Friday, July 20, 2018

Six Questions for Caleb James, Editor-in-Chief, Drunken Pen Writing

Drunken Pen Writing publishes flash fiction. short stories, essays, serialized fiction and more. “Our aim is to find and share work from unknown writers and artist; giving them a platform in which they can showcase their work to the world.” Learn more here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Caleb James: The initial reason for starting DPW was because we wanted a place where up-and-coming writers could showcase their work without having to pay. Many literary publications tend to focus on writers who have an already established audience or make them pay submission fees to read their work. This leads to a lot of rejections and some very talented writers getting swept under the rug. When it comes down to it, we wanted to create a place where anyone with a passion for writing could be heard.


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

CJ:

  • Originality: Anyone can tell a rehashed Stephen King story with a rudimentary plot. What we look for are original takes on themes and ideas that touch the heart. Whether your story is about aliens, vampires, or a divorced couple rekindling their once extinguished flame of love, the important thing is that it holds a truth to it that the reader can feel.
  • A unique writing style: When you're in the publishing business you might read hundreds (if not thousands) of stories in a year that barely differ style wise. If your story reads just like 50 other people's, why should we select it? You don't need to become an experimental fiction writer to stand out from the crowd, but you do need to find your unique author's voice. When someone reads your work, they should be able to tell who wrote it without seeing a name.
  • Passion: One of the most depressing things about reading submissions is when you speak to a jaded writer who is so disenfranchised from previous rejections that they almost no longer care whether their work gets accepted or not. No matter how skilled a writer you are, if you lack passion in your work, it will show.  

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

CJ: NOT FOLLOWING THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES! This drives ALL editors crazy. The submission guidelines aren't put in place to be cute or make us seem more professional. They're put in place to make our lives, as well as that of the writers, easier. We read a lot of submissions, and our time is valuable just like yours. If you don't follow the submission guidelines, the only thing you'll succeed at is wasting both of our time. If you don't follow the guidelines your work won't get read; it'll be an automatic rejection.


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

CJ: We don't accept erotica or things with excessive gore. This doesn't have anything to do with censorship, we just don't cater to that type of audience. Our focus is more on the literary side of fiction, so even the horror or fantasy stories we share have a touch of literary fiction to them.


SQF: If Drunken Pen Writing had a theme song, what would it be and why?

CJ: Now that's a tough one! I'd have to say Tubthumping by Chumbawamba, While a free-flowing Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk jazz mashup might fit our overall aesthetic, at the end of the day we're usually too drunk to do anything but piss the night away haha.


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

CJ: That would be the question we're most often asked. What's DPW's favorite alcohol of choice? The simple answer is whisk(e)y. The long answer is, two shots of Pike Creek Canadian whisky, a half shot of sweet vermouth, a half shot of dry vermouth, and 2 dashed of Angostura bitters. This would be the DPW house Manhattan. Few things go together as well as a good book and a stiff drink.

Seriously, though, the one question would have to be, why do we continue to do this? Why do we put all the effort into putting out weekly content? For most, the answer is money. The thing is, we're nonprofit. We don't have ads on our website (even though they try like hell to buy the space), we don't charge submission fees, and we don't sell anything. When it comes down to it, we keep going because of passion. We have a strong passion for the craft of writing. If it wasn't for writing and interacting with our awesome fans, we'd probably just be a couple of drunks pissing the night away.

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

Friday, July 13, 2018

Six Questions for Lorette Luzajic, Founder/Editor, The Ekphrastic Review

The Ekphrastic Review publishes any kind of poetry, micro, flash, and shorter fiction, and interesting reflections, essays, and other prose about or inspired by art. “We would love to see more prose.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Lorette Luzajic: I’m a writer and an artist, and felt there was a paucity of resources for creative writing on art. Some journals hold occasional ekphrastic prompts or special editions, but I felt instinctively that there was a whole movement out there of people who had discovered what looking at art can do for your writing. I wanted more people to discover that, too.


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

LL: Interesting, accessible, evocative.

 I'm looking for interesting pieces that make me look again at a piece of art I may have seen a hundred times. I like accessibility- work that takes risks is great, but writing that tries to be difficult or obscure for the hell of it doesn't work for me. I look for emotion. I want to feel something.


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

LL: We get an unbelievable number of submissions that have nothing to do with art! This is an incredible waste of my time and yours. No matter how brilliant the piece is, we don't publish anything except ekphrastic writing.

I don't care for writing that shows simplistic, predictable, knee-jerk thinking about politics, religion, men and women, art, culture, or any other topic. Life is complex, layered, nuanced, and challenging. I want work that reflects that. Think deeply and write from that place.


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

LL: Hopefully, to be drawn in. It's hard to turn down works that hook a reader from the start.


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

LL: Politics, man-bashing, religion bashing. We get a LOT of material "inspired" by religious artwork that is outright hateful.  Most of art history in all cultures is driven by religion, so we are interested in reflection on divine inspiration that attempts to understand where the artist or culture was coming from and what they were thinking. We don't ever shy away from difficult emotions and experiences, but we're not interested in rants and diatribes for the mere sake of bashing something.


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

LL: "How do you feel about turning down submissions?"

Horrible. I hate sending work back. People put their heart and soul into their work, and carefully craft their submissions, all the while knowing they won't get paid. They just want a few people to read what they've created. To make the world a little bit more beautiful or interesting or make someone see something from a different perspective.

I want to clarify this because I so often see writers in my circle or on Facebook mentioning their rejections and wondering where they went wrong.

I have received hundreds, probably thousands of rejections in my lifetime, and I get them still. Being on this side of the table has been completely eye opening for me. Rejection is seldom about "rejection." Sure, some writing is simply terrible, and some is simply not suited to the journal to which it's being sent. But most work is returned simply because we cannot possibly use everything we get. It is an unbelievable amount of work to put up a journal — I wouldn't have guessed it would take a fraction of the time I spend before I started it. I honestly thought it would take a few minutes a week to put up some great poems when I got them. I'd love to post all the great work we get but it's impossible.

Realize that the most likely explanation for why your work is returned — here, or anywhere — is because the editor gets thousands of poems and stories. The process of selection is subjective and doesn't reflect the merit of your work. Don't take it personally. Improve your writing, of course. Grow as an artist and expand your thinking and make your next poem your best. But don't think being turned away means more than it does. Take it in stride and send more later, while you keep sending to your other favourite journals.

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

Friday, July 6, 2018

Six Questions for Matthew Thorpe-Coles, Editor, flash & cinder


flash & cinder: a journal of writing excellence is a biannual publication of flash fiction and poetry. Learn more here.



SQF: Why did you start this magazine?


Matthew Thorpe-Coles: I started flash & cinder because I wanted to create a mixed poetry and prose platform that focuses on a single word and concept – and also because I love reading submissions from writers across the world. An online magazine seemed the perfect pursuit. 





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

MTC: The first is simple. Originality. I love stories and poems that I haven’t read before. Of course, we all love the classic relationship troubles stories, the smoky bar with the seductive woman in a red dress, but there’s nothing about them that I can’t find elsewhere (unless the woman turns into a brass instrument – have read a similar story before).



The second is experimentation. I don’t want submitters to flash & cinder to feel that we’re completely cemented in old poetic traditions and only the most formulaic prose. That being said, it’s sometimes nice to bring the old forms back – I recently accepted a villanelle which was unlike any I’d read for quite a while.


Finally, I love something that feels refined. Most people know that the first draft of anything is effectively terrible, so I love reading something that feels like it’s been chiselled at and made sparkly. This is obviously a difficult thing to know when you’ve achieved this result – so basically try as much as you can, but don’t burn yourself out.


S


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


MTC: Poor formatting, poor grammar, or a poor submission letter. I think there’s a certain decorum to submitting, and it can have a bit of a bad reaction if your submission is a bit rude or poorly displayed. It’s not too difficult to create a form submission letter to send out to editors, or run your work by another pair of eyes, and it can have wonderful results on how your work received.





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



MTC: There are many great ones I dip in and out of! Flash: The International Magazine is a great one. Poetry Magazine is an obvious, but wonderful publication, and I buy it every month. I also read plenty of non-fiction magazines to get a flavour for independent publishing – Lodestars Anthology being my absolute favourite. 




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



MTC: If I understand your question correctly, I’m not hugely fond of stories that use death as a plot device, especially as a shocking ending. I think it’s a bit of a trope – like waking up and the whole plot being a dream. I don’t like poems that simply tell you how to think either, or overtly tell you too much. There’s skill, and a lot more finesse, in writing something that conveys something implicitly, and takes you by surprise.



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

MTC:
I wish you’d asked: Do you have any advice on how people can improve their likelihood of getting published?

People can always improve their chances of publication simply by correctly following the rules. For example, our magazine allows for simultaneous submissions, but a lot of larger magazines can’t facilitate the back-and-forth that sim subs demand. Another simple one is checking the word count. I know myself, and other editors, have had pieces that state they’re bang on our upper word count limit, but then when you check them in a word processor, they’re far over. It’s frustrating, as some of the pieces are wonderful, but it would be unfair to publish pieces that break the rules at the first instance.



Thank you for having me!

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

Friday, June 29, 2018

SQF revisited - With Painted Words

With Painted Words publishes poetry and fiction to 1000 words. Each month the publisher provides an image for authors to use as the inspiration for their works. Art works may also be submitted to be used as a monthly prompt. With Painted Words ranked #10 in the fictionzine category of the 2010 Preditors and Editors Poll.


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

JF: Creativity in approach to the inspiration artwork is a must. With Painted Words is slightly different from other publications in that there is a very clear and direct ‘prompt’ for the story which means that each writer is starting with something in common.

Read the complete interview here.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Six Questions for Cathy Evans, Editor, pennyshorts

pennyshorts publishes fiction of 1,000 to 10,000 words in all genre (except children’s lit). Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Cathy Evans: pennyshorts is a website (rather than a magazine) which makes shorts stories of all genres available for free download. I started it because I've been part of three different writing groups over the past 15 years, listening to amazingly fresh and original short stories which more often than not ended up mouldering away in hard drives, with no natural home. pennyshorts is an easy and accessible way to connect short story writers with readers.


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

CE: I want a fresh, original voice and competent writing. I want to feature writers who will show me all that's required for me to inhabit their story and no more. Knowing what to withhold is key: I love writing that allows me to do the heavy lifting myself, thank you very much.


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

CE: Gratuitous sex, violence and miseryporn. So the kid dies in your story? Make me care.


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

CE: Competence! I can tell within the first paragraph if I'm in a safe pair of hands.


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

CE: These kind of submissions are usually very poorly written and, well... boring. If I received something that was well-written and not gratuitous, I'd publish it.


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

CE: What's the worst submission you ever received?

A story about a depressed abattoir worker who vents his frustration on his dog. He sexually abuses the poor creature and then beats it to death. 'Nuff said.

If you have any other questions, I'd love to hear from you.

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