporary verse to the general public for their reading pleasure. Poetry does not have to be so esoteric that it puts readers off or makes them feel like they need higher education to participate. But it does have to be crafted well enough that it stretches ideas about what poetry can be, that it engages readers, and may comment on current events in a thoughtful way. Gyroscope Review can offer that. I love staying connected to a variety of poets in this way.

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

CB: Is it engaging - Does the poem invite me in and draw me through to the end? Is there attention to the use of language - love of words and the ability to use them to build the poem? Is there something in the poem that draws me back to read it again - does it tell me a story in some way, shape or form?

KCM: I look for the twist of ordinary life, the way poetry can elevate experience toward a deeper understanding or appreciation of whatever that experience represents. A love of words is essential, but overwriting to the point of obscurity will put me right off. Don’t be a show-off; be clear in your language. And risk telling a truth that gets you in trouble.

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

CB: The mundane. Mundane imagery, mundane word choice, mundane presentation. A poem that hasn’t been edited and honed down to essentials loses my interest. We receive some obvious rough drafts. Be patient, put the poem away a while, go back and edit it some more. Craft it like you would a diamond. This is what magazines mean when they say “Send us your best work”.

KCM: Yes, I agree. Sloppiness - and that includes submissions with typos - makes me crazy. Poetry isn’t something you can just dash off. It’s a thoughtful piece of literature, a gem that has many facets - to play on Constance’s comment about craft. Each facet must be considered. Other things that turn me off are childish rhyme, overt sentimentality, and exclamation points. If a poet has to use an exclamation point, there better be a damn good reason why the language isn’t doing the job on its own.

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

CB: Only if a submission was very close. I enjoy discussing the mechanics of poetry - our goal is to make the poem the best it can be. We don’t mind engaging in a dialogue with a poet, but if all they want to do is argue or name call - that’s not cool. Don’t be that person.

KCM: Right. We’re not going to provide comments on the poems we reject because there’s simply too many. That would be an enormous amount of work and not everyone wants that anyway. But thoughtful dialogue with an eye to creating better work is always welcome.

SQF: What are a few magazines/e-zines that you read regularly?

CB: 32 Poems, Rattle, The Linnet’s Wings, American Poetry Review, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, The Kenyon Review, Tin House, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Strange Horizons to name a few. I try to read a variety of newspapers every day to keep up with what’s going on in the world. I look for copies of literary journals in bookstores to buy and expand my horizons.

KCM: I subscribe to Rattle, Poetry, Boston Review, Creative Nonfiction, The New York Review of Books, and The Sun. I have a bunch of random issues of various small and literary journals from this year’s AWP conference that I still have to peruse. And I read all kinds of other stuff. There is so much out there to read that it’s hard to narrow my selection of reading material down to any manageable size.

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

Do you charge a submission fee?

CB: No, we don’t. We understand why other magazines do it, but we decided not to go that route. We’d like to eventually become a paying market for our poets, that’s our long term goal, along with a print edition for those that like a tangible.

What if a simultaneous submission gets accepted elsewhere?

KCM: Professional courtesy around simultaneous submissions is something I wish more writers would pay attention to. If a piece is accepted elsewhere, please tell us immediately so we don’t waste time considering it further. Everyone scrambles to find time to do the work that needs to be done in this business. Don’t be the writer that waits until we’ve accepted your work to say, oh, by the way….someone else already accepted this and I forgot to tell you. We’re going to remember you if you do that.

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