Friday, September 4, 2015

Six Questions for Chris Kuell, Editor-in-Chief, Breath & Shadow

Breath & Shadow publishes poetry, fiction, nonfiction, creative nonfiction,
and drama. "Breath & Shadow accepts work only from people with disabilities.
We use the term ‘disability' broadly to encompass anyone with a physical,
mental, emotional, cognitive, or sensory impairment that significantly
affects one or more major life functions.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Chris Kuell: Sharon Wachsler and Norm Meldrum started Breath and Shadow twelve years ago to provide writers with disabilities a place to show their work and be paid for it. At that time much of the work was about life as experienced by people with disabilities--the stereotyping, the discrimination, the sorrows, and the humor. I took over in 2008, and while fresh material about disability culture is still welcomed and published, it's no longer the thrust of what we're looking for. These days we are looking for great work by writers who happen to be disabled, on whatever subject compels them.


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

CK: 

Creativity: This isn't easy to define, but we all know it when we read it. Essays, for example, can follow the tried and true format we all learned in high school. But, when  we receive an essay that has a unique format; one that grabs our attention and keeps it; one that makes us go 'Wow!'--we love that feeling.

Perspective: This is related to creativity, yet different. Since we publish exclusively writers who are disabled, we see a lot of the same material over and over again but by different writers. Each week I read one or more pieces about how someone was hit hard by disability and overcame it. And, I'm not saying those pieces are bad, but we've published enough of them already to wallpaper a good sized house. If you want us to consider your personal story, you have to come at it from a unique perspective. You have to make us say—hey, I've never thought about it that way. And the same goes for work not related to disability. Make us see/feel/experience the world from an unfamiliar position, and we'll take notice.

Craft: By this I mean good writing. Anybody can write a poem/story/essay, but not just anybody can write a great poem/story/essay. We get hundreds of submissions, and we want to help our contributors to get noticed. Competition is stiff, so make sure your work is the best. Writing is a craft. It takes practice, and more practice. It takes critiquing and revision and going back to the drawing board sometimes.


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

CK: I have little patience for writers who completely ignore our guidelines. I can overlook not following them perfectly, but by completely ignoring them, you are wasting both of our time.


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

CK: Sometimes. I don't have enough time to comment on every piece, so if a submission just isn't right for us, I'll send a simple rejection. However, part of our mission is to help and encourage writers, so if a piece has promise, but just isn't there yet, I'll try to give some helpful feedback. This is especially true for our younger submitters. Writing can be very discouraging, so I want to give our submitters, especially those who may have a unique voice and good creativity, but need more work on the craft, a positive nudge.


SQF: To be clear, you’re looking for works by people with disabilities but necessarily about disabilities. Correct?

See response to Question 1.


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

CK: No other questions are coming to mind, so I'll just say that Breath and Shadow was established to give writers who happen to be disabled a voice. Our writers are often overlooked by the mainstream media, although that is slowly changing. Our writers, like all writers, have unique views and perspective on the world. Read through our past issues and you'll get a better idea of the type of work we love.

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

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?

JLC:

  • 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?

JLC:

  • 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?

SK: 

  • 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.