Friday, May 24, 2019

Six Questions for David Jordan, Editor, Crossways

Crossways publishes poetry and short fiction to 3,000 words. “Although we will read anything (almost), we especially want to hear from new and emerging writers who are looking to break into the world of published authors. Our aim is to publish lots of poetry with some short fiction.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

David Jordan: To publish quality writing from Ireland and around the world. It is very satisfying to say yes to people and to publish their work, and being involved in the literary world, even in a small way, is great.





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

DJ: 

  • Instant appeal. The writing needs to jump out of the page at me. This is because I don’t have time to study every submission. 
  • Music / Form. Because I believe that music and rhythm play a huge role in literary writing. 
  • Imagination. For the same reason. 



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

DJ: Where the writer doesn’t provide a bio. Or if the introductory email is poorly written.




SQF: What do you look for in the opening paragraph(s)/stanza(s) of a submission?

DJ: Power. Energy. Music. Imagination. Craftsmanship. Style. 





SQF: Many editors list erotica, or sex for sex sake, as hard sells. What are hard sells for your publication?

DJ: Anything overtly political that verges on propaganda.




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

DJ: What is the one thing you would say to those wishing to submit to your magazine?

Read the submission guidelines. Don’t be lazy or think you are above them.

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

Friday, May 17, 2019

Six Questions for Clarrie Rose, Editor, Hypnopomp Magazine

Hypnopomp is a place for strange and/or experimental fiction.” The magazine publishes literary short fiction (100-2,000 words), poetry up to 300 lines, personal essays and articles (1,000 to 3,000 words), and artwork. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Clarrie Rose: We started this magazine as a way to uncover and promote strange and experimental writing that may be overlooked elsewhere. I've always been interested in publishing and I thought what better way to get involved than to open my own magazine. Also, I'm a bit nosey so I love reading other peoples work and being inspired by it!


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

CR: A fresh concept, interesting characters, and an uncanny twist. We're looking for something a bit different that maybe doesn't fit into our idea of the mainstream be that fantasy, horror, magic realism, whatever genre just make it new.


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

CR: Probably like most editors I'm turned off by silly errors like spelling mistakes. Before you send off your work check and check again that everything's up to scratch. It's also really important to read the submission guidelines before sending your work to us. As we get quite a lot of submissions if someone hasn't formatted correctly or sends us a 10,000-word piece it can make the whole affair quite difficult. Other than that I think self-indulgence is a bit of a turn-off. I love detailed description as much as anyone but it can sometimes get a bit too much.


SQF: What magazines/zines do you read on a “regular” basis?

CR: There are so many great lit magazines out there we're kind of spoilt for choice. I regularly read Ellipsis Zine, Okay Donkey, Riggwelter Press, and Sidereal Magazine, amongst many others.


SQF: Many editors list erotica, or sex for sex sake, as hard sells. What are hard sells for your publication?

CR: Along with the things you've already mentioned I'd say promoting an intolerant ideology is a no-go. We want our magazine to be an escape for our readers and we aren't in the business of lighting a fire under hateful rhetoric. We want to make sure our readers enjoy the work that we publish without feeling excluded.


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

CR:"What are the highlights of running a literary magazine?"

I have so much fun running the magazine and I've found so many new writers that I admire and I make sure to follow their work. It's strange but after you publish someone you kind of feel like a mother-hen! I'm always really proud when I see the writers we've published go on to succeed and be recognised for how great they are. I've had the great privilege of reading and publishing so many brilliant writers, it really helps to invigorate my own work and inspires me to keep writing. I'm sure I'll see Hypnopomp's writers go on to do some amazing things.

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


Friday, May 10, 2019

Six Questions for Matthew Maichen, Editor-in-Chief, The Metaworker

The Metaworker publishes fiction and nonfiction to 3,000 words, poetry, art, and anything else that will work on Wordpress. “We’ve been going strong since August 2015 and our mission is still the same: to publish great things to read.” Read the complete guidelines here.


SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Matthew Maichen: I never started it, in a way I just kept it going.

All of my co-editors and I are alumni from Chapman University, where we ran a very successful literary magazine, Calliope. Several of the pieces from our edition were chosen as some of the best undergraduate writing in the US by Plain China.

After we graduated, Marina and Nicole had the idea to start some sort of magazine, they brought on Elena, Darin and I, and ultimately Nicole left, and I had to step up to be the Editor-in-Chief. In the beginning I did a lot of the heavy lifting. Now it’s become much more collaborative and I often feel like I’m just relying on the other editors.

Why I stepped up is simple: we did good work that we felt passionate about. We wanted to keep doing it. When you major in fine arts, you choose to immerse yourself in a world of art throughout your college experience. The moment you leave, you leave all that behind unless you put serious effort into keeping it in your life. For me, The Metaworker is one of the ways to do that.


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

MM:
Note before I start that my opinion is exactly 25% of what gets a submission accepted. We all vote, and we often disagree.

First place is originality. A lot of people say that we, as a society, are just repeating the same stories and same art over and over. I disagree. I want to see new voices and new experiences. A lot of our submitters are foreign, (from our US-based perspective) and for me that can fit the bill if they illustrate places and experiences I’ve never seen in writing before. Others play with format in ways that I appreciate.

Second is the meaning and implication behind the piece. I want to accept something that’s at least impactful. Ideally, it should be about something. You’d be surprised how many pieces seem to have an empty meaningless conflict, or suffering for the sake of suffering. I need it to matter more than that.

Third, of course, is the quality of the actual writing. To be totally honest, I can get lost enough in the first two to overlook this (IF THEY ARE GOOD ENOUGH). However, we just can’t accept pieces that look like rough drafts. And if a story is well-written enough, it may end up being accepted even if it fits a trope checklist.


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

MM: The majority of the time, in fiction, it’s the ending. There are so many things that can go wrong with a piece, but if you ask me what people most commonly botch, they botch the end.

We’ve even started calling a certain type of ending an “and then he died” ending. A writer doesn’t know how to wrap things up so just ends things as horribly as possible very suddenly, hoping that it will be impactful. It almost never is.

In poetry, I often hear Elena say: “I’m not hearing anything said that I haven’t heard before.” We really look for originality in the language of our poetry, and, to be frank, it bores us when we don’t see it.


SQF: What do you look for in the opening paragraph(s)/stanza(s) of a submission?

MM:
I honestly think a lot of editors, agents, and submission curators of all kinds care too much about this. I can’t really blame them, sometimes they’re so awash in submissions that it’s all they get to read. Still, it ends up mattering too much.

To answer the question directly: a good beginning that immediately hooks us while establishing the tone of the piece is appreciated. It will be a point in a submission’s favor. But I almost never put things down just because they don’t immediately grab me. I suspect we might be kind of unique in that.


SQF: Is it necessary to read the guidelines? Many are long and boring.

MM: Okay first off: ours aren’t! We try really, really hard to give them flavor. Second: yes. Read the damn guidelines. We’ve found that most of the people who ignore our guidelines also tend to be dismissive of us in general. They mass-email publications, they’re rude when we call them out on it (yes, we even remind them and give them another chance, a lot of publications don’t), and they just generally don’t respect us. So if you don’t follow the guidelines, we’ll associate you with those experiences.


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

MM:
What future do we envision for The Metaworker?

Lately, we've been trying to go back to the drawing board and discuss what we want to do with The Metaworker. We've also been trying to establish a way to compensate contributors and pay for print copies through a donation-run method of fan-support. Getting money involved is proving to be a challenge, but ultimately we don't hope to make money off of this. Our goal is to pay writers, not ourselves.

Finally, thank you so much for the interview. It's flattering to have someone reach out to you like this. And if you're hearing about us for the first time, make sure to follow us on all our social media accounts! We have a facebook, a twitter, a tumblr, and an instagram, all named The Metaworker.

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

Friday, May 3, 2019

Six Questions for Charly Thompson, Editor, The Centropic Oracle

The Centropic Oracle publishes flash fiction of  200-1,500 words and fiction from 1,500 to 6,500 words. They are looking for science fiction and fantasy stories that make you think and feel.

Presenting and promoting both authors and narrators is a critical part of their ethos. Creative projects like theirs depends on collaboration, the centropic energy of a group engaging in a cooperative venture. So they take pride in the fact that they pay their contributors equally for their hard work and skill.

In their opinion, good fiction – particularly SF and Fantasy – should challenge us to examine our own lives and beliefs. It should force us to reflect on how we fit into the world and what it takes to make the world a better place by our being in it. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Charly Thompson:
In 2016 we began fleshing out an idea for how we could blend our skills in a way that would be rewarding and give back to a community that had helped shape us as individuals. Audiobook production seemed like a natural fit for our talents and short stories were the obvious place to begin. Since my co-founder is a voice actor, we decided to put a lot of our focus on promoting both sides of an audio publication - the writer and the narrator, which contributed to the overall design of our website.


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

CT:
First and foremost is emotional connection to the main character. Without that there’s no reason for us to care enough to keep reading to the end. Emotional connection comes through when we, as readers (or listeners in our case), understand what drives the character to react to situations the way they do. It can come through in fragments of backstory, physical responses to action, or insight into what choices the character makes in response to a plot point.

Secondly, though barely, we look for solid integration of backstory and setting. We don’t like to see big chunks of info-dumping, we feel information should be woven into the narrative with character actions and dialogue tags.

Of next importance to us is the quality of the prose. We find bland prose to be boring and are attracted to prose that makes good, judicious use of metaphors and lyricism without being overwritten.


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

CT: Plot driven stories that give us little emotional connection to a character through weak characterization. A plot is important to a story, obviously, but if I don’t care about a character I have no reason to care about what they do. I also find characters who behave inconsistently or unbelievably because that’s what the plot requires are especially irritating.

Repetition of passive information gets annoying quickly. Repetition can be fun in a literary device but being given the same information - even with new examples of the behaviour - that doesn’t do anything to move the plot or character arc forward are just a waste of word count, and thus a listener’s time.


SQF: What do you look for in the opening paragraph(s)/stanza(s) of a submission?

CT: Character interaction with their environment or other characters, either through dialogue or action in an opening paragraph is critical. Stories that begin with setting description or backstory rarely get read past the third page.


SQF: Many editors list erotica, or sex for sex sake, as hard sells. What are hard sells for your publication?

CT: We’re pretty much on the same page there. We don’t enjoy violence for the sake of it, or sex, and we have a zero tolerance on strong swearing. Mainstream monster tropes that Hollywood has done a million times are a no-go for us, too. Whether it’s vampires, werewolves, zombies, or angels, it’s all done so frequently that we need a break from it. First person conversational is a turn-off usually. Sometimes it works, but it usually doesn’t. I want to feel like I’m getting a glimpse into someone else’s experience rather than experiencing the situation myself. As a result I usually lose connection to the character’s emotional state and the focus becomes my own.


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

CT: What are some challenges that are unique to an audio production of a story as opposed to a printed one?

Dialogue that becomes too narrative in style, especially if the piece is written in the 1st person. It comes across as stilted and fake when spoken aloud, whereas it can work if written because the reader has the visual cues of formatting between dialogue and narrative.

Work that requires visual formatting cues such as parentheticals are especially difficult. Again, it’s easy to do in written work, but difficult to do for more than a couple of words in audio.

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

Friday, April 26, 2019

Six Questions for Dom Fonce and N.P. Stokes, Co-Founders/Editors, Volney Road Review

Volney Road Review publishes poetry, fiction to 3,500 words, and art. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?


N.P. Stokes (prose editor): I got involved with Volney Road because I felt that the literary scene in Youngstown had a lot to offer. That feeling grew, and got bigger as we marched onward. I discovered there was something important, or even magical, when authors and stories capture the feeling of place and time. Every one of us builds our mind through reference frames. Every experience we have tells us how to understand and communicate our other experiences, that is why Star Trek still feels like the nineteen sixties, despite being about the final frontier and all. By making moments of their lives tangible, through both fiction and non-fiction, writers who capture their schema, the essence of their world, honor those moments by immortalizing them in ways that documentaries, news reports, and history books cant.  I envisioned myself and Dom creating a magazine centered around works that have a strong sense of that, artists capturing snapshots of their little slice of the infinite, and transforming the unknowable individual into a universal experience through their art.

Dom Fonce (poetry editor):
I wanted to help create a Youngstown-based lit mag that wasn’t owned or operated by Youngstown State University. I also felt morally obligated to create a publication that paid its contributors (although, for now, it’s not much.)


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

NPS: Working with prose, the number one thing I look for is that the story starts in the first two paragraphs. The writer must quickly establish a voice that draws the reader in. It does not have to be an action scene, or anything dramatic, though it can be.  The dialog, events, or narrator's voice has to feel real. A story that immediately captures that lightning of intention usually does everything else right as well.

Second, the story needs to feel important, not that all stories aren't important, but the story has to feel that way. It’s a difficult thing to quantify, but if the narration gets side tracked or spends too long talking about events or objects that are not central to the plot, it suffers from slowdown, and usually tends to lose that sense of voice.  Urgency and importance drives a short story. The whole thing can take place in the backseat of a taxi cab, two people arguing through text. But what is important is that what happens has real weight, real meaning to someone, somewhere.

Third is word economy. When phrases or idioms become over-used they lose meaning. They also get distracting. In dialog characters might, and often should, conform to specific speech patterns, but in narration I look for signs that a writer sees their sentences as art. What I mean by art is that the words themselves are interesting apart from the story. Artists experiment and explore conveying ideas and images in as varied arrays that technical writing, or every day writing does not.  You can tell with a single paragraph when a writer has moved beyond using written words to tell a story, and into transforming the act of writing the words themselves into a matter of importance.

DF:
As I continue to write myself, I find that I must also work to follow the advice I’m about to give. With regards to poetry, I’ve been using the term “hitting the mark” recently. A poem either hits or misses its mark.

Every poem wants to be profound. However, every aspect of the poem—the word choice, the central and subsequent images and metaphors, the word music, the focus, and the meaning—must align to create profundity. A poem must go beyond personal journaling and confessionalism. Likewise it must go beyond zany and outrageous imagery. A profound poem has to speak to many people—for this to occur, the language must be approachable enough and the message must be about the universal human experience.

For issue 1.2, we received over 750 poems and chose only 5 to publish. That may seem rough for submitters, but I believe it should be difficult to publish poetry.


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

NPS: If a piece begins with a long string of exposition, it’s usually a non-starter. Another let down are stories that seem to either lose focus, or lack focus. This is actually a challenge I find happens in my own writing. As a writer I want my story to do everything. But as a reader, as an editor, I realize that if a story is trying to do everything, capture everything, then it isn't doing anything, or capturing any one thing well. It's a little bit different with books, but with short stories the story needs to hone in on something, capture that one thing, and deliver as much of it to the reader, as succinctly, as possible.

DF: When a poem feels too much like a personal journal/diary entry.


SQF: Is reading the guidelines really necessary? Many are long and boring.

NPS: Editors receive hundreds, even thousands, of pieces to review. If your piece is not formatted correctly, it takes that much more time to review it. Multiply those five minutes it takes to fix the formatting by several hundred and you have a serious time sink. Pieces that are not formatted correctly are rejected outright. Also, beyond the practicality, there is a level of respect involved. Our editors and staff are taking time and really putting in effort to read every single piece—so long as it’s formatted correctly—and give it a fair evaluation. That is because we respect all of our contributors and prospective contributors as writers and artists. Not taking the time to read the guidelines and submit in the correct format, that isn't just showing that you don't respect us. It’s also showing that you respect your submission less than we do.

DF: I understand that sometimes submitting to magazines can feel like number and odds game—especially if you are an academic and publishing is part of your job.

After managing the submissions for issue 1.2, I found that the majority of submission errors came from individuals who were obviously mass-submitting their work to dozens of magazines. While I don’t support this practice, I understand the volatility of the publishing world and the need to find homes for pieces.

However, for us, if you do not follow the guidelines, your work will be rejected outright.


SQF: Many editors list erotica, or sex for sex sake, as hard sells. What are hard sells for your publication?

NPS:
I'd be in agreement. If its sex for the sake of sex, or violence and gore just for the sake of violence and gore, or anything generally considered vulgar, really, it needs to be there only if it adds something of value. If it does not serve a deeper purpose, usually the writer is using sensational imagery to make up for something missing in their story. Better to find what the story is trying to say, and spend time saying it. Having said that, however, if the event is critical to the story and captures something real, or adds to a character—if it does that job of making the personal universal—then anything goes.

DF: It’s unlikely that we’d publish anything that showed overt hatred to people based on their immutable characteristics. That’s not to say that characters cannot be hateful as part of their character or that hatred could not be used to prove a broader point. So far in the small life of VRR, however, submissions of real hatred have been very rare.

Essentially, as N.P. stated above, anything can go as long as it’s done in good faith.


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

NPS: Why write? Why submit?

Usually when you ask a writer why they write, their answer will be something along the lines of "because I have to." I respect that, and I feel that way too. But, I've come to learn that it’s not enough. Writing because you have to, that is why people keep journals, or create terrible and amazing fan-fictions. I'm not looking down on those as forms of expression mind you, but the writers I have been around who are the most successful go further than that. They write not just because they have to, they write because they have an audience that they want to make a connection with. Do that. Write what you need to write, but when you are writing, imagine your audience, the person or people you are sending your signals to. Then when you submit, you'll have a better chance of knowing which magazines you should submit to. They'll be the ones that you feel like your readers will already be reading. When you are writing for yourself, your having fun, and you are creating art, I won’t deny that. But when you are writing for an audience—an audience you plan on trying to reach—that is when you know that what you are writing is important, by knowing who it is important to.

DF:
What separates VRR from other lit mags?

We are comprised of a young, thoughtful staff that dares to pay its contributors. We are based in the Rust Belt which, to me, is among the most interesting, diverse, and tough regions in America.

The majority of our staff are university seniors. I, for example, have been accepted in Temple University’s MFA program in Philadelphia. As our staff moves on to graduate school or the workforce, each member will take a piece of VRR with them, opening new and exciting opportunities to VRR and its contributors.

Thank you, N.P. and Dom. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.