Friday, June 23, 2017

Six Questions for Danielle Lowrey, Editor-in-Chief, 500 Miles Magazine

500 Miles Magazine publishes fiction, poetry, nonfiction, previously published works, and art. "We love writing that makes us laugh. We want our bellies to hurt. But sometimes we want our imaginations to wander. We love fantasy, getting lost in worlds beyond our own created by others. Write with a young adult slant? Love it! Enjoy creating experimental pieces or exploring wacky characters? So do we! Send us your weird, your funny, your happy, your fantasy, we will love and cherish them all.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this zine? 

Danielle Lowrey: I love words. I can't help myself. If I'm not writing, or reading, or talking about books, or thinking about books, then I'm lost. So when I tried starting a writing career for myself, in very small ways, I was disheartened. My writing style isn't conventional. I'll wake up in the middle of the night and a character will come to me, instantly questioning her current situation because she actually thinks it would be a great idea to go pick up a guy she's been crushing on at a complete stranger's funeral. Who publishes a short story like that? As rejection letters for my non-conventional pieces started rolling in, I realized I had no idea who published work like that and saw a hole in the market. If other writers are writing weird/non-conventional work, their pieces need a home, just like mine did. So I decided to start 500 Miles Magazine. I LOVE reading all these wonderful and insane submissions that come our way. I root for all our submitters to find that perfect home for their one special piece. Because that's what it's all about right? And through interacting with our authors, I've found the market gap 500 Miles was created to fill is still totally there, but at least it's a bit smaller than I thought.

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

  1. Weirdness, in a good way. I know it's a vague answer, subject to personal bias, but I like weird things. Like, what if you pulled up your carpet and found a complete replica of your world, but it's mirrored and upside-down? 
  2. Funny. Outside of handling words in some fashion, laughing is my favorite past-time. If I'm going to tell a stranger they need to read 500 Miles and mean it, I need to tell them it'll make them laugh; bring them joy in some way. 
  3. Intrigue/well-written. If I can't stay inside your piece and stay captivated and enthralled by it, then what would make me think I can convince my readers to read it? But just because I personally feel an author's work doesn't fulfill #3, that doesn't mean the work is bad. It just means I honestly don't think it's a good fit for our magazine. 

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

DL: Unnecessary violence, erotica, S&M, haughtiness, and truly terrible writing.

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

DL: Of course! At the end of the day we're all just writers trying to get our work out there, get recognition for it, and maybe one day get paid to write. Who am I to stop a writer from trying to achieve this goal because they're trying to self-promote? I only ask that if you submit a piece from your blog that you hide the piece from view while you submit it to us and until after you hear back from us. If we reject you, no harm no foul. You can just unhide your piece. If we accept your work, please keep the piece hidden until the issue you'll be published in comes out. Once the issue comes out, please let people know the piece is now published in 500 Miles Magazine, just as we'll let our readers know your piece was originally published on your blog.

SQF: What do you want authors to know about the submissions you reject and how authors should respond? Along this same idea, do you mind if authors reply with polite questions about the comments they receive? 

DL: I want authors with rejected submissions to know that I'm a writer too. I completely understand that sinking feeling or rise of utter frustration that comes from opening an email saying your work just didn't make the cut. So I don't reject anything lightly. I'm also not going to lie to an author. If I say, 'your work isn't a good fit for our magazine at this time,' there's no secret code hidden in there. I'm not trying to trick you, I don't secretly think your work is bad. I honestly mean, that in shaping our current issue, I didn't feel your piece meshed well with the rest of the magazine. Having said that, please don't re-submit something to us in the hopes it'll be a better fit for the next issue. If I just HAVE to have a piece from you, I'm not above contacting you and begging.

As far as polite questions go, I think it's important to remember that 500 Miles is crazy small at this point, which can be both good and bad for writers. The good thing is that I've personally read and taken notes on every piece. The bad thing is that there's only so much reading a small team can do. The last thing I want is for our inbox to get so overwhelmed with questions, we spend more time responding to them than fulfilling our actual purpose, which is reading submissions to create the next issue. So I'd say if you  have a few questions, that's totally fine. I'll be more than happy to answer them the best I can, but please be sparing with the amount you ask. Also, since answering questions isn't the top priority of the magazine, please be patient. We're not going to respond right away, and I don't want that freaking anyone out. On the same note, don't keep sending me reminder or inquiry emails because I haven't gotten back to you by when you wanted. I try really hard to be a nice and flexible person, but if you hound me, there's a really good chance I won't respond to you out of spite. I love this magazine, but it's not my whole life.

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

DL: I'm not quite sure what question I would create here, but there is one last thing I'd really like writers and readers to know about 500 Miles. We have a resources section on our website that I highly encourage writers to take advantage of. I got the idea from The Redheaded Stepchild. Looking at all the magazines authors had been rejected from, really helped me broaden my magazine submission search. Sometimes it's hard to find the right home for a piece. Hopefully, by seeing the magazines our authors have been published in, it will help writers find more magazines that could be a good fit for their work.

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

Friday, June 16, 2017

Six Questions for Vivian Dorsel, Founding Editor/Publisher, upstreet

upstreet is an award-winning annual literary magazine which—in addition to its fiction, nonfiction, and poetry—includes an in-depth interview with an author in each issue. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Vivian Dorsel: I started upstreet, 13 years ago, because during the eight years when I had been the managing editor of a regional litmag, The Berkshire Review, I had increasingly come to feel restricted by the rules and practices of The Berkshire Writers Room, the organization that published the journal. Submissions were restricted to a geographic area and were evaluated by genre committees headed by the genre editors (Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, Scriptwriting), who had been elected to their positions by the membership. I wanted more control of the magazine, and when my late husband, who was thoroughly sick of hearing about the internal politics of the organization, suggested that I start my own journal, I was happy to do so.

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

VD: This is a difficult question, and the answer depends on whether the submission is fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry. The editors of these genres for upstreet have considerable autonomy in selecting what goes into the journal; their statements are on the upstreet website. (As of our thirteenth issue, we have begun taking poetry only by invitation because the volume of poetry submissions became so great that we were unable to read them all.) For myself, I like to see work that deals with an unusual topic, or with a familiar topic in an unusual way. Structure and style are also significant considerations. However, I think it’s more a matter of voice than of subject matter. I like to hear an interesting, distinctive narrative voice, one that will keep the reader engaged from beginning to end. There are no restrictions on language, or on explicit descriptions of sex or violence, so long as it is not gratuitous and plays a role in enhancing the overall effect of the piece. Any work that is obviously grinding some political axe is not welcome in upstreet.

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

VD: The number one thing that turns me off to a submission is that the author obviously didn’t bother to read the guidelines. The number two thing is when a writer is clearly writing in the service of some political agenda (whether I agree with it or not).

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

VD: Usually we don’t provide comments because we receive so many submissions it would be impossible to comment on all of them. However, once in a while the editor or assistant editor who reads a submission will tell me why he/she thinks a given story or essay missed the mark, and I will often pass that along to the author. When a story or essay has been shortlisted and therefore held for a long time before we turn it down, I will let the author know that his/her work has been on our shortlist and that is why it took so long to hear from us. (Sometimes the only reason it wasn’t accepted is that we didn’t have room for it, and it’s nice for the author to know this.)

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

VD: My own background has been primarily in fiction writing. After having seen literally thousands (!) of fiction submissions, I have found that even when a story has a great beginning and holds my interest throughout, very often it falls apart at the end. (The fiction editors of upstreet agree with this.) Writers have trouble with endings. A good ending is not forced or contrived; it arises organically from the events of the story, and makes sense in terms of what has happened and what the characters are like.

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

VD: What are your goals for upstreet?

My goal is to publish a high-quality literary journal that is a mixture of established and emerging authors. I am delighted when we discover a new writer and are able to publish his/her work for the first time. I am very interested in the creative process and how it varies from one writer to another, and I enjoy doing author interviews that I hope will enlighten serious readers and writers of literature. I am especially pleased that, beginning with the tenth-anniversary issue, we began paying an honorarium to the writers we publish. upstreet values its contributors’ work, and we want them to know that.

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

Friday, June 9, 2017

Six Questions for Patricia Rippe, Editor-in-Chief, Human Noise Journal

Human Noise Journal publishes short stories, essays, and poetry to ten pages, multimedia and cover art. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Patricia Rippe: I started this magazine because I noticed that many journals and magazines aren't in print and don't pay their writers. Print is starting to come back in full force (look at Copper Nickel, finally publishing in print again). I was also finding it difficult to get into the publishing world. There didn't seem to be enough positions for the amount of editors looking for jobs. Since I kept being passed over for jobs by people willing to do it for free or people that had more experience than I did (because they were able to do work for free at some point), I decided to create my own opportunity. I have gotten to know some great authors over the last few years and I figured I could try to get them involved in some way (many will be judging our monthly writing contests).

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

PR: The number one thing I look for in a submission is great writing. It should catch our attention right away. We are looking for work that is unique and fresh. I know that is what all magazines and journals want because no one wants to publish the same old stories and poetry. Honestly, for us at least, it doesn't matter if you have been published in The New Yorker and Three Penny if your pieces are unique. One of the best pieces we have received came from a 40-something year old man who lives in the middle of the bayou in Louisiana who had never been published anywhere else. I could understand why he had been rejected from other places. The story wasn't polished and it was obvious he hadn't ever taken a writing class. His dialect came out through the writing and added to the voice of the narrator, in my opinion. Memorable stories and characters can be more important than perfectly polished work.

The number two aspect is grammar. It doesn't necessarily have to be proper it just needs to be consistent. If misuse is intentional but not consistent, it seems like the writer doesn't understand the rules of grammar. An editor for a literary journal/magazine is more like the editor of an anthology than a novel. We are here to edit the publication not the pieces submitted. We might take a piece that is incredible but has a few typos or grammatical mistakes. The piece has to be really special for that to happen. Take the time to edit all your pieces multiple times, and have someone else read it as well. Nothing looks worse than glaring grammatical mistakes or typos.

Number three is following the submission guidelines. They are created to make the lives of the editors easier. What we ask is usually fairly simple. We can always tell if you read the guidelines or not. The more established magazines and journals won't even look at submissions if they are submitted incorrectly. For me, I won't necessarily turn someone away if they don't submit exactly by our guidelines, but it definitely puts a dark mark on them.

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

PR: Centering poems, putting "the end" after a short story, too many cliches, using verbose language that doesn't add anything to the writing, useless dialogue, and odd fonts are some of the things off the top of my head. Unless it creates a certain shape to the poem that adds to the meaning, don't center the poem. That is probably one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to poetry. Putting "the end" after a story is silly. We can tell the story has ended, you don't have to tell us.

SQF: If you could have dinner with three authors (living or dead), who would they be and what is the question you’d like to ask each one?

PR: This is a hard question. I would pick Sylvia Plath, Aphra Behn, and Dostoevsky.  I would ask Plath if it was intentional for her sadness to be such an integral aspect of her writing. I would ask Behn what kept her motivated as a writer even though the rest of the world thought so little of female writers at the time. I would ask Dostoevsky why he would use the large amount of characters in his novels and why they always had similar names.

SQF: What magazines/zines do you read on a ‘regular’ basis?

Normal School, Three Penny, Southern Review, The New Yorker, and Paris Review are probably my top favorites at the moment. I am subscribed to three and the others I read online and purchase issues that I really enjoy. It is important to keep literary journals and magazines alive.

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

PR: That is a tough one because you asked some of the more important questions. I think I would ask the opinion on themes for journals. Personally, I think that themes for journals can be limiting on what they will accept. Which can be fine as some journals and magazines found their niche that way. I personally won't be doing themes. There could possibly be themed issues if I find a theme throughout the submissions but I would never intentionally have a theme for the journal as a whole.

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

Friday, June 2, 2017

Six Questions For: Matthew W Larrimore Editor, Four Ties Lit Review

Four Ties Lit Review publishes fiction and non-fiction to 5,000 words and poetry. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Matthew Larrimore: I started Four Ties Lit Review in 2012 because I knew I was going to miss the experience of working on a literary publication. I was graduating my MA program at Northern Arizona where I had been Editor of Thin Air Magazine in my second (last) year in the program. Not only do I love the connection to the other editors; I get excited by the prospect of finding some great pieces of Writing / Art. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when we put an issue to bed. It's a thrill to put together the kind of publication I'd want to submit to and read. Finally, I think it's more than important to provide a venue for more voices to be heard, it’s a duty.

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

ML: When I read a submission, I want to be moved. If I laugh, if I cry, get pissed off or feel proud of a character, that's what I'm looking for. The piece needs to be smart and can't bore me. But if the piece moves me, it has almost always been intelligent and not dull.  If it moves me, chances are it'll move our readers, and that's how I see my job, to find stories, poems, and pieces of art that folks want to read and see.

SQF: What turns you off of a submission?

ML: If I’m bored, I stop reading and I’ve told my editors to do the same. I avoid pieces that glorify violence (in almost any form).  And I shy away from overtly Political (with a capital P) pieces, though I don't put the same constraints on my editors.

SQF: What magazines do you read?

ML: I write poetry and book reviews, so I have “Poetry” and “The New York Review of Books” delivered so I can read those regularly. I'm always reading something to review; Luisa Igloria's "Haori,” Bruce McRae's "Hearsay" and Vida Cross's "Bronzeville at Night: 1949" are on my radar now, but there is just so much good stuff out there. Also, every year at AWP I pick up a few promising compilations / reviews, copies of the "Saranac Review", "The Missouri Review" are on my desk in my office right now. Additionally, I take some time to read online content looking for how quality online publications are handling themselves, "Blackbird Magazine", "Cleaver Magazine", and "Paper Darts" are the first three that come to mind. All the reading I do for my writing also keeps me updated as an editor.

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

ML: We respond to as many pieces as we can. Most of my staff are writers too and we know the value of good feedback. We provide that when we can. But if we tried to respond to each and every one we’d be so tied up with responding to individual pieces we’d never get the issue published. We always notify submitters of the status of their piece as soon as we know, and we let submitters know how close a piece was to being accepted.

One more thing

Four Ties Lit Review is open for submissions from May 5th - June 16th for Issue VI. We’ll take all the work for the issue from those submissions. Last year, Four Ties took about 450 entries during our open submission period. That included about 220 submissions of poetry or about 880 poems. We published 16 of those poems, 2%. We received submissions from across the spectrum, published poets to absolute beginners, PhDs, and MFAs to High School students. It's immense fun to see the range of work across all the genres; what makes this significant is that we're a small magazine. And as I said earlier, there’s a lot of good writing in circulation. Our numbers for fiction and nonfiction were just a bit less selective, but we are currently trending toward being even more selective. If you like to write, write, go ahead. Writing should be a fun and vital activity for those who practice it. Please, share it with, us, your friends, family, etc. But don't let chasing publication discourage you in any way from this most marvelous of activities. You never know when genius will strike or what the next generation will think of your writing.

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

Friday, May 26, 2017

Six Questions for Jake Schneider, Editor in Chief, SAND Journal, and the editorial team

SAND Journal is a biannual print publication containing short stories, poetry, flash fiction, creative nonfiction, translations, photography, drawing, painting, and other art forms. Learn more here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Jake Schneider, editor in chief: Actually, I didn’t: our founding editor in chief was Becky Crook, and you sent this questionnaire to my recent predecessor, Lyz Pfister. In a city as transient as Berlin, the secret to our eight-year survival as a volunteer-run literary magazine is that we’ve always been an evolving, collaborative effort defined by the passions of our current group of people. It’s never been a private project, and each successive group has had its own tastes and definitions of what SAND should be. But that’s exactly what expat Berlin is like: marked by arrivals and departures, driven more by common cause than by personal ambition, inheriting the city and redefining it.

So, long story short, I can only speak for myself and my own goals: I’d like to see SAND bring together more underrepresented voices from more places, especially in the Global South. Berlin is one endpoint on many people’s migrations. As transplants, we are always looking farther afield for inspiration. Just as our own lives don’t match what we were raised to expect, we are intrinsically interested in poems and stories that defy those expectations. That includes translations.

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

Florian Duijsens, fiction editor: I look for three things: surprise (not in terms of twist endings, but in terms of surprising voices, observations, textures, and also surprising choices in where stories start and stop), confidence (a cohesive, effective style, conscious stylistic/linguistic/narrative decisions), and truth (characters and settings that not only feel true to life, but also true to themselves; not necessarily likable, or even realistic, but alive and singular). So anything but the cliché, the wishy-washy, and the fake, basically.

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

Andrew Scheinman, nonfiction editor: A story of any sort needs a raison d'être—not a moral, not necessarily even a delineated plotline—but some searching or wandering, some exploration that occurs or is at least suggested between the beginning, middle, and end. Too many memoirs, essays, and the like proclaim their meaning from the get-go, delivering something akin to a news lede, and then elucidate the details as a matter of course. But literary writing is narrative—exciting only when it entertains or perplexes throughout the reading process, factuality notwithstanding. A simple record of events, however true or profound to the author her/himself, does not a good story make. Good nonfiction should be more about seeking than finding and should take the reader along for the ride.

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

Jake Schneider: Because of the hundreds of submissions we receive, we can’t always provide comments. But we always send personal responses to writers from our shortlist who don’t quite make into the issue.

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

Andrew Scheinman: Hemingway said “the most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.” Well, I may not be built-in, but as an editor, I suppose this sort of thing is my job vis-à-vis other writers. As I grow a bit more practiced at seeing others’ prose plainly, even bluntly, I notice how much of writing is really just that—the simple act of being attentive to lapse of voice, to strength of story arc, to depth of character, and refining these features draft after draft after draft. Whatever happens to the blank page is only the beginning. The metamorphosis that comes afterward—the “getting the words right,” as Hemingway put it—this is where writing becomes extraordinary.

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

Jake Schneider: I don’t necessarily wish you asked it, but you might be wondering where our name comes from. The answer is the 1985 song “Sand” as performed by Einstürzende Neubauten, which is a radically altered cover of this 1966 version by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood. The lyrics go “I am a stranger in your land / wandering man / call me Sand.” The shoe fits.

Thank you, Jake, Andrew, and Florian. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.