SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
Jane L Carman: I wanted to create a venue for underpublished voices, one that celebrates experiments, that provides a place where people can publish without genre if they would like, one that doesn’t demand work or writers identify within tightly conceived boxes. Having said this, we have had a lot of fun publishing special issues such as bizzaro and sestina issues among others.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
- Something that surprises me in a good way.
- Writing that works against tradition.
- Work that makes me laugh out loud or cry or want to scream, that haunts me long after I read it.
SQF: What common mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a submission?
- Submissions that are sent to a long list of editors in the same email. This shows a real lack of understanding or interest in any of the places the work is submitted.
- Submissions sent without regard to the guidelines or where it is clear the submitter has not read the journal (or work by the press).
- Bios that are way too long. If an editor asks for 100 words, your bio should be 100 words (within a few words either way).
- Submissions sent in the form of online links, especially when the call is for unpublished work.
- Submitters that keep submitting work when they have not heard back from you about their last submission.
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?
JLC: Not very often. I barely have time to read the work. If I comment, it means that I see promise. It is impossible to publish all of the good work.
SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?
JLC: I have learned how desperate some writers are and how lazy others are (i.e. sending the same submission to several journals in the same email without ever having read the journals or guidelines). I have also learned a lot about what is happening in the writing world beyond my circle of friends. Most telling is that most of my submissions are from white men; just an observation and call for more diversity in submissions.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
JLC: How do you feel about print vs. electronic publishing?
I think this is an important question and one that writers and publishers need to consider. I believe that electronic journals are for the most part replacing (or at least hurting) print journals and that this trend will continue as writers more often than not use journals as a step toward the book. Journals have as many or more submitters than they do actual readers. For this reason and because of the cost of printing journals, I believe that journals will continue to move away from print.
When it comes to books, it seems as if the trend toward e-books has reversed and that print books are still preferred, at least by most of the readers I know. This is in part to the difficulty of converting any text that is not straight forward traditional into an e-book (meaning experimental or innovative prose and poetry). It is also in part due to the emotional, cultural, and/or academic value placed on print vs. electronic books and journals.
Print-on-demand services makes it possible to print almost anything but sometimes (in the case of Create Space especially) demands that the publisher choose quality or creative freedom. (This is an entire essay in itself.) If it weren’t for the way Bowker distributes ISBN numbers (with a definite disadvantage to small publishers/journals--another essay) and the need for POD publications to have an ISBN, journals might be moving in the same direction.
Thank you, Jane. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.