Friday, October 9, 2015

Six Questions for Brian Michael Barbeito, Editor, Bougainvillea Road

Bougainvillea Road publishes writing to 2000 words that is eclectic, alive, and intrepid. Learn more here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Brian Michael Barbeito: Bougainvillea Road exists in order to feature writing that is unique and daring. I like the entire lit mag idea and their atmosphere and aesthetic. Though lit mags are obviously quite numerous, I don’t think there can be too many venues out there. As a poet and writer, I have had pieces accepted to a fine home after having them rejected elsewhere. Maybe Bougainvillea Road can be that home for someone else’s piece. Also, I have run the circuit of being a submitter, and worked with many editors. Since I am familiar with the neighborhood, I am hoping to be a good guide and curator.

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

BMB: Firstly, that the piece feels energetic in some way and has some verve and heart of some sort. That is hard to describe but it is there living in the words and against all logic and reason, somewhere around the words.The second trait that is looked for is uniqueness. We like quirky, idiosyncratic, daring. Whatever type of piece it is, if it has this unique vision and/or heart, the third thing to look for is whether it is crafted well. This does not mean orthodoxy or traditional though we don’t eschew those things. It means that the writer in the given instance succeeded in executing his or her plan and that the piece we are looking at really has come to some kind of fruition and has a confidence in itself.

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

BMB: Too much extra information about the submission, or too much going on in the piece for the piece’s own good. Some of these include quotes, sub-headings, several italics. Short writing pieces, though there is exception to most rules, usually don’t merit chapters, sub-headings, directories, and the like. It’s better to present the piece simply as possible and let it speak for itself one way or another.

SQF: Are you interested in publishing fiction only, or will you consider creative nonfiction and other forms?

BMB: We publish fiction, creative non-fiction, essays, memoir, prose poems, hybrids, flash, micro and mini, short stories, vignettes, plays, poetry, visual art. BRLM will accept and consider for publication excerpts of novels, novellas, and novelettes as long as these pieces can stand alone. We do not publish book, film, music, or art reviews at this time.

SQF: What magazines/zines do you read regularly?

BMB: CV2, Catch and Release- The Columbia Journal of Arts and Literature, Vagabond City, Literary Orphans, Cicatrix, Contraposition. Many more.

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

BMB: Why should a writer submit to Bougainvillea Road? The answer would be that Bougainvillea Road cares about the writers and presenting, archiving, and promoting their work the best we can at the site and also through social media platforms. BRLM is always one hundred percent anti-oppression and equality based. Writers retain copyright to their own work. At Bougainvillea Road you will be in good company among an eclectic and valorous bunch of creative types who are willing to stretch the limits of their craft and do it well in order to get their vision across.

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

Friday, October 2, 2015

Six Questions For Casey Brown, Executive Editor, Strangelet

Strangelet is a journal of speculative fiction that publishes fiction, poetry, nonfiction, graphic stories/comics, and artwork. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Casey Brown: Back in 2012, several grad students in Emerson's MA Publishing & Writing program, myself included, attended the AWP conference in Chicago. One of the panels that I attended was titled “Beyond Pulp—The Futuristic and Fantastic as Literary Fiction.” During this panel Matt Williamson, one of the panelists and editor of the fantastic annual Unstuck (now defunct, alas), impressed upon us the lack of journals which catered to the well-crafted, yet bizarre, fantastical, magical, speculative, or just plain weird. Unstuck, he said, was receiving far more publishable stories than it could handle. Matt practically begged the audience to start literary genre journals. A huge fan of smart, weird flash and short fiction, I then pitched the idea of a new literary genre rag to several of my grad student friends; luckily, they agreed that it was a fantastic idea. The journal would have two purposes: one to support new and emerging genre authors by providing a venue for their publication; and it would serve as an outlet to allow us to use the skills and passions we each had for publishing that were not otherwise being used in our day-to-day jobs.

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

CB: I personally look for uniqueness of concept, show-don't-tell, well-crafted descriptions of characters and scene, and drama (tension) that brings the characters to life. Not necessarily in that order. Sorry, I know those are four things instead of three but those are the four things I find to be most important. I'm continually blown away by the unique stories that get past our screeners and advisory editors and end up in my virtual pile. A pet peeve of mine is show-don't-tell; I want to be immersed in the world the story is set in. Regarding character and scene descriptions, I do feel like this is a neglected area of short and flash fiction; so many authors have a great concept for a short story but they shoehorn it into being flash—by that I mean they try to trim it down to be so precisely about a single moment in a character's life that they don't tell us anything else about that character. This can be very powerful in flash but it is, in my opinion, overdone in short fiction. And finally, regarding drama, I want to see that characters' actions have consequences; that they learn, grow, fail, die, evolve, regret, succeed, and/or fuck up.

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

CB: For fiction: Scene without drama. Drama without scene. Too much exposition. However, it's pretty rare for a story to reach me that I reject without asking for a revised submission. When it comes to nonfiction, I want proper graduate-level essays, not personal anecdotes.

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

CB: Sometimes. If a story has passed our initial screeners and was read by our advisory editor(s), and if it's rejected at that stage, I might, depending on the editor's feedback, share that commentary with the author (especially if one or both of the editors thought there was something to the piece but that it would require too much revising to be a good fit for us). I will also sometimes share my thoughts if a piece gets to me and I reject it. Hopefully our feedback proves useful and helps the author find a home for his piece (or she revises it and re-submits it to us).

SQF: To date, you’ve published two issues, What has surprised you the most about editing a magazine?

CB: Two things: 1) the quality of some of the work we have received despite the fact that we are so new and small, 2) how hard it is to get the word out about what we are doing.

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

CB: Hahaha, that's cheating! I guess the question would be: What's the future hold for Strangelet? And the answer would be: I hope I don't know!

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

Friday, September 25, 2015

Six Questions for Jason V Brock, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, Nameless Digest

More a softcover anthology in size and scope (over 200 pages/issue) than a periodical, Nameless Digest publishes fiction and nonfiction (from 1500 to 9500 words), and poetry in the speculative genres of horror, weird, Magical Realism, and science fiction; it is a colorful, fully illustrated, pro-paying market in print and e-book format. It also features reviews of books and films in addition to fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, as well as interviews with leading practitioners in the dark fantasy and sci-fi fields (past interviewees have included filmmaker George A. Romero and artist Kris Kuksi, among others); it does its best to come out twice a year (though slippage happens).

Brock is the publisher/editor-in-chief (via his award-winning imprint Cycatrix Press [The Bleeding Edge; A Darke Phantastique]), and his managing editor is the scholar and weird fiction expert S. T. Joshi (H. P. Lovecraft: A Life; The Modern Weird Tale). Other contributors include award-winning/-nominated authors/editors/artists Nicole Cushing, Pete Von Sholly, Darrell Schweitzer, Matt Cardin, William F. Nolan, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Mike Allen, Gene O’Neill, Samuel Araya, and many others (notables and neophytes alike). The goal of the publication is to find the best and most challenging content from around the word in all categories of genre interest. The Digest maintains a website, a Twitter account (@NamelessMag), and a Facebook page. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Jason V Brock: It came about as my tenure at the well-regarded Dark Discoveries was coming to a close. I had been there as the managing editor and art director/designer for over four years, and the publisher at the time, James R. Beach, was thinking about getting out of the magazine business. Magazines are a tough way to make an impact, but we did for a while. It was simply time for both of us to move on. We’re still good friends, actually, and he is doing work with Dark Regions Press, as well as his own promotions (including the upcoming Living Dead Con in Portland, OR this fall, which I’ll be attending).

With regard to moving on, I felt that I had my own perspective to offer the field, and something more to say, just in a different format. I am a filmmaker (The AckerMonster Chronicles!), artist, and writer (Disorders of Magnitude; Milton’s Children), and my vision for Nameless really was as more of a perfect-bound book than a traditional slick magazine, which is what Dark Discoveries was. We go deeper into issues not just related to genre, but also politics and scholarship. Our interviews and nonfiction offerings are more expansive, too, as we cover all forms of media, not just writing primarily.

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

JVB: The top three things. Hmmm… Tough to say, but I’d list, in no order: 1) proper formatting of the manuscript following our posted guidelines, 2) a strong opening hook, as well as an avoidance of cliché elements and stock tropes, 3) good writing with something to say. Subtext. And by “good writing,” I extend that to proper punctuation and grammar, as well as characterization, plotting, and so on.

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

JVB: Boring writing with bad dialogue, weak characters, and the use of first person. This last aspect is a pet peeve, I’ll grant, but I see far too much of it. Writers tend to use first person as a way to lend immediacy to their stories. I think some of this is due to over workshopping, or even too many MFA degrees in writing. Also bad sex scenes: They are a real embarrassment when poorly executed. Gratuitous gore or cruelty to animals and people is also not good. The actions and the reasons for what the characters are doing must have an internal reality, so that the characters are not just pieces one is moving from plot point to plot point. With the MFA squad, they tend to write vignettes, not real stories with a structure. They overly rely on mood or internalization. I know that’s in fashion with some editors—just as others want the gritty urban fantasy stuff, which can be just as boring—but that’s all it is: a fashion of the moment. In my estimation, many writers don’t really benefit from the way some editors operate; these editors have a somewhat narrow view of the field, and they don’t “edit” so much as “compile.” That will kill the field over time, as will only allowing certain editorial perspectives to dominate. We need more varied voices in editorship—and authors who represent the strata of human experience, not just a skewed perspective looking downward from a pedestal, or through the cracked lens of so-called “identity politics”… We need holistic approaches to the artistic enterprise, not greater fracturing of it. Also, a lot of writers seem to feel that horror or other genre efforts are a kind of slumming, it seems; they are quick to embrace “literary” and don’t really get that “literary” is 1) tedious, and 2) no better or worse than any other genre. “Literary” does not necessarily mean better written; usually, it means arch and pedantic, I’ve discovered. Of course, all of these tags are simply marketing handles. Labels are fine for the short run; in the longer run, art should be about reflection and sharing, about trying to grapple with the other and understand them, in addition to self-expression.

Frankly, the POD (print-on-demand) revolution has democratized publishing to the point of absurdity; most people are not very good writers, even individuals who are making a living at it, and they never will be. Writers need editors, copyeditors, and proofreaders. They require feedback, and someone to challenge them. All writing is rewriting; half of writing is the engagement of the reader, too. Just because one may have a better-than-average grasp of their native language does not mean that they are a writer any more than a person who can draw a rectangle, square, or circle is an artist, or somebody who can whistle “Twinkle, Twinkle” is a composer. “Becoming” something accomplished requires diligence, patience, and focus… Discipline and tough-mindedness; a willingness to supplicate to the process of gaining experience. Also a part of fortune and talent, I reckon.

With the Internet, social media, video games, and other distractions, this sort of mindfulness and attention is in shorter supply than ever. The great glut of POD books and the proliferation of blogs have empowered people to “create” simply because they want to entertain, or reach an audience. It’s ego-gratification, and easier to do, say, than learning to draw, or take up an instrument, since we’re all taught language arts in school. It does not follow that most or any of these folks have talent, or will impart insight into the human condition, or that they even read very widely. As a result, they have nothing really to say. And even if they do, most of them will never be remembered, just as most of the creators in history are largely forgotten. Due to the explosion of technological means, writing today is just an enormous firehose spray of verbiage without much impact or consequence. The sheer amount of wordage drowns out significance, to include the trend towards lack of editorial interference and overwriting as a mode of expression.

I am looking for those few rare exceptions.

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

JVB: Sometimes. If I really think a writer is on to something, I might ask for a re-write. More than a few times I’ve taken the red pen to a story and shown them how to get a story that works. Editing is a skill set different from writing; most writers are not very accomplished editors. I also don’t feel that a writer’s work is sacrosanct; I’m not a fan of anyone’s work, including my own, and have no compunctions about reworking their manuscript. I just don’t have that much time these days to do it. Generally, my comments are along the lines of “well done, but not for us.”

SQF: If you could have dinner with three authors, who would they be and why?

JVB: Well, to be honest, I’ve been lucky enough to have met and had dinner with nearly every author whose work I admire. If I had to choose, I’d say Rod Serling, Shakespeare or Dante, and either Gabriel García Márquez, Emily Dickinson, or Charles Beaumont. I actually did a documentary about Beaumont.

Why? Because they represent, to me, individuals who mastered their craft, and had significant understanding to offer the human race. They had a wisdom that is hard to define, but which exists in their finest efforts.

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

JVB: You’ve covered everything pretty well. Thanks.

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

Friday, September 18, 2015

Six Questions for Kathryn Merwin, Charlotte Covey, and Erin Taylor, Co-Editors-in-Chief, Milk Journal

Milk Journal is a biannual literary magazine that publishes poetry, fiction (including flash fiction), nonfiction, and reviews. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Milk Journal: We wanted to make something that anyone, anywhere, had a chance of getting accepted to, no matter their race, gender, orientation, or status in the writing world or in life in general. We wanted to read blind, so no one’s prior achievements or lack thereof would have bearing on their chance of having their work accepted. Also, we’re writers ourselves, of course, and we get tired of seeing boundaries placed on writers. We wanted to see what other writers could come up with if boundaries were taken away.

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

MJ: We look for something we haven’t seen before. Even if it’s not something we’re particularly into, something unique will definitely get you noticed, even if it ends in rejection. You want the editors to remember you. You want to push boundaries.  We look for a clear, cohesive plot. If we don’t know what’s going on in your poem or story, it won’t matter what the language sounds like. We also look for vivid imagery. We want to feel something when we read your work. We want to feel like we’re there getting our hearts ripped out right along with you.

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

MJ: When people don’t follow the guidelines! We read blind, so if people leave their name on the attachment, we can't consider them. We also like a good title. It’s the first thing we see, and it can really affect how we experience the poem or story.

SQF: Will you published works previously posted to a writer’s personal blog?

MJ: No, not at this time. We, like many other journals, consider that to be self-publication.

SQF: If Milk Journal had a theme song, what would if be and why?

MJ: I think we all agree that if we had a theme song, it would be, "The Last Lost Continent" by La Dispute. We all have tremendously different tastes in music, but as poets, lyrics are important to us. The lyrics to that song encompass our philosophy pretty seamlessly.

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

MJ: If I had to pose one, it would be, "What sort of content do you particularly enjoy in creative pieces?"

The answer to that question would be, we are especially drawn to work which tackles the issues faced by women, non-binary people, and other under-represented groups. We, as readers and writers, have noticed a painful lack of varied voices and backgrounds in the literary sphere. We want to be a part of the change.

Thank you, Kathryn, Charlotte and Erin. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.