Friday, November 16, 2018

Six Questions for Joe Baumann, Editor, The Gateway Review

The Gateway Review: a Journal of Magical Realism is a biannual print literary journal that features the best contemporary fiction and poetry in the magical realism, surrealism and new fabulism genre. TGR also publishes nonfiction articles about the art of writing the above. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Joe Baumann: I worked as an assistant editor for an online magazine when I was a graduate student and felt like I learned a lot about writing by reading submissions and wanted a way to continue to do so; I was also starting a teaching job and was trying to build a program and opportunities for our creative writing students to get some great industry experience, and thus the magazine was born.


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

JB: First, language.  I want stories that pop with attention to specificity of scene and action--I think of Julia Elliott and Ramona Ausubel as some of the supreme language users of modern short fiction.  Then, I want a story whose magic appears very early on; too many stories get bogged down in back story in the first few pages rather than introducing a clear premise from the get-go.  Finally, I want something that resonates on a deep, human level.  There needs to be some insight into the human experience that I feel being tugged toward when I get to the end.


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

JB: Is it cheating to say a lack of any of the three above?  The Gateway Review only publishes magic realism, and when I don't see that magic appearing in the first few pages, I'm rather likely to stop reading pretty quickly.


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

JB: I read the big names, just like everyone else--Tin House, Glimmer Train, etc.  But I also love Barrelhouse and Zone 3, along with Lunch Ticket on the e-zine side.


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

JB: Silly humor is a hard sell for us, as is strict fantasy and science fiction--people also confuse post-apocalyptic writing as magic realism, which is weird to me.  We're not fans of the "gotcha" twist, either (it was all a dream!  The narrator is crazy!  Whatever).


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

JB: Is a cover letter important to us?  Yes.  I don't just want a bio.  I want a submitter to take the time to address the human beings reading their work on the other side.

(I also want them to be sure they know what magic realism, fabulism, and surrealism are--we reject more stories for not being in that category than we do for any other reason.)

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

Monday, November 12, 2018

A Writing Exercise


Are you in a slump with your writing? Here’s an idea I’ve used a few times with success. Follow these steps.

  1. On Six Questions For.. ., scroll down until you see the list of magazines included on the site on the right
  2. Select two or three zines you ARE NOT familiar with by name
  3. On an index card (one per magazine):
    1. Write down the name of the journal and the editor(s)
    2. Next write down the genres published
    3. Below that list what the editor is looking for
    4. Beside that, list the things that turn the editor off
    5. Finally, list any additional information that might be helpful
    6. Now get ready, set, and GO. (Hint: In some interviews, I ask about a theme song. If one is mentioned, try playing it while you write your first draft to get you in the mood. Or it might help with selecting a theme.)
    7. Once you’ve worked on a few drafts, go back to your lists and make sure you’ve included items on the “want” side and omitted any on the turn-offs. AND BE HONEST.
    8. Next READ THE GUIDELINES for formatting instructions and other information not included in the SQF interview. According to a vast majority of the editors interviewed, not reading the guidelines is the most mentioned problem with submissions. And remember, the guidelines pertain to EVERYONE no matter how many publications you have.
    9. Edit your piece one more time, if needed, then send it off.

But the magazine I chose publishes sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. I don’t write that kind of story. YOU DO NOW! The same goes for children’s lit, westerns, or any other genre. Be brave and stretch your writing muscles. You might surprise yourself. Yes, it may require research on your part, but I bet it’ll be worth it in the end.

I ran into this with a story I wrote for a zine that published ‘weird’ stories. There’s no real definition for ‘weird stories’
 that I could find, so I read a few pieces in the magazine (something one should do anyway), and actually came up with a story the editor liked! As far as speculative fiction (or any other genre), there are a number of sites online with definitions. Check out the Horror Writers Association (horror.org), or the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (sfwa.org). You might find the genre is not as mysterious as you think it is.

Okay, it’s time to get started on your new adventure. So, good writing, and good luck!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Six Questions for Lauren Jonik and Andrea Crowley-Hughes, Founders/Editors, TheRefresh.co

The Refresh publishes a variety of writing that refreshes, renews, relaxes, replenishes and resists. “Send us your personal essays, health and wellness pieces, deep looks into technology, science or career topics, book reviews, sharp takes on film, TV and pop culture, musings on social justice, interviews, food writing, pet and animal writing, etc.” Learn more here.

SQF: Why did you start this website?

Lauren Jonik: The idea for the site came to fruition while Andrea and I were graduate school classmates. TheRefresh.co began as a project in a data analytics course of all things. We soon realized that we both felt strongly about providing a place where stories for and by women could find a home and we decided to continue the work we had started. The site will celebrate its 2nd "birthday" in November.

Andrea Crowley-Hughes: What Lauren said! When we were working on the graduate school project that started it all, we used a demographic analysis tool to find out what interests our social media followers share, and planned some content that would reflect those interests. Once our site debuted, however, it quickly took on a unique personality no analysis tool could have predicted. Personal essays by women on how they move through the world, for example, can span several "content categories" and transcend them all. We're proud of how TheRefresh.co has evolved while maintaining our original vision.


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

LJ: 1. Every piece should tell a story and have a strong narrative arc-- this includes reported pieces. Writers should endeavor to take readers on a journey. The hope is that when a reader invests time in reading a piece, he or she leaves feeling that his or her day has been improved or enhanced in some way-- either emotionally, spiritually or intellectually. We all want to have our breath taken away a little bit-- either via laughter or tears, so that we may find it again as if for the first time.

2. Authenticity is another vital element. We publish writers from diverse backgrounds and are proud to give a platform to voices that often have been marginalized. We work with both emerging and well established writers. They hail from multiple countries across the globe. To date, our youngest contributor is a teenager and our oldest is in her mid-60s. What matters is whether the writer is willing to dig deep to mine the words that will convey the strongest narrative. I work very closely with each of our writers and offer guidance when needed, so it's not a process a writer goes through totally alone. Some writing skills-- like grammar or cadence (alter your sentence length!)-- can be taught. Authenticity, on the other hand, never can be faked. As a reader, you can feel it.

3. I look for a writer to have a clear voice, even if it is one that is still being developed. To quote my former writing professor, Susan Shapiro, "Tell the story that only you can tell." (Side note: Sue has a great new book that just came out about writing for publication. It's called The Byline Bible.) I also enjoy when a writer has a strong command of language and says things in interesting or poetic ways. Usually, there is an element of simplicity that makes it work. As James Baldwin wisely said, "You want to write a sentence as clean as a bone. That is the goal."


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

LJ: One thing that is an immediate turn off is if a writer doesn't honor our word count range. Most of our pieces run between 800 and 1500 words. There is a little bit of flexibility, but if a writer sends a piece that's 3,500 words, I'm going to be hitting my head on the desk. ;) And then, I am going to ask the writer to edit and revise. It delays the process of getting the piece to the point of being ready for publication--which doesn't serve anyone, especially if the topic is timely. I genuinely want to see our writers succeed, not just in terms of what they publish with us, but in their careers in general. Fortunately, the majority of our writers have been wonderful about adhering to our parameters.

ACH: It is also a turn-off if a piece is mainly promotional without including elements that extend the piece's reach and resonance with our readership. We've are proud to feature authors with new books out, for example, when they write in more detail about the themes or settings of their work, or their own relationships with the book's characters. Historical fiction writers often explore the time periods in which their stories take place, and food writers share tips and recipes our readers can use in their everyday lives.


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

LJ: I'm a voracious reader, so there are many that I enjoy. Right now, I have a stack of print magazines that threaten to reach my knees if I don't tackle them soon. (Though, to be fair, I'm not a very tall person, so it's actually not that far off of the ground.) A few favorites are: The Atlantic, Smithsonian, Fast Company, Wired, Inc., and New York. I also ready a variety of women's magazines. As for online media, I read Ravishly, Narratively, OZY, Quartz and a bunch of sites related to health/wellness, history and genealogy. My weak spot, though, is anything to do with animals and nature. If there's a headline about dancing lemurs in Madagascar, it's a sure bet that I'll be clicking on it. 

ACH: Magazines have become a crucial part of my self care, but I've gone analog. While there's nothing like plugging into The Establishment or Model View Culture (RIP), I have recently enjoyed flipping through the vibrant pages of Teen Vogue (also RIP, at least in print) or even a Real Simple or "women's magazine." It has been interesting to see many of these magazines tackle political topics in this era of resistance.

LJ: Thanks for taking the time to interview us-- we appreciate it! We look forward to hearing from writers who want to pitch us and to connecting with anyone who would like to follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/refreshweekly.

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

Friday, November 2, 2018

Six Questions for Daniel R. Julian, Editor, Bull & Cross

Bull & Cross publishes fiction to 2,500 words in any genre. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Daniel R. Julian: I write and submit stories, so I thought this was one way to help other authors who are in the same boat--by giving them a market with an easy submission process, where I try to give some feedback on rejected stories, and where I try to do a good job promoting the published pieces.


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

DRJ: I’m looking for: a story (surprisingly rare) with an engaging voice (not as rare) that I could forward to my mom.

By story, I just mean it needs a clear conflict, some action, a climax or culminating moment, and a conclusion. I don't mind if those are wrapped up inside of innovative forms and nonlinear structures, or told in a direct, linear fashion.

By engaging voice, I just want something that keeps me on the page (or screen!). Probably the biggest issue for me here is consistency of diction. If the diction varies wildly ("she blinked and chewed her gum, masticating like a noisy rabbit with failing ocular orbs"), I'm out.

And by "forward to my mom," I mean that both literally and figuratively. My mom loves to read, and so she ends up reading most of what B&C publishes. But I mean that I'm restrictive with the content: no erotica, profanity, or gore, basically.


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

DRJ: Nihilism and misanthropy. Didacticism. Sentimentality and frigidity. And all these stem from the same source: limited knowledge of and love for human beings, combined with a ton of love for oneself.


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

DRJ: I like Lunch Ticket, the E&GJ publications Spark and Zetetic, Tor.com, Ellery Queen, etc.


SQF: If Bull & Cross had a theme song, what would it be and why?

DRJ: Either "Stress" by Justice or "Dettingen Te Deum" by G.F. Handel.


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

DRJ: This is where I confirm your suspicions that I'm a grumpy, geriatric buffalo.

I'd ask, "Is 'story' really as rare as you claim? And why is that?" and I'd answer, "Maybe not, but it's rarer than it should be, and it's probably because too many of us live too little. We're satisfied to let Disney tell us what looks heroic or romantic or adventurous. We let the various internet subcultures encourage our reprehensible inclination to dehumanize our neighbors. And we spend our days going from distraction to distraction, unable to draw a coherent narrative throughout a single day, let alone a hundred pages. In short, we don't know what's true, we don't know who people are, and we don't have the time to figure it out and represent it artistically."

And then I'd ask, "What's your deal, man?" And I'd answer, "I'm sorry, I'm just really tired lately, you know."

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

Friday, October 26, 2018

Six Questions for Geoffrey Miller, Editor, NUNUM

NUNUM publishes flash fiction to 500 words on any topic and art. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Geoffrey Miller: NUNUM focuses on blending flash fiction with visual art to produce a work which while faithful to both parents is, as all offspring are, unique unto itself.

This is all we publish, and we do it in order to further explore the idea that both the words of a flash fiction piece and the elements of an image don't exist in a vacuum. A reader's mind isn't blank, it is full of clusters of memories, all inter associated with each and it is these associations which NUNUM's work seeks to pique.

When a reader engages with a piece from NUNUM our goal is to disrupt their contemporary mental associations and force them to change, quite literally to change what they think in a way that either the story or image alone would be unable to accomplish.

After all, this is what nunum means, something which promotes a moment of mental stillness that gateways to a more reflective state.

While I am sure we don't bullseye this each and every time, it is the only thing at which we aim and the sole reason for putting this whole project together.


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

GM: Conflict & Arc. Sometimes because of the short nature of flash fiction writers can forget that it is still a story and conflict and arc really help a reader get into a piece of writing. Then again a story can work without them of course, we’ve published pieces that don’t have them but the chance of a piece getting accepted definitely improves if those two elements are included in the story.

Characters. I think this one might source from the same root as conflict, but it is worth mentioning again. The minimalist quality of flash fiction sometimes leads to flat characters. Perhaps this inclination comes from the briefness of a reader’s interaction with them, the writer just doesn’t have the space to flush out the nuances of a story’s characters. I’m not sure but NUNUM definitely loves it when a story’s characters evolve (or devolve, whichever the case may be) in a story.

Originality. Just returned from the war and finding it difficult to fit back into society? Heart broken for the first time? Middle-age crisis, it was all a dream, ‘I knew best’, story starting with a sunrise or a sunset or a door closing, there are hundreds of them and we’ve all read them a hundred times and that’s the problem. Put your story in a place only you could put it in, have characters no one else could know but you, basically tell us a story that only you could tell. This is one of the reasons that in a lot of NUNUM’s ad copy we say right up front ‘send us that piece you wrote you weren’t quite sure you should’ve’. So yes originality is something we always carve in the submission we receive, it doesn’t have to be never heard that before, ever, but it does have to be a story that could’ve been told by no one other than the author who wrote it.


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

GM: I’d have to say the biggest turn off for us here at NUNUM is the rant written in a first person narrative voice. This kind of ties back into what I just mentioned about conflict, characters and originality, in that the first person POV rant usually doesn’t have them. Biggest problem with most pieces written in this style is they come off as a blog post, too much of an opinion piece and not really much of a story to it. This is not to say this style of writing can’t be done well but doing it well is a very hard thing to do.


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

GM: Beyond the regular hard sell themes I’d have to say the biggest turn off for us here at NUNUM is sloppy writing. No matter how good the idea is, the characters are, etc., if the piece is full of spelling, grammar, punctuation type errors then it just sends a message the writer hasn’t put in the time but yet they expect someone else to do just that. No one cares about a typo but ten of them in a 500 word piece says something. Another one would be submission guidelines, read them, please read them, and follow them. The contortions are limited I promise and in the end they are there to help improve the chances of a piece getting published, which is the only reason anyone would be submitting right?


SQF: If NUNUM had a theme song what would it be and why?

GM: I know this question has a good answer but I can’t find it. Music is on here in the NUNUM office 24/7 and as of late there’s been a definite lean towards latin trap and Japanese rap. So if I have to narrow it down on those two streets it’d have to be Bad Bunny and KOHH.


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

GM: What additional evaluations, if any, does a piece go through before it is accepted?

For NUNUM there are two things. One, once we have that list of stories everyone (or almost everyone) agrees we want, we have to start thinking about how the individual stories will fit together into an issue. Two, because at NUNUM we work with a story and an image to create a piece for the journal, we have to think about the art we received during the same submission period and how we can work with both elements together to reach a final product that will satisfy everyone involved. For us this is the hardest step in our process but also oh so necessary because it is what gives us pieces with which we can knock on a stranger's door in the middle of the night and know they won't be upset once they see what lovely presents we have to give them.

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