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

Friday, November 21, 2014

Six Questions for Max Vande Vaarst/Founder and Fiction Editor and Katie Morrison/Photography Editor, Buffalo Almanack

Buffalo Almanack publishes fiction from 250-7500 words, photography, and other visual arts. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Max Vande Vaarst: The notion of starting my own literary magazine came to me at a vital point in my career. I was still relatively new to the writing game, but I had found some early publication success and no longer felt like a neophyte. My understanding of the online literary scene—and my place within it—was strong, built up on Twitter and in Facebook groups, and I felt like, by and large, I had completed the first step in my education. That’s probably not the best time to throw yourself into the editor’s chair, I know, but I had past experience running a digital publication outfit with my old football blog (“The Jets Kvetch”) and I’m the sort of person who rises up to a challenge. Once Katie was on board with the photography component, which I think really helps us stand out and differentiate ourselves from the field, I knew Buffalo Almanack was the right decision.

There’s enough talent in the writing world that much of it still manages to slip the crack. Being there to give voice to that talent has been an absolute honor.

Katie Morrison: I think a lot of young people, at one point or another, want to start their own independent publication. The level of creative and editorial control you have in a DIY publication is exciting because it is a chance to create your own narrative. Max and I weren’t seeing the Buffalo Almanack narrative in any other publication out there. There aren’t any significant literary magazines that devote equal attention to photography, but I think those two can be inextricably linked. At their core, both mediums are about storytelling and documentation. And in a historical sense, the development of photography in the 19th and 20th centuries had a profound effect on literature and vice versa, so why not continue to celebrate that connection?


SQF: What’s the top quality you look for in a submission and why?

MVV: I’m of the belief that every writer is a specialist. We can all put sentences together and tapdance along that dotted line from beginning to middle and end. What makes you as an individual writer stand out is that one advanced quality you possess that I don’t. You should know what your thing is, because I’m guessing that’s what brought you to the profession in the first place. The people we call “writers” rarely match the full scope of that definition. We’re often merely passionate language lovers, world builders, truth seekers, life reinterpreters or whatever you may consider yourself. We put up with the hard and dirty act of writing because that’s how we make our ideas digestible for others.

The number one thing I’m looking for is writing that bleeds its author’s thing. Know your skillset and put it to work. Don’t get trapped in the imitation game. True, palpable authenticity is as impressive as it is uncommon.

KM: There are two main things I look for in photography: a strong sense of setting or place, and an awareness of photographic references. Photography is so self-referential—there are millions of published photographs and their styles can be gleamed more immediately than in fiction—so when submissions play with identifiable photographic tropes that excites me. It shows the persistence of visual history. On a more personal taste level, one of the coolest things a submission can do is locate the photograph in place. This doesn’t mean it has to be landscape photography by any means. But the inherent time-melting that happens in the medium allows photographers to suggest a history as well as a present, and when that history evokes place it’s just great. I know these sound like very abstract or arbitrary terms, but judging art is hellishly arbitrary and abstract.


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

MVV: Off the bat: poor writing, poor editing, dream sequences and stories that display an obvious deficit of imagination (i.e., writing about writers; writing about writers who have forgotten how to write; writing about writers with devastating student loans).

As with all things in life, the worst sin you can commit is to be boring. The second worst is definitely dream sequences.

KM: Cliché. Photography’s self-referential nature is a double-edged sword; sometimes it produces interesting meta commentary on, say, the tradition of social documentary photography. Other times it produces blurry pictures of plastic bags in the wind. While I think photographers should take their art at least semi-seriously, they should never take themselves completely seriously. And photographers are infamous for taking themselves very seriously. Other than that, poor editing is a pretty common mistake—overzealous use of filters, bad framing or cropping, and submissions clearly taken with a phone. I have nothing against iPhone photography, but if it just looks like a typical Instagram image I’m not going to publish it.


SQF: What is the Inkslinger Award for Creative Excellence, and what additional qualities do you look for when selecting recipients?

MAX: The Inkslinger Award is a $50 honorarium we devised for our first issue to help us adhere to the ideal that all published artwork is worthy of professional compensation, while still accepting the reality that we, like most editors, are pretty much broke. You can learn more about the specifics of the prize on our website.

Deciding which of the four stories we run per issue ranks as the most exceptional is a subjective and occasionally masochistic process. Sometimes it’s the one I found most shocking. Sometimes it’s the one I found most inventive, or funny or odd. I’m afraid I’ll have to cite Jacobellis v. Ohio here in saying, “I know it when I see it.”

Newcomers to Buffalo Almanack ought to take a moment to check out our four previous Inkslinger winners: Ian Riggins, Jared Yates Sexton, Joseph Lucido and Andy Bailey. Their stories are all tiny masterpieces and serve as a phenomenal reflection of our editorial tastes.


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

MVV: I’ve learned that almost every writer has done a story set at a circus freak show. I’m being totally serious. I get about three bearded ladies a week. I have no idea how this became such an ubiquitous setting. Maybe traveling circuses are the best, most universalized representation of the encroachment of the “weird” into our everyday, domestic lives. Maybe there are a lot of Tod Browning fans out there.

When it comes to the overdone and overused, it’s freak shows all the way, with parents dying of cancer in a close second. I guess this speaks to my earlier point about avoiding the imitation game.

KM: For one, every issue we publish reinforces my belief that writing and visual arts should be considered together. An understanding of each realm enhances the other. I’ve also been heartened to learn that young people are still interested in film-based photography. Again, I hold digital images in high esteem—one of my favorite pieces we’ve published has been Melanie Clemmons’s food and animal montage—but it’s also reassuring to see that the traditional physical tools of photography are still being used. Dramatic cultural critics are terrified that tangible art-making is dead, but clearly that is a knee-jerk reaction.


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

MVV: What’s next for Buffalo Almanack? Well, our sixth issue is due for release on December 15th, featuring four all-new stories, a boatload of visually arresting imagery and an interview with The Girl in the Flammable Skirt author and all around genius Aimee Bender.

We’ve recently launched our new blogging site Bloggalo Almanack, which is full of even more delicious literary thought-nuggets and even a few guest posts. We’ve been growing by bounds with each issue and we expect things will only get better in 2015. We’re well on track for global domination. Might pick up a few Pulitzers on the way. Who knows?

If you’ve read us before, keep reading! If you’re new to Buffalo Nation, stick around! It’s only going to get better.

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

NEXT POST: 11/28—Six Questions for Mel Anastasiou, Jennifer Landels and Susan Pieters, Editors, PULP Literature

Friday, November 14, 2014

Six Questions for D. Laserbeam, Editor, freeze frame fiction

freeze frame fiction publishes flash fiction: any genre, no content restrictions—1000 words or less. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

D Laserbeam: I’d been working with Spark: A Creative Anthology for about a year and a half, when I decided I wanted to start my own market. Since flash fiction has always been my thing (as far as writing and critiquing), and I really liked the idea of a flash-only market, it seemed like a logical decision. I wanted to show that flash fiction isn’t just a short-short story: it’s something you can read quickly, but it’s much more than meets the eye. There are subtleties and implications that make you want to read again.


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

DL: 

  1. A story, rather than a scene or character sketch. A lot of people confuse flash fiction with vignette; we do not publish vignettes. I don’t want a slice of life, unless it implies something bigger.
  2. A unique voice. Unique plots are also good, but I want to feel like I’m not just reading a story I’ve never read before, but also reading something told in a way I haven’t read before. We read hundreds of submissions per issue—we don’t want to be bored; we want to be transported and entertained. I think that’s accomplished much more through voice than through plot.
  3. A connection to the characters and/or situation. Just because you have a unique voice telling me a whole story doesn’t mean I have to care how it ends. Make me care.

From some of my staff readers: An element of surprise and unpredictability, a story that stays with the reader, succinctness, strong voice, satisfying ending.


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

DL: 

  1. Obvious lack of proofreading and/or not following submission guidelines shows a clear lack of respect toward not just the people reading your story, but also the process in general.
  2. A twist ending that reads as more of a punch line than an actual conclusion or resolution. Don’t get me wrong; I like twist endings if they’re done well. The point is that they have to be an aspect of the piece, not its entire purpose.
  3. Unoriginality: in any form, whether it’s characters, plots, morals, I don’t care. If someone else has written the same story, I don’t want to publish it.

From some of my staff readers: Clunky prose, no conflict or stakes, two-dimensional characters, a story that takes too long to start.


SQF: How and when did you get started with flash fiction?

DL: I’ve written flash fiction since I was young—starting before high school. I liked the idea and challenge of trying to tell a whole story in so few words. My first attempts were obviously nothing great, and probably didn’t succeed at the ‘whole story’ bit, but that’s where it started. I love reading flash fiction done well: real people, complete stories, and—in our case—generally something unusual. My own writing is pretty dark, so it’s unsurprising that the works I tend to like and accept lean that way, as well.


SQF: You’re currently working on a PhD in mechanical and nuclear engineering. How would a nuclear engineer describe the connection between flash fiction and the reader?

DL: Well, my work has been more on the mechanical end of that spectrum. I actually just finished my MS. Just, as in, last week. The PhD is still a bit up in the air. Either way, to me, the connection needs to be strong. Some people use the marathon versus sprint analogy to compare a novel to short fiction. Personally, I prefer to think of it as an intense burst of words. Like a word storm. But, a storm that’s both compelling and satisfying. The reader should not want to stop, and when he’s done, he should feel like the story has ended, even if in an ambiguous way. And later, when he thinks he’s forgotten about it, it should come to mind, and he should want to read it again.

I guess what I’m saying is that flash fiction should be doing the work for you. A novel takes awhile to get into; flash doesn’t have that luxury. It needs to suck you in and drag you along, and then make you want to do it all over again. I’m not sure that has anything to do with nuclear engineering, but there you have it.


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

DL: The only other thing I’d really like to highlight is the importance of my staff readers, who make it possible with their comments for us to send out personal rejections to every submitter. I know what it feels like to get form rejections: not good. You have no sense of why, which also gives no help as far as where to go next (other markets, revisions, etc.). All of our rejections contain feedback from the readers, so you know we read the story, and you know why we didn’t want to publish it.

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

NEXT POST: 11/21—Six Questions for Max Vande Vaarst/Founder and Fiction Editor and Katie Morrison/Photography Editor, Buffalo Almanack

Friday, November 7, 2014

Six Questions For Pamela Tyree Griffin, Editor, The Shine Journal

The Shine Journal publishes fiction and non-fiction to 2,000 words, poetry and art/photography with a focus on grief and loss. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine? 

Pamela Tyree Griffin: I stopped the original journal because I was not fulfilled by it any longer-something was missing. Around that time I also experienced several challenges, losses if you will. From those experiences and the people I met throughout that period, it became clear that I was not alone—that there was a universality of experience. I emerged from that with the strong sense that there was a creative side to it, I desired to give people an outlet to express their grief. From all of that Shine was reborn. The light left behind stands for our memories, our thoughts, our feelings that remain after the loss.


SQF: For those familiar with the original Shine (if I remember correctly, you stopped publishing for a while), how is this version different? 

PTG: This version is dedicated to the grief /loss experience exclusively. I don't discriminate! Loss can be due to someone's death, memory loss, loss of a job, etc. Grief and loss are universal and comes in many forms.


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

PTG: I really don't have three—just one: Authenticity. This is about a shared experience so the work needs to show that—even in fiction.


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

PTG: People who don't bother reading the guidelines make me tired.


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

PTG: I didn't used to, but I am starting to give some feedback.


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

PTG: You hit it out of the park my friend.

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

NEXT POST: 11/14—Six Questions for D. Laserbeam, Editor, freeze frame fiction