Friday, April 29, 2016

Six Questions for Owen Vince, Managing Editor, PYRAMID Editions

PYRAMID Editions publishes single-author pamphlets of experimental poetry by authors aged 30 and under. Read the complete guidelines here—and follow us on Twitter @pyramideditions. We published our first pamphlet (Objects of Desire, by Sophie Essex) in December, and our second pamphlet, Tractography by SJ Fowler, will be released this Spring. We have four more coming after that, and a launch event in early December in London.

SQF: Why did you start this press?

Owen Vince: Until last year I was co-running a print magazine, HARK, which unfortunately came to an end. I wasn't quite ready to give up on editing and I missed developing my own projects and doing work that “gave back” to poetry. By and by, I know a lot of friends and colleagues in the states and in the UK who are fearlessly committed to putting writing they like out there in the world. I took their beautiful recklessness as a cue and just went for it. And I have a fantastic designer, Penny Elliott, because she is able to solve the myriad problems I manage to create for myself, and has given the pamphlets a very distinctive aesthetic.

Stylistically, I guess I wanted to create a space specifically for younger writers who are doing more experimental work, as there need to be more quality outlets for that in the UK. I also wanted to prioritise good design and to really drive the aesthetics of print. Often, poets are told that they have to be patient and just “wait” for the right time to put physical poems out there. I'm not fond of this attitude, of the gradual drip drip accretion of recognition, because it strengthens the position of gatekeepers and really limits the range of new and alternative poetries. So in that sense, we're about a certain “considered recklessness”. I take a lot of cues from the booming cassette label community, and labels like Sacred Tapes and J&C who are putting out these strange, short run cassettes of just off the wall music, daring music. I wanted to have that for poetry.

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

OV: Firstly, I'm interested in specificity; in the almost microscopic analysis of an object or experience in poetry. I look for detail and the clever manipulation of language to describe details.

Secondly, a compelling and engaging theme. We have this “three poem” format because we want poets to examine a single idea in detail, and from different angles. I get really excited about themes related to architecture, the body, the histories of the senses, film. I loved Sophie's pamphlet (Objects of Desire) because she was exploring female sexuality in an adroit and surreal way; our next pamphlet, Tractography by SJ Fowler, is looking at neuroscience. Others are going to look at TV and the Soviet Union, the artist's model, “dirt”, and the Antarctic.

Thirdly, imagery. I want to see a kind of collage rather than look at a narrative, if that makes sense. I want it to be kaleidoscopic.

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

OV: Lack of clarity of theme, lack of detail, more often than anything else. I'm not especially interested in poetries about broad concepts such as “memory”, for example, or poems which are really just anecdotes. I really want to emphasise how much I get excited about detail and explicitly experimental languages. But I hate to say what turns me off poetry because it's so specific to each submission.

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

OV: It depends. Sometimes a “no” has no formal, communicable “reason” for being a “no”. I just don't like the poems, whereas I'm pretty sure somebody else would. If the poet is particularly new to writing or really asks for some feedback, then I'll give it. I don't personally expect it myself, because I also know how much work it is for editors. I have RSI from typing as it is. Help.

SQF: Who are a few of your favorite poets, and what is it you like about their works?

OV: I am a huge fan of Toby Martinez de las Rivas. He is a sort of linguistic apocalypse - violent, dense, but also extremely expressionistic and lyrical. When I got my hands on Terror (released in 2014 with Faber) I was literally changed by it. Poetry was just a different thing to me after that. Where are you Toby? Poetry needs you!

At the moment, I am reading a lot of Denise Levertov, and CD Wright. Levertov and Wright are just the kind of poets I read and say, “this”. I'm also going to quickly say that Doug Jones (he has a new collection, London and Norfolk Poems out with Veer books) and Katherine Osborne (likewise, with her Fire Sign from Electric Cereal last year) are just at the top of their games and also lovely people.

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

OV: Sure - “why do you only publish poets under 30?”.

I'd say that you read a lot of press submission guidelines that say, “must have a track record of publications with Serious literary magazines” (okay I don't know if they actually say 'serious', but they certainly imply it). This view becomes increasingly dominant. Poetry can mature, sure, but imagine looking at a sculptor like Lynn Chadwick and saying, Lynn, we're only going to look at the sculptures you made after you hit 50. What about the early things? His sculptures were different at every stage in his life. And so at each stage in your life you think and live and write differently. So you need a space, an echo chamber, to let those different languages appear and percolate, and it doesn't just have to be online. Otherwise you get these very dense traditional poetic spheres swallowing up these already very crowded, limited stomping grounds. I want people to look at the work of young writers and be challenged and transformed by it. I want you to be as excited as I am!

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

Friday, April 22, 2016

Six Questions for Lynsey Morandin, Publisher/Editor, Hypertrophic Literary

Hypertrophic Literary publishes prose, poetry and artwork "that make us feel something: joy, nausea, shock, desperation – whatever.” Though the editors do welcome submissions in a variety of genres, each piece must lean toward literary fiction in order to be considered for publication. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Lynsey Morandin: We started Hypertrophic because we wanted to give a voice and a platform to the little guy. I've worked in different areas of publishing for years now, and all I really saw was that it's getting harder and harder for upcoming writers to get their names out there. A lot of publishing houses only want authors with a proven track record, someone who's already successful and known and can guarantee sales. And they need that to stay afloat. Lots of lit mags we looked into want a long list of publications behind your name before they'll accept you, or they want to see you have an MFA or have completed a writer's workshop or whatever else. We aren't about that. Our goal is to publish great work by great writers whether it's their 1st or 44th publication. The publishing industry depends on this new generation of writers, and we want to encourage them and get them started in this industry.

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

LM: Most important of all for us is emotional pull. Everything we publish has to make the reader feel something, has to evoke a physical reaction. Then we look for writing style. Personally, I'd accept a piece with really great, lyrical writing even if nothing happens in the story. I'd take the way a piece flows over actual content any day. The other half of Hypertrophic, though, likes really terse, choppy writing, and he really considers the actual content of each piece. And you have to get a yes from both of us to go in! This last part won't affect you getting an acceptance or a rejection, but I also always look for an interesting bio in the query letter, something that catches my eye and makes me feel like the writer is an interesting person who would be fun to work with.

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

LM: I can't tell you how many submissions I get where people will address query letters to "Editor" instead of my name and then go on to talk about how they had to do that because they weren't able to find my name anywhere. If you just wrote "Editor" with none of that explanation then I honestly wouldn't care one bit, but the explanation shows that you didn't even try and it points out your lack of effort. Our names and bios are on our website's About page, they're on our Twitter accounts, and they're on our magazine's masthead. It really doesn't take much to find them.

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

LM: Not unless someone specifically asks for them, and even then they're minimal. Most of the time I don't reject a piece because it's "bad," I reject it because it just doesn't suit our publication or fit with the next issue. So there really isn't anything to critique there. If I'm rejecting something because it's so far removed from what we actually publish, then I will tell the writer that. I also always note when I've fought for a piece but it just didn't make it past Jeremy (because we're such a small press we've agreed that we both have to okay every piece before it's accepted). I feel like rejection is hard enough on its own that the writer doesn't need negative feedback to rub salt in the wounds, so I'm way more likely to say what I liked about a work even if we don't end up accepting it.

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

LM: After we hit the final button on every issue of the magazine, we play the Rocky theme song really loud and pretend we're running up stairs, so I'd probably say that's the closest we have to a theme song at this point. We also listen to a TON of Macklemore, and Make the Money has become a bit of a theme song as well.

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

LM: Hm. Probably what my favorite part of this job is, and it's definitely the response emails we get from contributors. We publish a lot of first-timers and to see how happy they are to get an acceptance is beautiful. It's also great when contributors post photos of themselves with the magazine they're in or when they write to us after receiving their copy to say thank you and how much they love their spreads. That's what makes all the constant stress and impending deadlines worth it.

Thank you, Lynsey (and Jeremy). We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Six Questions for Tahlia Merrill, Editor, Timeless Tales Magazine

Timeless Tales Magazine publishes retellings of fairy tales and myths. Each issue contains fiction and poetry pieces of no more than 2,000 words (under 1,500 preferred). Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Tahlia Merrill: Right after graduating from college, I did an internship for Enchanted Conversations, another webzine that publishes fairy tale fiction. After a few months, the editor told me she was going to shut down the website to pursue other projects. I decided I liked the theme of fairy tales so much that I decided to start my own website and expand it to include mythology.

I’ve wanted to break into the publishing industry since I was fifteen, so starting my own magazine has been a great way to get experience with the submission process. I also learned how
to create and manage my own website, which has been a crazy journey, for sure.

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


  1. A really creative twist on the original tale. I’m always looking for unexpected plot, characters, and settings.
  2. The focus of the story being on the twist and the writer deeply developing it.
  3. Brevity. Tight plot, tight pacing, tight sentences. 

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

TM: When it is missing one of the three items listed above. Most of the stories we get aren’t nearly experimental enough. It’s not enough to just write the original tale in your own words, keeping the plot, setting, and characters exactly the same. I really want a key element of the tale to be transformed so I see it from an angle I’d never considered before.

Sometimes stories will have a brilliant concept but then the concept isn’t well developed. The initial twist might make me say “oooh!”, like if the writer chose to set Cinderella in the Wild West, but then I keep reading and realize the setting is just ornamental. The characters may say “Howdy” and the carriage might be a transformed tumbleweed instead of a pumpkin, but none of it changes the plot or characters’ motivations. It’s a crying shame because the story had a spark, it just wasn’t nurtured into a sustainable flame.

I think #3 is pretty self-explanatory. I sometimes get complaints that our word count is “so short”, but I’m telling you, a majority of the submissions we receive could use some serious editing. Even in the stories we accept, I often will give the writer an assignment to cut our several hundred words. Nothing is better than a sleek, lean story that is void of excess. It’s rare to receive them, and when I do, it’s a true gift.

Extra bonus pet peeve: Semicolon misuse and overuse. I try not to let it bias me against a story, but gahhhh, when I see a story where the writer uses more than one semicolon on a page, it just rubs me the wrong way. It’s such a conspicuous pretentious punctuation mark and you wouldn’t believe how many writers use them liberally and completely incorrectly.

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

TM: As much as possible. As a freelance writer myself, I understand how special it is to get feedback on your rejections instead of just a form letter, so I try to provide a line or two of personalization when I can. If the writer mentions in their cover letter that this is their first time submitting a story or that they’re currently unpublished, I put a little extra care into the rejection because I know how intimidating submitting your work for the first time can be.

The downside is that this means submissions take me FOREVER to get through, but I know the writers consider it worth it, so it’s a price I’m willing to pay.

The worst part is that sometimes it’s really tough to put my finger on why the writing wasn’t strong enough or why I preferred another writer’s story over the rejected submission. If I’m spending too much time agonizing over the rejection, I usually just whisper an apology under my breath and send the form letter.

SQF: If Timeless Tales Magazine had a theme song, what would it be and why?

TM: It’s tempting to choose one of my favorite Gaelic Storm songs or something from a dramatic musical. Heck, an obvious choice would be Sara Bareilles’ “Fairytale” song. However, since the whole premise of Timeless Tales is to defy expectations, I think it’s only right to pick a song that has a modern vibe and doesn’t fit the mold of the “Ye Olde Fairy Tale”.

My personal theme song for TT is probably “Go Big or Go Home” by American Authors. Because I always throw myself 110% into the magazine and am constantly trying to improve it. I never settle for “okay”.

However, if I picked a song to play on the website, I’d definitely choose “Plant Life” by Owl City. It has a haunting melody without sounding archaic and all the whimsical lyrics about ghosts and bears make it a perfect fit.

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

TM: How about: What new things can we expect to see with TT for the upcoming year?

Answer: Well, as you may have heard, the next issue will be the first to feature poetry as well as fiction. We’re also making the magazine even more readable and accessible by offering it on Kindle before the end of the year. Our pay rate for published submissions has recently been increased and we’ve brought on a social media manager.

Because we haven’t had much luck raising revenue through Patreon donations, we’re planning on switching things around with our fundraising. The plan is to sell each audiobook individually on our website rather than asking for donations. So lots to look forward to in the future!

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

Friday, April 8, 2016

Six Questions for Lester L. Weil, Editor, The Flash Fiction Press

The Flash Fiction Press publishes flash fiction in any genre of 100- 1200 words. Once a week the site includes a short story of 1200-5000 words. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine? 

Lester L. Weil: I enjoy editing and now have the time. Most of my time writing is spent in editing and re-editing.

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

LW: I want a story that will make me want to almost read faster because I find it interesting or want to see what happens. It's always nice not to see typos, which usually indicate that the author rushed the story out there, and didn't take the time to let it really settle in their mind. There are too many stories that are under-edited.

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

LW: When there is no focus, when I just don't know what to do with it, what to tell the author when I reject. 'Most of my time writing is spent in editing and re-editing.'  I do not get this feeling when reading a lot of the submissions I get.

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

LW: I always give a reason. However, I try not to reject. I will usually send a story back with suggestions.

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

LW: It's hard and not enough people do it well. I just read a book by a well-known award winning author, and I kept thinking--he needs a better editor.

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

LW: Why offer a token payment, which does not represent time involved writing and editing a story?  I think that authors deserve recognition beyond just posting the story in their magazine. I just off a token at my magazine, but even payment at a 'pro' rate does not reflect time involved.

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