Friday, March 27, 2015

Six Questions for Jordan Webb, Editor, Tryst

Tryst publishes horror fiction focused toward a female audience. The magazine includes poetry, flash fiction to 750 words, and short stories. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Jordan Webb: Horror is such a diverse topic. Though there is plenty of horror written by female authors, and starring female leads, horror still tends to feel incredibly masculine most of the time. Women and men have different fears. A lot of fears cater to both men and women generally, reaching a diverse audience. It takes more than simply a woman protagonist or author to really take a fear subjective to women and then boldly lace it through an incredible story.

Woman and men can write stories like this, both can star in them, and both can enjoy reading them. We just want to find those stories and give the world a chance to discover them!

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


  1. We expect the fiction piece attached to the email and not pasted into the email’s body, per the posted submission guidelines. Documents typically contain better formatting than email bodies and having an attached document provides us with some organization. This is a way for us to easily separate the author and their information from the poem or story itself. Additionally, it tells us that you took the time to read our preferences instead of just sending out bulk submissions to any emails you’ve collected.
  2. We absolutely adore author bios. Readers want to know about the person behind what they’ve just experienced and it’s just something that is really great to have.
  3. Most importantly:  Entertain us. Give us something fun to read that leaves us satisfied.

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

JW: When a piece we receive still looks like a draft, it becomes something we are not willing to publish.  We all make typos sometimes. I know I have written quick emails from my phone before and when I went back to check what I had sent, I cringed. Who knew you had to correct your auto-correct, right? There is a level of understanding with basic typos, however if the work itself is not polished, if there are multiple grammar and spelling errors, then we cannot publish that piece.

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

JW: Our responses may be delayed until we 100% make the decision to not publish a piece. When we do send our responses, the comments or feedback we provide may vary from submission-to-submission. If we feel there is something constructive that we can contribute without offending the author, then we will mention it, but ultimately it all boils down to respecting the author. The author knows their vision and they’ve spent time working on and crafting their story, we don’t want to undermine that in anyway. Sometimes if the pants don’t fit, they just don’t fit and there’s no reason to try to alter them if they’re still a nice pair for someone else’s legs.

SQF: What scares you?

JW: Competition with other magazines for your submissions is our biggest struggle. We’re still “up-and-coming”, so our compensation is primarily bragging rights at this time. We are offering contributor’s copies of our first print collection of short stories when it is released, however that is still a work in progress.

I’ve submitted my own work for publication before. I know first-hand an author’s primary objective is to get paid for their work if they can. Our goal is to grow and to reach a point where we can offer money incentives for sending submissions to our inbox! Right now, though, we’re just not there yet.

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

JW: Of all your magazine’s published content, which piece stands out and sticks with you as an “editor’s choice” and why?

Oh, great question! I am so glad you asked! We received a flash-fiction piece one day that just made me all tingly and happy inside to read. I loved it, hands down. The decision to publish the story was pretty much made, but I had my mother read it just to confirm that it was the right choice. My mom and I have very different reading tastes, so she rolled her eyes but indulged me anyway.

Towards the end, the ending that absolutely stands out in my mind still, she just gasps really quickly and shrieks. Hit with a train she never saw coming. Her mouth was hanging open as she turned to glare at me for making her read something “like that”.

Physically seeing a reaction from another reader, especially one reading a story outside of her norm, confirmed to me that giving the go-ahead to post “Feather-Brained” by Joan Koster was definitely a great decision. Perfect ending, five stars.

Want to read it for yourself? Great! I thought you’d never ask. Here’s where you can find it.

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

NEXT POST: 4/3—Six Questions for Sheldon Lee Compton, Editor, Revolution John

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Six Questions for Katherine Mayfield, Editor, The Maine Review

The Maine Review is a quarterly literary magazine publishing short fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and essays.  We seek quality writing with a strong point of view that appeals to a general and academic audience.  Twice per year, we publish special editions of short fiction (summer) and poetry (winter) which feature winners of our two annual contests.  Read the complete guidelines here.

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

Katherine Mayfield: First of all, we look for quality writing.  Most often, this means the writer has done some rewriting with attention to details like grammar and spelling, and worked to focus the storyline.  Newer writers often don't know that the "craft" of writing is different from the "art," in that a writer may be highly inspired to quickly write a story or poem, but "craft" must come into the rewriting process to tighten and focus the text and make the read more compelling.  A well-edited piece is always appreciated!

Second, we look for a sense of heart and soul in a piece—that it moves readers in some way, whether emotionally, intellectually, or by offering insight into their own life experience.

And we love gutsy writing—a piece in which a writer expresses a deep inner life experience or uncovers a truth that most people deny.  I believe that writers are meant to be truth-tellers.  There are so many others denying what we all know to be true under the surface, or not talking about very important issues in the human experience of life.

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

KM: Gratuitous violence; run-on sentences; multiple paragraphs of exposition at the beginning (this is where craft comes in);  heavy-handed use of four-letter words; numerous typos and inconsistencies.

SQF: Are submissions limited to Maine authors? 

KM: Absolutely not!  Our inaugural issue featured Maine authors, but subsequent issues have included writers from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Oregon, California, Massachusetts, Illinois, Virginia, Washington, Minnesota, and Turkey.  We love reading work from writers everywhere!

SQF: Who are some of your favorite authors?

KM: Anne Lamott, Natalie Goldberg, Dave Barry, David Sedaris, Jonathan Lethem, Richard North Patterson, Nicholas Sparks, Shakespeare.

SQF: If The Maine Review had a theme song, what would it be?

Tim Janis:  Reflections

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

KM: What do you love most about editing the Maine Review?

The best part is discovering a jewel of a piece by an unknown or nearly unknown writer, which happened several times in our last contest.  I also enjoy the process of creating a flow in each issue, of finding connections between pieces that provide a sort of “journey of feeling” for the reader.  Our Fall issue begins with some excellent poetry, some humor, and a heartwarming story, and eventually segues into pieces about aging and Alzheimer’s, before moving into a different tone and style.  I love putting the issues together—it's like creating a jigsaw puzzle of writing.

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

NEXT POST: 3/27—Six Questions for Jordan Webb, Editor, Tryst

Friday, March 20, 2015

Six Questions for Lisa Beth Fulgham, Managing and Founding Editor, Blinders Literary Journal

Blinders Literary Journal is a biannual online magazine publishing fiction and creative nonfiction to 10,000 words, poetry and art. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Lisa Beth Fulgham: I started this magazine because I was on the staff for my university's journal, The Jabberwock Review. I ended up as the Associate Editor before I finished my MA. I didn't want to end my journey in the publishing side of the literary world just because I was graduating. Short of moving to New York and rolling the dice, this seemed like the best option. Plus, I love the concept of having a completely blind journal. I enjoy seeing how our issue and our submitters' bios turn out at the end.

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

LBF: In poetry, we look for strong, surprising imagery and sound quality. In prose, we look for stories that have such wonderful conflict that we can't stop reading them.

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

LBF: I would have to go with bad grammar and punctuation as the first thing that we notice. Everyone on our staff has studied English, and most of us have taught it. Cliché comes in as a close second, though.

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

LBF: We haven't yet. Truthfully, this is something I wouldn't mind doing because we obviously always have some reason for rejecting a piece, and I always find that constructive criticism helps me with my own work. However, I don't think that a lot of poets and writers are seeking constructive criticism by the time they get ready to send out to journals. I guess it's something I'd feel most comfortable doing by request.

SQF: Blinders Literary Journal is preparing to publish its third issue. What has surprised you so far about editing and publishing an online journal?

LBF: The largest surprise for me has been how supportive the creative writing community has been in promoting our journal. For instance, Allison Joseph does such a great service to the community both on the publishing and submitting side by keeping up her Creative Writing Opportunities list-serve.

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

LBF: "What do you want for the future of your journal?"

We're a pretty new publication, and we want to continue to grow. One day, we'd love to be a member of CLMP and have a table at AWP where we could hand you a physical copy of our journal.

However, being an online journal does have its advantages. I'd also love to push the envelope a bit more in terms of how some work is displayed or how readers interact with the work. If you're reading this as a submitter and you feel like you have some pretty crazy ideas that other journals can't facilitate (e.g. you have a choose-your-own-adventure story that you want to work seamlessly, you want readers to be able to replace certain words in your poem, you want to include video, or you want certain paragraphs of your prose to explode after a certain time), let us know when you send in your submission, and we'll take that into consideration.

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

NEXT POST: 3/24—Six Questions for Katherine Mayfield, Editor, The Maine Review

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Six Questions for Maura Snell and Jennifer Porter, Co-Founders, The Tishman Review

The Tishman Review publishes micro-fiction to 250 words, flash fiction to 1,000 words, short stories to 8,000 words, creative non-fiction to 3,000 words, poetry (all kinds), art/photography/comics, book reviews, and craft essays. Learn more here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Maura Snell (Poetry Editor): We decided to start TTR because we wanted to publish great words.

Jennifer Porter (Fiction Editor): To do things differently. To go against some of the tides in the lit mag world that disturb me. To give space to authors whose voices we need to hear. I want to publish fiction that is good for the soul: whether it makes us laugh, cry or feel anger; confronts our preconceived notions about life and other people; makes us uncomfortable by challenging our hidden beliefs/stereotypes/ ‘isms; or forces us to see beauty where prior we saw only something malformed/useless/ugly.

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

Maura: The poetry I find myself loving is authentic, has a strong handle on craft, but not so reliant on it that authenticity is lost, and makes me feel something unexpected, see something from a new angle, or exposes me to something I haven't known or understood before.

Jennifer: I look for an engaging submission with well-crafted prose that bears an authentic voice. I look for a narrative arc, well-rounded characters, engaging and forward-moving dialogue and for a thoughtful use of language.

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

Maura: Wordiness. Cleverness. Vulgarity.  These are so often employed in place of the truth.

Jennifer: What turns me off are submissions that I feel lack in investment on behalf of the author: The prose needs a lot of work, the piece is not a story but a string of episodes, the submission perpetuates harmful stereotypes of any segment of our society. I don’t like the feeling that I’m reading a first draft, or a rushed-off piece, or a piece produced with elements that I can tell are used solely to induce the editor to accept it for publication. I’ve lived long enough to know when an author isn’t being truthful with me in their work, what I think Hemingway referred to as bleeding on the page, but that is precisely what I’m looking for.

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

Maura: Yes, I try to every time. I think every writer, regardless of the quality of their submission, deserves something back in exchange for trusting me with their words. I don't go into too much detail, but I do try to say what I like about the work and what I think might benefit from revision.

Jennifer: If someone submits a piece as Expedited Fiction they get personal feedback from me. I do things a bit differently in that I read all of the submissions as the first reader. Anything that makes it past me goes to our readers. Sometimes, it falls there and when it does, I usually send personal feedback. I will also ask for revisions on pieces of interest to us. If I think the piece bears a personal investment from the author, I try to provide some measure of feedback.

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

Maura: So much is about process. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read.

Jennifer: I’ve learned that you better catch that editor’s eye in the first couple of paragraphs and that there are good stories written that may not get published because lit mag readers are busy and have high expectations. They want to be awed and amazed by every single story they read and they don't have the time to keep looking for that feeling five pages into a story. Somehow, we have to grab the reader’s attention and hold it tight in our grasp. I’ve learned that we all expect stories to be just that, stories, even if they are flash fiction. I’ve learned that every writer must work not only on their prose but on their storytelling and when they fuse the two together, the reader remains engaged.

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

Maura: What's your favorite part of the job?

Finding new poets, or at least the poets who are new to me.  I love being gripped by a poem, accepting the work, then seeing who wrote it (because we read totally blind) and Googling them. It's like a crazy treasure hunt, or a positive "who done it". To me, they are true celebrities because, my God, have you seen what they wrote?!

Jennifer: Why does TTR read blind?

We read blind for several reasons. Primarily because we want to judge the work on its own merits and not on the author’s bio. Secondly, because we are a part of the Bennington Writing Seminars community, and we did not want to be accused of nepotism when it came to publishing work.  Having said that, our first tickler issue (a mini-issue to get our feet wet) was primarily solicited (one story came off the pile) and we will publish work in the future, on occasion, that we solicit. Bennington produces amazing writers, and I’m not going to pass on an amazing story because it happened to also be written by a good friend of mine. But, being from Bennington does not give you any advantage at TTR over any other writer who sends work our way. We will always publish the best stories we receive, irregardless of who wrote them.

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

NEXT POST: 3/20—Six Questions for Lisa Beth Fulgham, Managing and Founding Editor, Blinders Literary Journal