Wednesday, August 1, 2018

On Hiatus

Six Questions For. . . is on hiatus for the month of August. New posts will return in September.

If you're an editor working on responses, please feel free to send them when you're done.

If you're an editor and would like to participate in this project, please e-mail me at sixquestionsfor@gmail.com.

Jim


Friday, July 27, 2018

Six Questions for Mendes Biondo, Catfish McDaris, and Marc Pietrzykowski, Editors, Ramingo’s Porch

Ramingo’s Porch publishes poetry, prose, drama, non-fiction, art, “and whatever we find worthwhile.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Mendes Biondo: I was the one who proposed this mad project to Catfish and Marc. I wanted to create a place – the porch is a wonderful image, I think – where authors, artists and people from all over the world would be able to meet. You know, I’m from Italy, Cat’s from Milwaukee and Marc’s from New York. We met thanks to “Resurrection of a Sunflower,” a collection of writings dedicated to Vincent Van Gogh written by Catfish and Marc. I just thought “Why don’t we do it on an ongoing basis?.” Catfish and Marc were – and are – mad enough to like that idea. So here we are as three poetic musketeers or ramingos, if you prefer it.

Catfish McDaris: Marc at Pski’s Porch published two books of mine. We decided to do a big book about Vincent van Gogh called Resurrection of a Sunflower. I had met the curator, Ralf of the Van Gogh Library in The Netherlands. We had two Pulitzer nominated contributors and a Nobel Prize nominated writer. The book was about 525 pages.  Mendes Biondo a young Italian journalist sent poems. After we finally broke even, on postage and printing. We decided to do Ramingo’s Porch, ramingo means wanderer in Italian. 


Marc Pietrzykowski: Because Mendes and Catfish asked me if I wanted to be part of it. Really, that is the long and short of it--they are both interesting people, excellent writers, and want to help promote the small press world, it seemed an easy question to answer.


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

Catfish: Is it interesting enough to hold my attention to the end or do I find myself skip scanning? Is it like a Hallmark card to mama, then no?  Is it funny and does it have some black humor?

Mendes: Just one thing: that certain “I do not know why.” You know what I mean? It’s a sort of vibration, something that creeps into your brain and says: “Hey dude, this piece is great.” Personally, I like a lot of different styles, genres and experimentations with the language, so I have no particular thing I’m searching for. Bring me on a long voyage to far places, offer me a bittersweet beer drinking narrator discussing life and death, or show me your best way to love. All these things – and much more – are good for me.

Marc: I don't actually look, I don't have a rubric or set of criteria I am trying to locate in the submissions. I try to let poems and stories show me how they want to be read, and I am always striving to expand my own sense of what makes literature good. I would say that in a very general sense I prefer the raw to the polished, the outsider to the insider, and the rhythmic to the merely imagistic, but plenty of things I read every day challenge those preferences in a useful way.


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

Marc: The sense that the author is writing to impress the reader.

Mendes: Courtesy. It’s the passe-partout for every kind of door.

Catfish: Basic common courtesy to the editor. Back in the SASE days, there were no computer instant answers, so respect helps. Do not throw a damn tantrum if you get a reject. I had a blog awhile back and I got death threats, but then I got death threats against my wife and daughter. That almost got out of hand.


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


Catfish: I like a good hook. Like in a boxing match, I want my ass kicked. When it’s all over I just want to sit on the stool and sweat and smile.


Mendes: When I started reading other poems, when I was younger, I was searching for a hitting verse or something similar. After reading Constantine Kavafy works I understood that you can find beauty also in the middle of a poem or at the end of a short story. So I start the adventure and only at the end do I throw it in the garbage can.

Marc: Again, I don't look, in fact I try hard to avoid looking. Interesting titles always help, but that is pretty vague. I just to try pay attention to the intent, if I can figure it out. If a story or poem seems like it is taking a while to get going, for example, that might be interesting, if the writer is doing it on purpose. If not, well, then it's not so good.


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

Marc: Grad school avant-garde moves, academically bred experimental work is easy to spot and always vaguely sad, sort of the way one feels after masturbating in the middle of the day, with a whole bunch of chores still to do.

Mendes: This last issue is dedicated to Charles Bukowski and people loved it. Because he is like hamburgers: everybody loves them. Anyhow we are trying to create a circle of readers from here, and to be sure our works can sell some copies. We are not business men. We change the issue theme constantly so as to have a unique product every time, and we do not like mail bombing. We just try to make people happy with a lot of words and fun. Maybe fun is our hard sell. Oh, and we love erotica and weird sex. Ha!

Catfish: I have no problems with sex or erotica. Just stay away from children. Lay off goats, chickens, or bears. Try to stick to your own species that isn’t jailbait or over the hill. Love is a good thing, but it’s also a four-letter word.



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

Catfish: Do you have any current projects? Why yes. We have a new issue of Ramingo’s Porch #3 due out any day on Amazon Books. It has 6 or 7 original Bukowski poems and 3 pieces by Jack Micheline. I also have several books of my own (Catfish McDaris) on Amazon Book as well.

Marc: Hmm… how about, "do you think the small press world is alive and vibrant?" And I would answer, "well, in my little corner of the world it is, and there are some great publications and presses doing good work--I am more optimistic about the state of small presses than I am our species in general."



Mendes: Probably, as Cat wrote in his answers, a question about the future. It’s always interesting to look into a crystal ball to forecast what will happen tomorrow. I have no crystal ball, though. So the best answer to this question is that I would like to publish a poetry book – and Marc told me he would do it as Pski’s Porch – maybe bilingual so to put some parmesan cheese on spaghetti & meatballs poems.

Thank you a lot for having me and for this great opportunity you’re giving us. Hope to be able to write something about your blog on mine soon!

Thank you, Mendes, Catfish and Marc. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

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.