Friday, April 17, 2015

Six Questions for R. M. Cooper, Founder & Managing Editor, Sequestrum

Sequestrum is a monthly journal that publishes fiction and creative nonfiction averaging 5000 words (including micro, flash, short-shorts, etc), poetry to thirty-five lines, and visual arts. Free subscription options are available, and contests are held regularly. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: How and why did Sequestrum get its start?

R. M. Cooper: Over the years of researching and writing for literary journals, I found myself returning to certain websites and subscriptions routinely, but I never felt a strong tie to one publication. It turned out my ideal journal (affordable/publishes established and emerging writers equally/pays contributors/has a sizable audience/incorporates a visual component/can be accessed anywhere, anytime digitally) either didn't exist or at best wasn't paired with the sort of literature I enjoy.

Pure and simple. Sequestrum is the sort of publication I want to interact with and publishes the sort of material I want to read. And as it turned out, I wasn’t the only one who wanted to read a publication like Sequestrum.


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

RMC: There are thousands of literary journals today, and they’re all competing for a share of the market. Readers today have a lot of options and can afford to be impatient, so first impressions are vital. I want every reader to be invested as soon as possible in every story or poem we publish, so the top three qualities I look for are:

  • A sense of immediacy which can manifest in language, style, plot, character, setting, etc.
  • A clear passion for craft.
  • Something unexpected. That’s probably a frustrating bit of advice, but discovering something new is the real joy of being an editor (and a reader too, I think).

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

RMC: Predictability. Nothing hinders a submission like the feeling you’ve read it a hundred times.


SQF: Is there a type of submission you’d like to see more of?

RMC: Submissions which take risks. Attention to craft and hard work can take you a long way, but when someone is willing to open themselves up, they bridge that gap between writing and honesty. And it’s my firm belief that honest writing is the best, simplest definition of literature.


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

RMC: The importance of a beginning. After a submission is initially read, the first paragraph in prose or those first few lines in a poem are what editors are going to return to again and again as they compare your submission with other finalists. Don’t bury your best, most imaginative bits of writing deep in a submission. The beginning is the most important thing—until you reach the ending.


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

RMC: Given that your archives are open-access and subscribing is free, why do you suppose writers continue submitting without getting a sense of your editorial tastes?

A: I have no earthly idea.

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

NEXT POST: 4/24—Six Questions for Nolan Liebert, Editor, Pidgeonholes


Friday, April 10, 2015

Six Questions for R. L. Black, Editor, Unbroken

Unbroken is a bimonthly online journal that seeks to showcase poetic prose, the prose poem, and the haibun. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

R. L. Black: Like so many journal editors, I am a writer myself. I started out writing flash fiction, and I looked into experimental forms to enhance my writing. Somewhere along the way, I was introduced to the prose poem, and also to the haibun, and it was love at first sight. I revisited some of my flash fiction pieces and turned them into prose poems and I was delighted with the result, but when I began to submit these pieces I found there were not a lot of markets out there for the prose poem or for the haibun. There’s a few, but not many. So, I saw a need that I wanted to help fill, and that is why I started unbroken.


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

RLB: I look for the unlineated form that we like at Unbroken, because this is what we publish. That’s not to say that we won’t look at poetry with line breaks. I look at everything that comes in, but I only publish the unlineated form. Sometimes I get a piece in that I really like, but it’s lined, and I’ll give the author the option of revising it to fit the block form that we publish.

I look for compelling imagery and language, because a prose poem is still a poem, and the best of them utilize poetic elements and techniques.

I look for work that in some way surprises me or makes me look at something in a different way, something that I will remember for a long time after I read it. I guess this is a personal thing, but as a reader, that’s what I like for a piece to do for me.

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

RLB: Foul language that is not organic to the piece. If it fits with the tone and the mood of the piece, that’s awesome, but if it’s clearly only there for the shock value, I will most likely pass on it.

Also, when I see a piece with lots of typos and grammar problems, it makes me feel like the author didn’t care enough to polish their work before sending it in. Doesn’t mean I won’t consider it, but it does kind of start things off on the wrong foot.


SQF: The pieces in your first issue are all short. Is there a maximum word count you prefer? 

RLB: I don’t have a maximum word count. I think prose poems and haibun tend to be shorter, but I have seen some that are several pages long.


SQF: If Unbroken had a theme song, what would it be and why?

RLB: Simply the Best” by Tina Turner, because for me, prose poetry is the best and, like the song says, "... I hang on every word ... "


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

RLB: Two, actually:

What the heck is a prose poem? That’s been the subject of many a heated debate. Some even say there is no such thing as a prose poem. My answer is that a prose poem is a poem in prose form. It’s a poem disguised as prose. Peter Johnson defined it best when he said that, “…the prose poem plants one foot in prose, the other in poetry, both heels resting precariously on banana peels.”

What the heck is a haibun? It’s a prose poem, with a haiku at the end.

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

NEXT POST: 4/17—Six Questions for R. M. Cooper, Founder & Managing Editor, Sequestrum


Friday, April 3, 2015

Six Questions for Sheldon Lee Compton, Editor, Revolution John


Revolution John publishes fiction/nonfiction/creative nonfiction between 1000 and 5000 words, flash fiction to 1000 words, poetry of any length, and photography/artwork. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Sheldon Lee Compton: I started it because I enjoy publishing and sharing work I'm excited about. There's no reason not to do it, especially with an online journal. There's no cost (until the domain is bought anyways, which I've yet to get enough money to do) and honestly, reading submissions isn't that time consuming if you just stay on top of them. I started it because it's fun and easy. That simple.


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

SLC: I look for a strong voice first of all. Then, I skim through and check for any beginner mistakes that are quickly obvious. Once I've done that, I read through and ask myself if the story had that ring to it for me. I can't explain what that ring is, I just know it after I've finished reading a piece. My aesthetic isn't much more complicated than that. I do pay close attention to Appalachian and southern literature that comes my way, but that's because that's what I write and that's what I prefer most to read.


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

SLC: Bad poetry will get my rejection brain working the fastest. But I'm also not a fan of stories that sort of have this preamble beginning that take up the first three paragraphs where some character's not doing anything other than pondering life's big questions. That's just poor storytelling, and if there's no story I don't care if it's the most beautiful writing I've ever read, it's out.


SQF: Your site also contains book reviews. How are the books selected?

SLC: I wish I could say there was a set selection process, but that's not the case. Most often I schedule a review if a writer gets in touch with me about their book. But if there's a book out that I'm really into I'll write a review of that one to show support and jazz up interest for the writer. I guess there's the built in admission that I don't really review books in the normal fashion, which is why you'll see mostly positive reviews at RJ. I'm reviewing books I'm into, not just titles that are coming out from houses at random. It's an act of appreciation more than a showcase for critique.


SQF: If Revolution John had a theme song, what would it be and why?

SLC: John Cougar Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane," because I'm all about the memory of a thing.


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

SLC: I'd like to have been asked about the stellar group of contributing writers who have come on board at RJ since last year. Stacia Fleegal, Gabino Iglesias, Barry Graham, Ryan W. Bradley, Steph Post, and Barrett Warner. You guys rock it like Chuck Norris on a tilt-a-whirl.

Thank you so much for asking these questions, Jim.  I greatly appreciate it!

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

NEXT POST: 4/10—Six Questions for R. L. Black, Editor, Unbroken


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?

JW:

  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