Friday, October 31, 2014

Six Questions for Mike Lafontaine Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Vending Machine Press

Vending Machine Press is a new and independent journal aimed at giving writers an avenue for their writing to reach a wider audience. Every bi-monthly issue we will publish the finest stories and poems from around the world. Read the complete guidelines here.


SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Mike Lafontaine: Well I have been fascinated by Jack Kerouac and The Beat Generation writers, since I was a teenager. I always wanted to be part of a place where writers could get published, I very naively wanted to create a modern version of Beat Generation writers that had an avenue to publish their stories and poems and me and my co-founder, Marcus, are hoping that Vending Machine Press (VMP) is a place where likeminded people can get published and further their writing careers and perhaps sometime down the road all the writers who have been published could get together and hang out and talk writing and drink whiskey that would be cool.


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

ML: A consistent narrative, a clear voice and not boring, it must have some thing to say, as we state in our submissions page in our website. There is no theme. Write whatever you like. It could be about the love of your life or about wandering around drunk in Walmart at 1am in the morning. Whatever it is, make it interesting.


SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission (besides the converse of the above)?

ML: Incoherence, spelling mistakes, stories that appear to be first drafts, just sloppy writing, overall, not so much the poetry we receive. It has always been consistently good. We want more poetry. We don’t get enough of it.


SQF: As of this interview, you’ve published five issues. What has surprised you the most so far?

ML: It has been a steep learning curve. There are only two of us running this journal myself and Marcus, the other co-founder. There have been times when there have been disagreements, but overall it’s been an interesting experience and something that hopefully continues to grow. We have had wonderful feedback for the issues so far, so that pleases me.


SQF: What magazines do you read most often?

ML: I guess I look at a lot of journals I always have. I am a writer myself so I dig
Literary Orphans, Split Lip Magazine, DOGZPLOT, Word Riot, Fried Chicken & Coffee, Montucky Review, Gutter Eloquence, Mad Swirl, Sundog Lit, Red Fez, PANK, Hobart, Camel Saloon, Cheap Pop, Whiskey Paper, Cease Cows, to name a few.


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

ML: If your journal was a band which band would it be and what album in their discography?

I would say our journal would be “Pavement” I think we are “Slanted and Enchanted” at the moment. It’s a great record. I think we aim to be “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain.” I don’t think we are yet, but our First Birthday Issue in December should hopefully get us to that level. If we were just a single song, I think we aim to be “Alison” by “Slowdive.” That’s one of the most perfect songs I have ever heard.

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

NEXT POST: 11/7—Six Questions For Pamela Tyree Griffin, Editor, The Shine Journal

Friday, October 24, 2014

Six Questions for Johnny Damm (Founder and Editor) and Matthew Nye (Editor), A Bad Penny Review

A Bad Penny Review publishes fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction—with a particular interest in forms that exist somewhere between. It is published quarterly online and once a year as a physical object. Read the completeguidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

A Bad Penny Review: Despite the huge (and ever proliferating) number of journals out there, surprisingly few publish the work that ABPR finds the most exciting: visual poetics, the conceptual, the varying forms and non-forms of the innovative/experimental/transgressive. So that provides some justification for our existence. But more than that, journals generally have been slow to exploit the shifting boundaries between the analog and the digital: the uncertainty as to what a physical object can offer over its digital representation or, to flip the equation, why digital representations are assigned (cultural/economic) value at all. This, I think, is what we exist to grapple with.


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

ABPR: We're looking for the unfamiliar, for anything that surprises us. In terms of aesthetics, the quickest perusal of one of our issues (even without reading a word, frankly) could offer some idea as to what attracts us formally.


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

ABPR: This is a familiar editorial complaint and an echo of above, but when a submitter has clearly never visited the journal's website, that's an annoyance. Take that 45 seconds to give us a look!


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

ABPR: Only if it's a piece that we seriously considered publishing but didn't make the final cut.


SQF: What magazines do you read?

ABPR: Conjunctions, Jacket2, Fence, Harp & Altar, Lana Turner, and many more. I also spend as much time as possible perusing the archives of UbuWeb: if it were a journal, it might be the best in the world.

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

ABPR: How can I, as an author who submits to A Bad Penny Review, support your fine journal? Great question! We don't receive any outside funding: our entire budget for future publications comes from the sales of the previous ones. So take a look at our physical publications and consider buying one. Or just send us at least 5 bucks, and we'll pick something out for you.

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


NEXT POST: 10/31—Six Questions for Mike Lafontaine Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Vending Machine Press

Friday, October 17, 2014

Six Questions for R. Leigh Hennig, Editor-in-Chief, Bastion Science Fiction Magazine

Bastion publishes science fiction 1000-5000 words in length. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

R. Leigh Hennig: I love science fiction short stories. I’ve been in the scene for a while, as both a reader and author, and just kept coming across so many fantastic stories that were going unnoticed or otherwise passed over. Sci-fi readers have a voracious appetite, and it’s just not being satisfied, despite the many fantastic markets that already exist. I wanted to do something that mattered to people, something that was meaningful, rather than just spin my wheels with another social media connect-authors-and-readers kind of site. It was only natural from a number of angles that I create a science fiction magazine. This time however, rather than publishing issues which contain a few fiction stories, some non-fiction pieces, interviews, podcasts, etc., I wanted to deliver to the readers a higher dose of pure, uncut, classic science fiction. Like a good story, I wanted the magazine to get as close to the reader as possible. No distractions. That’s why when I created Bastion, I decided that we would focus solely on science fiction short stories. No advertising appears on our site, or in our magazine. When you read us, or visit our site, there’s just nothing that gets in the way between you, and the content. Of course, that makes things a little harder for us. We turn down ad revenue which would go a long way to keeping us afloat. I think it’s worth it, though. Bastion is absolutely unique in these regards.


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

RLH: Firstly, the story needs to be compelling. That’s a polite way of saying we don’t like boring. It has to hold the reader’s interest. More than that, it has to captivate the reader, to the point where they’re almost falling over themselves to get to the next word to see what happens. Secondly, there has to be a strong emotional engagement. On some level, you need to really care for the characters, and the plot. If the reader doesn’t care about your protagonist, then the story is dead in the water. We don’t publish stories where the readers feel “meh” about the characters. I want to read stories that just make your heart ache, one way or another. Finally, we want stories that challenge something, or is otherwise forward looking. Science fiction is about imagining what could be, so the same plots and tropes just won’t fly here. Think about the future, and come up with something new, some different approach to your characters, ideas, or plot.


SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission (besides the converse of the above)?

RLH: Juvenile writing. Stories that don’t take themselves seriously. It’s okay to have fun, humorous pieces that are light-hearted. We love those. But we’re not interested in submissions where the author is acting like a fool. Don’t just throw needless vulgarity or filth into a story for the shock factor. If you’re going to have graphic scenes, then justify them, and treat them with the weight they deserve.


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

RLH: Absolutely. We try to be a contributor-oriented publication wherever we can. This means, in part, that each submission received gets a meaningful, personalized response within a reasonable amount of time. If a story gets rejected, then the author is notified why, and we try to be specific. This isn’t license to argue with us on our thoughts for a piece, however. As much as we’d like to discuss with authors what they did or didn’t do correctly, or how something could be interpreted differently, we just don’t have the time. 99 times out of 100 this isn’t an issue though, and many authors are thankful for our comments. We wish we could do more, but for now we do what we can.


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

RLH: After reading hundreds or thousands of short stories, you get to see trends. You learn to identify very quickly whether or not the story is going to be a good one, and why. You also learn about what works, and what doesn’t. For instance: novice writers will use death or despair as an emotional hook for a story, which is a fairly cheap tactic, easy to implement. However, if you can write a story that’s uplifting and about life or something positive, where it’s not all gloom and doom, then you’re going to be in a much better place to make your readers (and editors) happier and more excited for your work (provided that it’s well-written to begin with).


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

RLH: Ask us about how readers can best support us. Ask us what we need! My answer: we need of course readers to buy copies of our magazine. Donations are naturally welcome (and we even have some benefits for various donations, which you can see at www.bastionmag.com/about at the bottom of the page), but even more important for a new market is word-of-mouth. If someone reading this stops by our site, enjoys our sample story, and picks up an issue, fantastic! That’s at least one issue sold. But if that reader then tells 10 of their friends, and even one friend out of those 10 goes and buys a copy, then immediately we’ve doubled our sales and subsequently our ability to support and pay our authors. So, what can you do to help Bastion? Tell your friends and family to check us out. You can even share your own PDF/mobi/epub copy of our magazine freely—we are DRM-free and want to engage our readers. If someone you shared your copy with decides it’s a worthwhile publication and picks up their own copy, then we consider that a huge win.

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


NEXT POST: 10/24—Six Questions for Johnny Damm (Founder and Editor) and Matthew Nye (Editor), A Bad Penny Review

Friday, October 10, 2014

Six Questions for Dawn Lloyd, Editor in Chief, The Colored Lens


The Colored Lens publishes speculative fiction and non-fiction to 20,000 words (shorter preferred). Read the complete guidelines here.

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

Dawn Lloyd: I really have two main priorities, which are probably the same for most magazines. I look for good writing and a good plot. I don't care how good the writing is, if it doesn't have a good hook and a well-paced plot, it's not going to hold my attention. Conversely, it doesn't matter how good the plot is if the writing isn't also strong.

After those two things, there are a whole host of things that makes me like one well-written story over another. These include good, well-developed characters, a unique concept, something that makes me think. If I'm still considering a story hours, days, and weeks after reading it, that's a good sign.


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

DL: Akin to the above, there are basically two things that turn me off. If I read 1000 words and nothing has happened, I'm unlikely to accept a story. I may read another 500 words just in case it miraculously changes and becomes exceptional, but if a story can't hook me in the first 1000 words (ideally 500 words,) it's probably going to be a reject.

The other thing that turns me off is poor writing. This could be anything from poor/repetitive sentence structure to the "don'ts" of storytelling like too much "telling," overuse of adverbs, filtering, etc.


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

DL: We don't publish reprints, and posting on a blog does count as a form of publishing, so it's exceptionally unlikely that we'd publish something posted on a 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: We send personal rejections to all submissions, and occasionally authors respond to say thanks. We certainly don't expect or need it, but I can't imagine a scenario in which someone saying "thanks" would be unwelcome.

If an author asks a polite question about a rejection, we answer; but we don't particularly encourage it unless the rejection was somehow unclear. Of course, there have been times when rejections have had typos or copy/paste errors that made them unclear, and we certainly don't object to confused authors asking us to clarify. If it's a case of general writing advice, authors would generally do better to work with a critique group than to query us. For example, if we say we felt a piece had a bit too much "telling" and not as much "showing," the best course of action would be for the author to send the story through another round of critiques in a writer's group, or to ask on a writing site what's meant by telling vs. showing. Although asking us those questions may be phrased politely, and we don't object to them specifically, we also are more likely to direct the author to a writing group for their answers.

On occasion, an author replies to argue with a rejection and explain to us how we misunderstood the story. These tend to be the best way to assure that we remember the author in a less than positive light. Interestingly, but perhaps not uncoincidentally, the authors who do this tend to be the ones whose writing isn't something we're likely to publish anyway.


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

DL: The importance of plot. Although writing style may be the harder skill to perfect, once a writer reaches a certain level of skill, the most common reason for a rejection is a lack of plot.


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

DL: What bit of advice do you have for authors just starting to submit stories?

Do it. If you write, then take the next step and submit your stories. However, make sure you revise. Revise a lot. Then after you've revised, have the story critiqued by other writers and revise again.

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


NEXT POST: 10/17—Leigh Hennig, Editor-in-Chief, Bastion Science Fiction Magazine