Friday, July 18, 2014

Six Questions for Stephanie Bryant Anderson, Poetry Editor/Publisher, Red Paint Hill Publishing

Red Paint Hill Publishing is a quarterly magazine publishing poetry, plays, and prose. Learn more here.

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

Stephanie Bryant Anderson: The first thing I look for in a poem is an emotional connection. When I get to the end of a poem, I want to know the raison d'être. So, I ask myself two questions: So What? and What did the poem mean to the writer? If I cannot answer these, then I know readers will not connect to the poem.

The next thing that I look for is unexpected imagery; I want someone to use an adjective or a modifier that makes me back up and read the poem again. Recently I read a poem called,
Let’s Get out of Here by Corey Zeller; the poem touched me immensely with its use of imagery. There is a part of it that says

we lick the throats
of passing trains
and wear bright pills
over our faces
like ghost masks
and move the tiny ghosts
that live in us
like dominos.

Not only is the imagery incredible, but it also speaks volumes in terms of emotion, and how it affects me while I read it. I believe if he had used any other combination of words, it wouldn’t be nearly as strong. After reading the poem, I was forced to reread it. The lines breaks make you run to the ending without stopping; I then had to reread the poem to capture the precise pictures. There is a rushing in the poem that is beautiful to the context. Overall, I want strong, precise, unexpected, cutting imagery – in poetry or in fiction.

The last thing I look for in a poem is the formatting in a poem. I want it to fit the poem. I want it to be well thought out and serve to maximize the overall content and core of the poem.


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

SBA: There are three things that turn me off to a submission. One is getting a bunch of poems that do not remotely fit the aesthetic of Red Paint Hill. Second is when I just rejected someone, and they respond to the rejection with more poems. If I invite them to send another group of poems, that is one thing, but if I don’t, it is bothersome; I promise you I will probably not change my mind. Typically, I respond with why it is I am rejecting a particular poem or group of poems. Also, I think some people tend to think that because I am looking for poems that are raw, or for fiction that roots for the underdog, that I am somehow anti-academia, and they slander academia, or some that will slander underground writers and aesthetics. I just want good poetry, evocative poems; I honestly don’t care what side they come from. I am not at all into bad-mouthing one group versus another. Still, I have to say my biggest pet peeve is when someone doesn’t follow submission guidelines, or they begin their submission as “Dear Sir or Madame”. We have no male editors, so that tells me that the writer didn’t read an issue to see what we are about. These things are, to me, a writer looking to publish for vanity reasons, and that is not at all what Red Paint Hill is about.


SQF: Will you publish a submission an author posted on a personal blog? 

SBA: I don’t mind publishing a poem that the author posted on his/her personal blog. For me, one of my roles as an editor of an online quarterly is to promote writers. It isn’t necessarily about the press. Yes, I want people to come to Red Paint Hill because they know I will give them good writing, but it is also about the writer and drawing attention to the work. That is why I like when people include where else they have been published. I want readers to go find more of that caliber of work from a writer that they feel connected to through the writing. People flock to poetry for many different reasons, and that is the focus that I try to build on when choosing a submission for publication.


SQF: The magazine has a Young Writers Series section. What is this, and who can submit?

SBA: The Young Writers Series is for younger, less experienced writers ages 13-17. As a young person writing, I did not know any other writers, and I was not sure where to look for support. I want to help mentor this demographic. I want them to experience what it means to interact with editors, publishing, and the emotions that we feel behind all of that. I think it is important to encourage, enhance and support these ages. These can be very difficult ages, and you can feel very isolated. Writing is such a viable and important outlet; it can really help shape who you are, and how you process the world and changes around you. I feel that with positive interaction and mentoring, there can only be positive results that come from that.


SQF: What magazines do you read?

SBA: A few magazines that I really enjoy are Up the Staircase Quarterly, Rattle, Nashville Review, The Boiler Journal, Words Dance, THRUSH Poetry Journal and Stirring.


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

SBA: Probably the most important question for me personally: What is Red Paint Hill’s association with The Autism Foundation of TN? In fall of 2013, I organized a poetry reading to raise money for the Autism Foundation of Tennessee. When the event was over, I wanted to do more. I wanted to sell books to help raise money for the foundation. Putting my two passions (literature and advocating for autism) together just made sense to me. Autism is something very dear to my heart. My eight year old has Asperger’s Syndrome. He was diagnosed in first grade; he is now in third grade. In the beginning I did not feel a sense of community or know where to turn for help, for resources or anything really. The school system is a tough place for your child to spend time if he/she is not the “normal,” or “model,” student. My son is incredibly intelligent, but he has issues with behavior. However, that behavior is driven from different places than in most people. He has expectation of how his day should run, and his thinking is very logical, and if activities stray from how he feels they should go, he gets upset. For example, his last name begins with an A, so why is he not first in line? It displaces his sense of order. I learned the term “meltdown” when Jude was in kindergarten. I came to despise the term. It was incredibly tough for the first few years in school. I think I dreaded summer’s end more than he did! It was a very stressful time for us.

The Autism Foundation is a non-profit organization that can help families that do not have insurance. They are able to do this through donations. They specialize in behavioral therapy, and I feel that this is such an elemental tool for children and even adults, to learn coping skills. That is where I want to help. Places like Autism Speaks, while certainly admirable, receive many donations from lots of places, and no, they can’t ever have too much money either, but I wanted to support someone in my own community who needed the help.

So, a portion of the proceeds of every book that Red Paint Hill sells will go to the Autism Foundation of Tennessee. I am happy to say that once money comes in from sales for Mother is a Verb, an anthology about the relationships we experience with our mother or mother figure, Red Paint Hill Publishing will be donating around 200 dollars.

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


NEXT POST: 7/25--Six Questions for Christa S, Editor, Inaccurate Realities

Friday, July 11, 2014

Six Questions for Lise Quintana, Editor-in-Chief, & Allie Marini Batts, Managing Editor, NonBinary Review

NonBinary Review is a quarterly interactive literary journal, the official imprint of Zoetic Press, which uses the Lithomobilus platform to join fiction and nonfiction to 5000 words, poetry, and art around each issue's theme. NonBinary Review "wants art and literature that tiptoes the tightrope between now and then. Art that makes us see our literary offerings in new ways." Read the guidelines here – http://nonbinaryreview.com/submission-guidelines/.

SQF: NonBinary Review uses a new platform, Lithomobilus. Please tell us a little about the origins of Lithmobilus and how it relates to NonBinary Review?

Lise Qqintana: I came up with Lithomobilus while checking out a museum exhibit that had touchscreen kiosks that supplemented the artifacts with information about six different things. Each six-item touchscreen had 63 combinations of icons (choosing from 0 to 6 of the icons available). If you multiplied them all together, you get 62.5 BILLION combination possibilities (63 to the 6th power). I thought about how I could do that with narrative. NonBinary Review came out of my desire to show the world what Lithomobilus can do.


SQF: Issues are themed around famous works. For example, the theme of issue 1 is Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and issue two is based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. What will you be looking for in submissions?

Allie Marini Batts: Work where the artist took the work and made it their own—where the beauty of language and precision of craft haven't been sacrificed to fit the theme—where the writer doesn't use the conventions of the fairy tale structure as an excuse to be lazy with their work, or where the writer doesn't choose the easiest route to tell their story. As a reader and an editor, I will choose the unique, original piece that's a little rough around the edges over the story or poem that took no risks, never went deeper than the surface, or worst of all, phoned it in because "anyone can write a spin-off."


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

AMB: I'm pretty forgiving, to be honest—but I have problems when an author obviously hasn't read the guidelines (there's wiggle room for format issues, and there's just completely ignoring the theme). Outside of that, I take issue when it's clear that an author has "phoned it in"—it's insulting to me as a reader and an editor, and it makes me sad for the author, who doesn't seem concerned with the quality of work attached to their name. Outside of that, the standard ISMs turn me off: sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, ageism, etc. Anything that promotes hateful or hurtful stereotypes or work that includes inflammatory words or themes for the intent of pandering to the lowest common denominator. I also have an irrational hatred of rhetorical questions in poetry ("Why does the wind blow?"), the abused-since-the-time-of-e.e.-cummings intentionally lowercase "i" (often for NO discernible reason), ellipses that are used for appearance instead of effect, and when a poet uses line breaks in a way that it's clear the line breaks are to make the piece "look like a poem" instead of to convey meaning (you can generally see this when the language choices and line breaks aren't in symmetry.)


SQF: Are there any genre restrictions for submissions?

AMB: If you do it well, I want to read it. That said, please don't flood us with sparkly vampires or angst-driven Frankenstein creations (well, wait, now that I write that down, that *was* sort of Shelley's thing, wasn't it?) The long and the short of it is that we're not looking for only one specific genre and we're not ignoring any genres, either. As long as the work follows the guidelines and relates to the theme in a way that's clear, we'll read and consider any kind of work, as long as it's written well and makes our heart skip, our breath catch, or we can't get it out of our heads for a few days after reading it.


SQF: Will you publish a submission an author posted on a personal blog?

AMB: While we prefer new material, we understand in the changing online world, where every author wants as many readers as possible to see their work, it's getting less and less pragmatic to put that restriction on writers. Mainly we ask that you're respectful. Disclose the piece's history, so we can properly credit our peer publications, and everyone can be happy for the story getting a new crack at a different audience.

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

LQ: I wish that you had asked what kind of submissions I wish we'd get that we haven't gotten. And I'd say that I wish I could see more collaborative, interwoven submissions. Right now, each issue of NonBinary Review is a bunch of authors having a dialogue with a particular author or body of work, but I'd love to see more authors dialoguing with each other—works that work together, complement each other; shared stories, shared worlds.

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

NEXT POST: 7/18--Six Questions for Stephanie Bryant Anderson, Poetry Editor/Publisher, Red Paint Hill Publishing



Thursday, July 3, 2014

Six Questions for Grant Faulkner, Editor, 100 Word Story

100 Word Story publishes pieces of exactly 100 words—no more, no less. "Tell a story, write a prose poem, pen a slice of your memoir, or try your hand at an essay." Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Grant Faulkner: A friend introduced me to the form, and I became obsessed with writing 100-word stories. I had been working on a novel for years, so writing these smaller pieces was a nice break, and since I could squeeze them into a somewhat frenzied life as a working parent, they gave me a great sense of creative satisfaction. I could actually finish something. 

As I thought about submitting them, though, I realized how few journals are truly dedicated to flash fiction. Since 100-word stories are such a particular form unto themselves, I thought they deserved their own publication. Also, I thought a 100-word story is the perfect length to read online, and we wanted to reach readers where they were. 

Fortunately, my friend Lynn Mundell was up for a crazy creative endeavor as well, so we got together in coffee shops and living rooms and hatched this thing. And then the fabulous photo editor Beret Olson came aboard. Her photos provide a wonderful interplay between story and image.


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

GF: I think the best 100-word stories possess what Roland Barthes, in describing what makes a photograph arresting, called the punctum—“the sting, speck, cut, prick.” It's difficult to describe, but a good 100-word story startles the reader in a similar manner.

A 100-word story, because of its compressed brevity, can resemble a prose poem. I like stories that work with language and mood in such a way, and move with a sense of what is left out of the story. Flash fiction is so much about absences and gaps, after all. 

There has to be a sense of escalation, though. Most of the pieces we publish have an identifiable beginning, middle, and end. Each sentence has to carry a symbolic weight forward and tell a story.


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

GF: Since 100-word stories are so brief, it's easy to think they're easy to write. They require as much revision as any story, though. Too often we see pieces that read as first drafts and even include obvious typos or grammatical mistakes.

We also sometimes get stories that rely on gimmicks, such as an ending that flips the story with a contrived coincidence rather than through earned character development. We want every story we publish to illustrate life in an interesting, arresting way. 


SQF: In your piece in the NY Times, "Going Long. Going Short.” you say the least helpful feedback you received in a critique group was “I want to know more.” Do you have any other advice for critiquing short-short works?

GF: Everything that applies to a good critique of a longer work applies to short-short stories. Are the characters compelling and drawn without clichés? Is there a compelling conflict that escalates?

That said, stories that are as short as 100 words rely more on nuance, so a critique can be similar to critiquing a poem. Each word and phrase requires close scrutiny, and the sentences can be read like the lines in a poem.

When I critique, I like to focus on what’s left out—to try to see how a short-short can live in its breaths as much as its words. That’s a good challenge for any form, though.


SQF: You’re also the executive director of National Novel Writing Month. How did this come about, given your penchant for short fiction?

GF: My penchant for writing longer works preceded my penchant for flash fiction. I like writing and reading in a lot of different forms, and I think each form influences another in vital ways. One of my grad school profs, Bob Gluck, had us write a novel in one page, so I see long and short forms as very compatible.

One of my favorite things about 100 Word Story is also one of my favorite things about National Novel Writing Month: they both help people who might not otherwise call themselves writers become writers. We’ve heard from teachers who teach 100-word stories in prison programs and high-school GED classes, and they tell us they love the form because it’s not intimidating. Its brevity is an invitation to writers to give it a whirl. 

Likewise, National Novel Writing Month tells people that instead of getting overwrought with the idea of penning a perfect novel, you’ve just got to jump in and write it. Having a goal and a deadline are the foundation of accomplishing audacious creative endeavors.


SQF: What’s next for 100 Word Story?

GF: We want to publish an anthology of one hundred 100-word anthologies. We’re also dedicated to publishing our hero of the short-short form, Lydia Davis. And then we’re long overdue to put on a rollicking party that lasts long into the night. Short stories, long parties.

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


NEXT POST: 7/11--Six Questions for Lise Quintana, Editor-in-Chief, & Allie Marini Batts, Managing Editor, NonBinary Review



Friday, June 27, 2014

Six Questions for Susannah Martin, Editor, Estuary

Estuary publishes fiction, nonfiction, poetry and art. Read the complete guidelines here - http://estuarymagazine.weebly.com/submissions.html.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Susannah Martin: I had been the head editor of my homeschool co-op’s newspaper and then literary magazine for a few years, and I really enjoyed it. When I left, I decided to create my own literary magazine the way I wanted it. Originally, I had intended it to be a high school literary magazine, which is the way the very first issue was formatted. However, after the first issue, I had a hard time getting enough submissions, so I decided to open it up to people of all ages, and that’s how Estuary was born.


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

SM: Quality, quality, and quality. I’m looking for work of quality. I don’t ask for much else. Proper grammar and spelling is a must, and it needs to be interesting.


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

SM: There’s not really one thing that I get the most that turns me off, and the answer depends on what that submission is. For the sections like the “Poet Garden” and “Gallery,” I’m not very picky. However, when it comes to the “Story Corner,” “Review,” and “Essays” sections, I am looking for structure and grammar. Therefore, submissions lacking either of those will not be accepted. For instance, I’ve turned away short stories that showed promise, but were lacking a decent ending. If a writer’s story doesn’t have an identifiable beginning, middle, and end, then I won’t accept it.

Also, profanity and sexual content are prohibited in every section. I have turned away contributors for this. However, if the work overall is good, I might simply ask the contributor to revise the problem parts out of it.


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

SM: Absolutely. When I was first starting out, I remember getting rejected and not knowing what I did wrong. As far as I’m concerned, not telling someone why you’ve rejected them just adds insult to injury. Now, when I have to reject someone, I always try to give some constructive criticism. It’s not always much, but I always try to say something that the contributor can use to help him/herself improve.


SQF: There’s a section in the magazine for essays, where writers can “write on whatever subject you like.” Anything? Really?

SM: Pretty much. Like I said before, I’m looking for quality. The essay section is supposed to be broad. That’s why I leave it with no topic. As long as the writer adheres to the rule of no profanity or sexual content, and the work is interesting to read, I’m perfectly willing to accept it.


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

SM: How long should submissions be? That would have been a good one.

My answer is, usually about 4 pages or less. It pains me the most when I receive a fantastic submission that is just too long to include in Estuary. I have to admit that I get it. I’m a writer myself, so I understand the compulsion to write and then just keep writing. My first short story was over 8 pages long. I get it. Unfortunately, I must put a limit on the number of pages I can include, and that limit is about 4. For the record, anything less than 4 pages is perfectly fine and there is a tiny bit of wiggle room with the 4 page limit.

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


NEXT POST: 7/3--Six Questions for Grant Faulkner, Editor, 100 Word Story