Friday, November 27, 2015

Six Questions for Joseph P. O'Brien, Managing Editor, FLAPPERHOUSE

FLAPPERHOUSE publishes fiction (flash to 5000 words), poetry to 1000 words, nonfiction/essays/reviews to 2500 words, and comics/artwork. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Joseph P. O'Brien: About two years ago my wife expressed concerns that I seemed extra-disturbed as of late, so I decided I'd try transcendental meditation again. I read David Lynch's Catching the Big Fish, and after a few weeks of practicing what I'd read in the book, FLAPPERHOUSE came to me & told me it would help relieve much of my disturbance—it would help me amass a freaky chorus of bold literary voices to sing together in the kind of genre-fluid, sanctimony-free space I'd seen too rarely in literature, and it would provide for me the kind of personal & creative fulfillment I'd been lacking for far too long. And so it has.

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


  1. Above all, the right tone: a tone which I describe as "flappy." (Sometimes other writers & editors at our zine use the word "flappy" too, though I suspect many of them may just be humoring me.) "Flappy" essentially means "surreal, shadowy, sensual, satirical." A submission does not necessarily need all those things to be flappy, though at least 2 of those things would be ideal, and sometimes just one of those things is needed if the piece is powerful enough. (Also, a regular old sense of humor will often suffice in lieu of actual satire.) Examples of our flappiest fictions include "Ghost-Sick Jarvis" by Eric Siegelstein, and "Chicken Sandwich" by Rebecca Ann Jordan. Our flappiest poems include the ones by Jessie Janeshek and Emily O'Neill.
  2. We like to see at least a glimmer of a plot in our fictions. Of course, we do publish flash fictions & short prose pieces that are plot-free vignettes, but if the writer is attempting a narrative, we want to see it go further than point A to point B. For instance, we receive a lot of revenge tales that are basically, "Once upon a time there was a sex criminal, and then one of their victims (or a family member of a victim, or a supernatural being sympathetic to the victims) made that sex criminal die a gruesome death, The End." Now we won't deny that we feel a bit of catharsis imagining horrible people die gruesome deaths, but we still need more from the stories we publish. This summer we published a story called "Terrible Fish" by Dora Badger that was about a woman exacting revenge on a horrible person, but her method of revenge was intricate & clever & rooted in her character in addition to a mere thirst for vengeance—all of which made the eventual resolution that much more powerful.
  3. We like our poetry musical. We always read poetry submissions aloud, so we encourage the use of interesting-sounding words & intoxicating rhythms. We may also be one of the few publications out there that still digs rhyming poetry, so we always enjoy seeing work with clever end-rhymes (think Dorothy Parker, Emily Dickinson, Leonard Cohen, MF Doom).

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

JPO: Personally, I have a big hang-up about most 2nd-person narration in fiction, because to me, it usually doesn't seem to help the story. If I'm reading a narrative in 2nd-person present ("You do this, you do that"), I tend to feel like I'm wearing one of those clunky virtual reality helmets from the '90s, like it's trying extra-hard to immerse me in its world, but instead it just keeps calling attention to itself and dismantling my suspension of disbelief. With 2nd-person past tense narration ("You did this, you did that"), I'm left wondering why the narrator is telling a story to someone who already experienced it, because usually those stories don't tell "you" anything "you" shouldn't already know.

That said, we don't automatically decline all 2nd-person pieces. Last year, for example, we published a story called "Buried Treasure" by Ashley Lister, which was a dark yet playful spoof of "Choose-Your-Own-Adventure" stories, and therefore had a good reason to use 2nd-person present-tense narration. Also, I don't mind 2nd-person in poetry, because the "you" in most poems feels like a specific person being addressed rather than some kind of empty vessel that readers are supposed to immerse themselves into.

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

JPO: I wish we had the time to comment on them all. We'll generally comment only if a rejected submission comes very close to what we're looking for but doesn't quite hit the mark. In that case, we'll try to offer feedback that'll give the writer a more specific idea of our tastes, should they care to submit more work down the road.

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

JPO: By reading all these unpublished submissions, I've become more aware of certain trends that are bubbling up in the lit world. I've found this very helpful because in my own writing I prefer to avoid doing things everyone else is doing (or at least find a smart-ass way to poke fun at what everyone else is doing).

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

JPO: Do you ever have particular themes in mind when compiling individual issues?

Aside from the aforementioned flappiness, the only thing we have in mind when we start to compile each issue is the upcoming season. We like each issue to feel like the season it represents, and while it's not a stiff rule, we probably won't be looking for a story set in the dead of winter to appear in our summer issue.

We appreciate why other publications would want to have a specific theme for each issue; constraints can very liberating, in a delightfully paradoxical way. But we prefer to have the themes come to us, to see what's brewing in the minds of the collective consciousness (& subconsciousness) and then we begin to assemble a kind of collage based on that. When compiling our Summer 2015 issue, for instance, we got a lot of violent stories, so that became unofficially known as the Violence Issue. Our latest issue features a lot of different characters flying, through the sky and through the cosmos, so that's like our Flight issue. Though come to think of it, we're always extra-partial to pieces about flight. And magic, and metamorphosis.

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

Friday, November 20, 2015

Six Questions for Morgan Beatty, Editor, People Holding

People Holding publishes original, character-driven prose that describes, illuminates, riffs on or narrates a photograph of a person holding anything. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this blog?

Morgan Beatty: People Holding started out as Holding Antlers, which was limited to photos I culled from eBay of people selling antlers. I had been using the photos as prompts only for myself, made a blog, and posted my stories into the void—didn’t tell anyone about it, got no readers and expected none. My wife introduced me to the idea that writing maybe ought to have readers. She helped turn Holding Antlers into something real, solicited writers, then helped me morph it into the site it is today. She's the reason it exists.

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

MB: That the submission sees a world inside the picture. That all the writer’s energy is put into allowing the photo to move them toward words. That the story isn’t a laundry list of what’s seen. A photograph’s always more than its colors. A story that recognizes that fact within every sentence is amazing to read.

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

MB: The most difficult language to connect with is the dialect of a narrator the writer doesn’t mean to be unexpressive. “You know what I mean?” is a filler that muffles feeling. A literal narration of what’s visible in the photo, without a transformation, or a lens placed on top of the first lens that originally took the picture years before—those stories don’t imagine themselves into the photograph.

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

MB: Only when asked. But I always offer a rejected submitter another prompt, another go at it. If I like a glimmer of something in a story, I put as much energy as I can into returning the submission with edits. When I feel what the writer feels, but don’t see it in the writing, I edit as deeply as I can, with the writer’s permission, until we find a way to make the story better. I believe editing is more important than seeing and knowing immediately that a story works or doesn’t. I have no respect for the “read only the first sentence” method of evaluating the merit of a story.

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

MB: The Cure’s Why Can’t I Be You? This is the question I would love all People Holding’s writers to ask themselves about the figures in their prompts.

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

MB: Why do you use old photographs? Because they’ve survived, in the way all good writing survives.

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

Friday, November 13, 2015

Six Questions for Rewa Zeinati, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Sukoon

An independent, bi-annual, online literary magazine that is Arab-themed and in English. Sukoon reflects the diversity of the Arab world by publishing poetry, fiction, nonfiction, interviews, book reviews, drama, artwork, by writers and artists of Arab descent, or non-Arab writers and artists who have an ‘Arab’ story or art piece to share.

In Arabic, Sukoon means 'stillness.' And by 'Arab World' we mean the
countries that speak the Arabic language, in all its various dialects.

Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Rewa Zeinati: I started Sukoon in 2013, but have been thinking about it for years. Soon after I entered the world of literary magazines as a reader and contributor, especially in the West, I became conscious of the scarceness of the Arab narrative.  In a nutshell, I became aware that what reflected me, as an Arab Anglophone writer, was absent, or inadequately represented. Sukoon came in to fill a gap, in my opinion.

It came in to offer something that not only complements what is (thankfully) already out there and considered Arab related; be it Arabic literature in translation, or Arab-American literature, or Arab-city-centric or Arab-country-centric literary publications in English, but also to add to that storyline, to keep the conversation going, but through a more comprehensive platform of Arab Anglophone-ness. Also, to attach another layer to this conversation; the non-Arab’s “Arab” story.

Sukoon offers an alternative to mainstream media—as all literature aims to do—about what it means to be “Arab” or to have that experience; of course, for the purpose of greater understanding, wider expression and dialogue, and to create that sort of discourse, or proximity, all in one space, where the diversity among Arabs is highlighted, alongside the non-Arab’s Arab experience.

It’s also worth noting (and including) how thrilled I am to learn about the Etel Adan Poetry Series, which was recently launched this year (2015) by the University of Arkansas Press, together with the Radius of Arab American writers (RAWI), to publish and award a first or second book of poetry by an Anglophone writer of Arab heritage. Finally! And the name couldn’t be more perfectly suited.

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

RZ: In literary work, I look for attention to language, a persuasive voice, emotional complexity. I’ve found that it’s usually evident from the first couple of lines of a poem or a story. Especially voice.

In artwork, I look for whatever I consider beautiful. I suppose that’s a little biased, right? Of course, it needs to relate to the Arab experience, be it through the artist; or the work itself, if the artist has no Arab roots.

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

RZ: Orientalist stereotyping, misogyny, mystical poetry, archaic language/voice, poems that rhyme, preachy-ness, or work that justifies or dignifies political occupation, mainly the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

I also find myself having to clarify the distinction between the term “Middle Eastern” and “Arab” or the fact that “Arab” and “Muslim” are not synonymous, nor are they interchangeable terms. Which takes us back to a form of “Orientalism” or “ignorance,” which, now that I mention it, ARE interchangeable terms. Sometimes you can’t split literature from politics. Who wants to, anyway?

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

RZ: Oftentimes I do. Especially when the work is almost, but not quite, there yet. Or when there’s a submission by a very young writer, and I feel that, because of inexperience, the rejection might grow too big in his or her head, and I want that young writer to keep writing. So I write back and explain with (hopefully!) constructive feedback.

SQF: Who are some of your favorite authors?

RZ: Etel Adnan. Mahmoud Darwish. Hanan Al-Shaykh. Naomi Shihab Nye. Charles Bukowski. Banana Yoshimoto. Margaret Atwood. Milan Kundera. Kim Addonizio. Cecelia Woloch. Sandra Cisneros. Arundhati Roy.

I’m now reading the novel “Mister Pip” by the New Zealand author, Lloyd Jones, which is just absolutely gorgeous in terms of craft.

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

RZ: Maybe the question, “Why submit to Sukoon?”

And the answer would be: Sukoon needs your voice and your story. You will be in good company here as past and forthcoming contributors to Sukoon include writers and artists Etel Adnan, Naomi Shihab Nye, Shurooq Amin, Nathalie Handal, Hedy Habra, Philip Metres, Frank Dullaghan, Sahar Mustafa, Susan Muaddi Daraj, Lisa Suheir Majaj, Claire Zoghb, Elmaz Abinader, Zeina Hashem Beck, Hind Shoufani, Majid Alyousef, Lauren Camp, Lena Tuffaha, Steven Schreiner, Shebana Coelho, Zahi Khamis, Olivia Ayes, Kenneth E. Harrison Jr., Kim Jensen, Marguerite G. Bouvard, Jennifer Jazz, among many others.

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

Friday, November 6, 2015

Six Questions for Michael Shields, Editor, Across the Margin

Across the Margin publishes fiction, nonfiction and poetry. At Across the Margin you can find an eclectic mix of fiction, editorials, and factual prose that explore the current state of the world around us, and the depths of our human nature.” Learn more here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Michael Shields: I am not ashamed to admit that the story behind the inception of Across the Margin is burdened by selfish intentions. The truth of the matter is, I wasn’t finding in publications, online or in print, what I was looking for. I constantly found myself ricocheting about the world wide web, probing through multiple publications in an effort to satiate all of my divergent interests. I believed, and still do, that a myriad of evocative subject matters can live together in harmony under one roof, and that is what Across the Margin offers. We don’t simply house Poetry and Fiction to enchant the Literary-minded, but we delve deep into topics such as Music, Politics, Sports, Art, Fashion and beyond. All these interests mingle in harmony at Across the Margin - just the way we like it.

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

MS: The top three things we hope to come upon when submissions come our way is honestly, ingenuity, and style. The final two go hand in hand of course, as nothing excites us more than coming upon a story or an article that expresses ideas that we have never heard before, or looks in form and function like nothing we have ever seen before. We urge our submitters to take risks, and more often than not those risks are rewarded with publication.  And that risk I speak of extends to submissions rife with honest takes, both on the personal level and in the examination of the world about. Honesty is powerful. It’s refreshing. And it’s one of the cornerstones Across the Margin is built upon.

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

MS: It is amazing how a writer’s passion can just ooze off of a page. How the author’s excitement about the subject matter can become almost palpable when they truly care about what they write about. We are always searching out that ”spark,” and when it is lacking, so is our interest.

SQF: What kinds of submissions would you like to see more of?

MS: At Across the Margin we have a category we simply call “Life.” Under this sub-heading, authors can expound upon the most affecting, confusing, hurtful, and exciting moments that we stumble upon in this journey we call Life. This category opens the door to writers that want, nay need, to expound upon those things in life that cut the deepest and affect us the most. It is submissions of this nature that fascinate us, and thus we would love to see more of these come our way.

SQF: If Across the Margin had a theme song, what would it be and why?

MS: This is an easy one. The reason for that is the name of the website was inspired by a song, Nas’s “The World is Yours.” In it, Nas spoke of “writing in his book of rhymes, all the way past the margin.” He couldn’t stop writing, spitting rhymes. Synapses firing, thoughts developing at such a frantic pace, that he had to get it down, even if it meant breaking one of the simplest rules of writing and breaking into the unknown inhabit-less space that lies past the forever closed and heavily guarded walls of the margin. It is that space where we will dwell. It is there where our voice will echo off the walls and possibly even be heard. Our thoughts, our ideas, our rants, and who knows what else at this point, will be there, just Across the Margin.

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

MS: The question I’d love to answer is “How is it possible to continually release a plethora of diverse content as featured at Across the Margin?” And the answer to that question is that we have an amazing team assembled that shares my zealous passion for storytelling. You are only as good as those you surround yourself by, and I am fortunate to be surrounded by some incredibly talented artists and writers. Starting with my Co-Editor Chris Thompson, who also is my Co-host on our Podcast, Beyond the Margin, who so aptly helps me steer the ship while somehow running our Art Department, unto our incredibly knowledgeable Poetry Editor Richard Roundy, and our Contributing Editor Douglas Grant, and the myriad of ingenious writers and poets who share their words with us on the daily, Teamwork makes the Dream Work at Across the Margin, and I am lucky to be part of a group of people so committed to the our shared vision.

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