Friday, July 22, 2016

Six Questions for Leilanie Stewart, Editor-in-Chief, Bindweed Magazine

Bindweed Magazine publishes flash fiction to 1,000 words, short stories to 3,000 words, and poetry (up to six). Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Leilanie Stewart: Over the past few years many magazines have become defunct for one reason or another. Print magazines rely on reader subscriptions, and with ever increasing postage costs, many markets can’t survive. As a writer and poet myself, I began to get depressed at seeing many of my favourite magazines folding; often ones that had given me my early breaks into the publishing world, such as Weyfarers and Decanto. I then began to look into online magazines. Surely a website would not only reach many thousands of readers, as opposed to a small print-run circulation of, say, a hundred, but would be sustainable without the need for printing and postage costs – right? In many cases, I found this to be an accurate assumption. But there were others that, once the respective Ezine websites had ‘expired’, would be lost in the void of cyberspace – and my published work with them. I began to realise that it was just as likely for an Ezine to be cast into online oblivion as it was for a paper magazine to be cast into print purgatory.

I decided that I needed to bridge the gap. Bindweed Magazine aims to showcase quality writing and archive it on the webzine permanently, offer contributors a free pdf copy of the issue their work appears in and give them the option to buy a print on demand copy. This is all part of a non-profit, labour of love venture that I set up after hearing from fellow writers who love the accessibility of Ezines, but miss having a physical book to read from at open mic nights. If my work-life balance gets hectic (as can happen from time to time!) the website will remain alive and the authors’ work will keep blooming on Bindweed.

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

1. Well written work. I’ve had to turn away work where I love the ideas, but the writing just needs a bit more polish to really make the piece shine. There are so many talented writers out there, and it could be the most amazing and important topic that the world needs to hear about, but sometimes an editor has to make difficult decisions. It makes me sad. It really does!

2. Show passion about the topic. I want the writer to make me feel as much excitement for their work as if I had written it myself. I might not know anything about the topic at all, so I want to feel what they feel about it.

3. Keep momentum. For both poetry and fiction, I like a nice payoff at the end. Reward me as a reader by tying up the theme with a lovely big bow to finish. The piece should make sense. Unless it’s deliberately being ambiguous, I want to know exactly what is going on. I’m not good at being frustrated – and even worse at being lost!

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

LS: When people don’t read the guidelines and send me attachments. I’ll only take attachments for published books, so that I can promote excerpts. The guidelines for this are on the website at: For normal magazine submissions, Bindweed accepts body of the email only. This is mainly for formatting reasons – transfer from attached documents to the website can make for garbled layouts. Garbled layouts mean unhappy contributors and an irate editor. So it’s best for all in the body of the email.

I’m not fussy about people addressing me as ‘Dear Editor’, although, using ‘Dear Leilanie’ shows me that they’ve read Bindweed. If a writer wants to be published in a magazine, doing their homework is always best practise, and makes a better impression on editors.

SQF: Will you publish a story previously posted on an author’s website/blog?

LS: At the moment, I’d say no. Bindweed is a new venture, having first bloomed in April 2016, so I wouldn’t rule out anything entirely until it’s tried-and-tested. The reason why I’m inclined to say no is that it seems counterintuitive to me to republish work on an Ezine that was self-published on a personal website in the first place. The purpose of an Ezine is to maximise readership worldwide. If an author’s work is already on their own blog, or other online platforms then it can be accessed by a quick search for that author’s name.

However, if a writer sent me a submission and explained that it had been previously published in a print magazine with a finite print run, so long as they cited the magazine name and issue, I might consider it. Print zines usually allow work to be republished elsewhere after a couple of years. This makes more sense to me, as the author would be seeking republication to reach a wider audience.

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

LS: Filthy/ Gorgeous by the Scissor Sisters. Convolvulus Arvensis (Field Bindweed) flowers are stunningly beautiful. But they’re considered a toxic nuisance by gardeners, killing off the immaculately pruned flowers in parks and gardens. Bindweed Magazine contributors are not afraid to be labelled a ‘weed’, as they know their writing is just as gorgeous as it is filthy, growing in the compost of life!

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

LS: Question: Do you publish work from anywhere and on any topic?

Answer: Yes and yes. Even though I’m currently living in London, Bindweed is a global creeping plant and can take root wherever there are nutrients to feed it. Writers can submit from all over. When the print volume of issue 1 is published, it’ll be available to buy in pounds, dollars…whichever currency the buyer wants. As for topics, there are no themes. So long as the work is blooming good, it’ll flower on the Bindweed homepage and be included in the print anthology.

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

Friday, July 15, 2016

Six Questions for A. E. Phillips, Editor, Donut Factory

Donut Factory publishes flash fiction to 1,000 words and poetry in any genre. Learn more here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

AP: So glad you asked! There seems to be a severe shortage of publications open to what I like to call ‘oddball writing’. This is the kind of writing that really digs into the absolute weirdness of what it means to be a human being, to be so intricately strange. I was at a reading last weekend which featured several poets and writers. The carpet was this red, woven tapestry of patterns and the windows went all the way up to the ceiling, which in turn had its own kind of majestic shape – chandeliers, leaf engravings – I mean, the whole thing was just beautiful. The people, too. There were heels, hair was clipped up, dresses, leather shoes, smoky eyes, vests – it was, for lack of a better word, an affair. And then, halfway through the reading, a remarkably plain girl, no older than 20, her hair in a ponytail and her feet in Birkenstocks, stands up, moves behind the podium that’s almost bigger than she is, pulls the microphone down to her face, and says, “This has a warning attached. The last time I read this, it got a little awkward.” None of us knew what she meant. She starts to read. Three girls driving out from a mountain town in a beat-up Camry slam into a deer. It’s still alive, but just barely. Its skin is twitching, that kind of thing. Well, armed with the innocent intent of putting it out of its misery, these girls actually start to enjoy their task. I won’t go into detail, but needless to say, it was not received with any kind of imaginable warmth. Yes, everyone clapped, but afterwards, sitting in the bar down the street, my friends beat her story to a pulp. It was the only story we talked about that night. I started Donut Factory to be a home for writers and poets who are like that story: odd, uncomfortable, and wholly riveting people.

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

AP: I don’t need for stories or poems to wrap themselves up at the end and, in fact, I prefer the open-ended variety. If there’s a satisfying (but not obvious) line or end, I’m more likely to keep thinking about the piece and if I keep thinking about the piece, I’m going to want it. I also look for the characteristic voice of the writer: are they melancholy? Are they excitable? Are they bored, nervous, agitated, overjoyed, exhausted? Vibrancy in language, I think, is what I’m looking for. Lastly, I want to see our senses excited by the writing. I want to smell the dead deer and hear the girl in flip-flops laying on the horn before she hit it. Good writing, that’s really what I’m after. I just recently accepted a piece about orange juice being poured down the bathroom drain because the way it was written made my skin tingle. It was just so strange.

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

AP: Excessive and graphic violence is normally an automatic shut-down. The deer story I mentioned earlier was tactful in its violence. I like the idea of exploring why we are violent more than how we are violent.

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

AP: I would love to have the time to do this for every submission, but I’m on a tight schedule. However, if I liked the writing but didn’t feel the piece as a whole was a solid fit with Donut Factory, I’ll generally explain why I thought this and ask for another submission from the author. This has worked out quite well in the past.

SQF: What magazines/zines do you read most often?

AP: Blue Monday Review is fabulous. I know a few of the contributors to Donut Factory have been published with them in the past. I’m also a fan of Weirderary, a strictly online publication. Here is one of my favorite lines from a recently published short story, “Sugar Family” by Cathy Ulrich: “You make yourself a family out of sugar. You bounce from store to store, collecting bags of it”. Weird, right?

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

AP: “Do you often forget to eat, drink, or relieve yourself when reading through submissions and/or formatting the publication?” Yes. I love this work.

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

Friday, July 8, 2016

Six Questions for Sarah A. O'Brien, Editor-in-Chief, Boston Accent Lit

Boston Accent Lit publishes fiction to 7,000 words, flash fiction, poetry in any style, form, or length, creative non-fiction to 7,000 words, photography, and art. Issues are published online six times per year. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Sarah O’Brien: It’s been a long-time goal of mine to start a literary publication; when I was young, I would “publish” a magazine called “Sarah’s Scoop” and distribute it to family members. Now that I’ve started to submit my own creative work to various journals, I have noticed that far too many have submission fees (Read about how this disables impoverished writers in “On Poverty” by Alison Stine), which prohibit many writers from submitting their work for consideration.

There’s also a great disparity in publishing, with the majority of published writers identifying as heterosexual white women (Read “’You Will Be Tokenized’”: Speaking Out About the State of Diversity in Publishing” by Molly McArdle, in which those working in the publishing industry share their experiences). Within each issue of Boston Accent, we attempt to spotlight emerging artists who come from diverse backgrounds and who have had varied experiences. Our “The Accent Prize for Emerging Writers” rewards a self-identifying woman of color for her winning short story. In keeping with our mission, this contest will not have an entry fee.

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

1. Originality—we want to see an expression of you, and we want to publish work that feels both genuine and new. The stronger your voice in a piece, the more likely we’ll love it.

2. Intrigue—leave us guessing; sometimes a piece is best when it prompts more questions than answers, or when it leads to deeper thought or conversation.

3. Passion—if you worked and reworked the language, if you buried a part of your soul in a piece, if you are excited to have it shared with the world…we will be able to tell, and we will likely catch your excitement.

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

SO: If your work is misogynistic, sexist, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, or intolerant of others in such a way, then possibly shred it into a hundred pieces, and definitely do not submit it to us.

If you are writing about triggering subjects, let us know when you submit the piece. We are very unlikely to accept pieces that do not deal with triggering subjects in a way we feel is appropriate. Basically, if you already know that your piece will offend and upset people, it’s not for Boston Accent.

You can be funny without being offensive. I believe in you.

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

SO: Each of the Head Editors handles rejections uniquely, and I have been impressed by their efforts to not only offer kind notes of encouragement to artists, but also to give some a chance to revise their work and resubmit it for consideration.

SQF: If Boston Accent Lit had a theme song, what would it be and why?

SO: I’m going to have to go with some Boston pride songs here, and say either the Standells’ “Dirty Water,” Dropkick Murphys’ “I’m Shipping Up to Boston,” Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” (a Boston Red Sox anthem), or Augustana’s “Boston.” Bostonians love their city harder than most, and this journal is happy to be based in a place with so much hometown pride.

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

SO: “Current favorite author quote?”
Virginia Woolf’s “Language is wine upon the lips.”

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

Friday, July 1, 2016

Six Questions for Patrick Williams, Founder & Editor-in-Chief, Really System

Really System is a journal of poetry and extensible poetics. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Patrick Williams: I started Really System for a number of reasons, the foremost of which being a hope that it would help me to find a community of other poets with similar ideas, questions, and aesthetic interests. I was also looking for a "living" corpus of interesting language to which I could apply computational processes with an audience and community of interested writers and see what we could learn as a community and to see where experimental approaches to reading the journal would take us.

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

PW: Mostly, I look for something that surprises me, something that might reframe an idea or a phenomenon or an image for me--something I wouldn't have expected to see. I really appreciate when a poet has clearly read and thought about work published in the journal, even if what they are submitting challenges Really System's fairly specific aesthetics and subjects. I also enjoy it when a submission reflects a larger body of work--if the poems are related or are otherwise in dialogue with one another.

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

PW: There are many ways that submitters fail to be attentive to the Really System submission guidelines, and all of them are equal turn-offs. The guidelines are quite clear and easy to follow, and they're not arbitrary; they all play a role in how I move through and read submissions. I also have a required text box in the submission form that asks submitters to include a brief message, and when people choose to enter something like "it says I have to type here" rather than something they expect a person to read, I usually take that as a sign that filling out the form is just something in their way as they submit their work to a hundred other places. Editing a magazine, like writing poems, is a lot of work, and it's a turn-off when it's clear that a poet sees the journal merely as a platform for the poems they want published rather than a collaboration between themselves and an editor. When a poet has clearly put little thought into where they are submitting (ignoring guidelines, getting the name of the journal wrong), that's usually a pretty bad sign. I still read and consider the all work, though. But it’s usually the submissions that respond to the guidelines that get accepted.

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

PW: Sadly, I don't have time to provide detailed comments on every submission I have to reject, but for submissions that are very close, I try to send an encouraging note and something clear about why the pieces weren't accepted--and tell them I really hope they will submit again. There are probably as many of those types of notes from each submission period as there are acceptances.

SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?

PW: I must have known this already, having read lots and lots of poems multiple times in my life, but as an editor, I've been shocked by how differently I might read the same work on the second or third pass, or after I've begun putting together an issue. I find that I may have been initially thrilled by a piece that leaves me cold on second read, or that I wasn't in the right place to click with a piece I didn't like at first. That's why I think it's important for me to read every submission multiple times. It's also what takes me so long to make decisions. But as a poet, it makes me feel better about the rejections I receive, realizing that there are many factors that affect what an editor thinks of a piece that go beyond a binary assessment of good or bad.

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

PW: I'd love to know more about how editors go about shaping an issue or phase of a journal they're working on. I rely so much on the work that comes in to help guide what each issue should be, and I'd love to hear other approaches.

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