Friday, August 22, 2014

Six Questions for Robert James Russell and Elizabeth Schmuhl, Editors, Cheap Pop

Cheap Pop publishes micro fiction of no more than 500 words. Read the complete guidelines here.

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

Elizabeth Schmuhl: Pop-i-ness, originality, and clarity.

Robert James Russell: Quality, resonation, unforgettable-ness


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

ES: I'm not excited by clichés, furthering hetero-normative behavior or stereotypes, or clunky language.

RJR: 500 words isn’t a lot of room. We want to see a story that pops—that, in a small amount of room, elicits some sort of reaction. It’s entirely possible to do this, to write a story in a small amount of space, so for me, the number one thing that turns me off is not taking a chance. Hell, your story could be about your grandpa sitting on a comfy chair musing about the world, but I want to see you taking a chance with it—unique dialog or an interesting approach. Make us not be able to stop thinking about your piece after we read it.


SQF: Will you publish a submission an author posted on a personal blog? 

ES: We are interested in submissions that have not been published before, whether on a personal blog or other personally managed site.

RJR: Not much more to say! We want to see only original work at this time.


SQF: What is it that makes a story pop?

ES: For me, a strong, clear voice makes a story pop. I enjoy work that takes me immediately into the world of a story. I want to be transported. I also like texts that offer new ways of seeing. The marginalized, the bizarre, the unthinkable, all of these catch my attention.

RJR: Hate to just agree, but I’m going to: No matter what your story is about, I want to be immediately taken into it. I want to be able to picture it in my mind and feel it. Make me not be able to forget you or your story. And this doesn’t mean every piece has to be experimental or “weird” or anything like that—I just want it to stick with me, no matter what it’s about. That, to me, is what “pop” is all about.


SQF: What magazines do you read?

ES: A hell of a lot of literary magazines and Sports Illustrated, especially issues with Kate Upton on the cover.

RJR: Right now I’m obsessed with Lucky Peach. Also: there are so many fantastic journals out there in the world (print and online) that I can hardly keep them straight. It’s a good time for journals.


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

ES: Authors whose short fiction you enjoy because it pops? Etgar Keret, Aimee Bender, and Haruki Murakami.

RJR: Best literary-themed cocktail? Tequila Mockingbird.

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

NEXT POST: 8/29—Six Questions for Sherri Ellerman, Flash Fiction Editor, Liquid Imagination


Friday, August 15, 2014

Six Questions for Kimberly Ann Southwick, Editor-in-chief, Gigantic Sequins

Gigantic Sequins is a biannual black & white print literary journal that publishes poetry, fiction, non-fiction, art, and comics. Read the completeguidelines here.


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

Kimberly Ann Southwick:

Memorability: Those works that you can't forget or keep coming back to or are buzzing around in your head for days. We want our journal to be something people come back to.

Eloquence: And not in, it has to sound pretty, but a piece be it fiction or poetry or even a comic—we want it to be using language to the best of language's abilities. Eloquence can mean making a sentence sound beautiful or a couplet sound like no one ever put those words together in this one perfect way—and probably never will again.

Movement: Perhaps most of all, we want to be moved. You need the above two qualities for sure to move our editors, but there's that something else extra special that makes a work just stab at you-- we're always looking to be stabbed at.


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

KAS: Each of our genre editors most likely has a different answer here, but as Editor in Chief, I'll tell you my biggest pet peeve: anything that doesn't follow our specific guidelines. We're not so strict at GS! We don't ask you to do anything too specific. But anyone who just hasn't read the rules, and it's clear from their submission from the start—whether they've sent a whole manuscript or are calling us GIANT instead of GIGANTIC Sequins—those submissions are always hard to take seriously. If you aren't taking US seriously, why should I take your work seriously? Again, I am sure that within each category the genre editors would say something different. My Non-fiction Editor, Ian, and I don't like reading about therapy; though we've printed second person narrated stories before. Zach Yontz, GS Fiction Editor, and I are growing tired of them; and Sophie and I probably don't want to read about anyone's soul or anyone's penis in any of the poems submitted to us. There are always the exceptions to those rules, though. Someone might send us an excellent poem about a cock someday or the best essay we've ever read all about someone's therapist.


SQF: Will you publish a submission an author posted on a personal blog?

KAS: No. Publishing work on a blog counts as "previously published" in our definition of that phrase. If you've taken it down before you've submitted it, though, there's no way for us generally to tell you've published it there.


SQF: Your 5.2 issue drops this July. Any work that particularly stands out in that issue, and why?

KAS: We're publishing a lyric essay for the first time in 5.2 by Caitlyn Luce Christensen. We consider lyric essays under the poetry category, so this piece, "A Man Eats Another Man's Heart", got tossed around amongst readers and editors alike before it landed in the right place. Anyone who is reading this and might want to submit lyric essay to us, send it as poetry! Anyway, lucky for us the shifting around didn't speak against this piece but for it rather. Over in the Non-fiction category, we just didn't know what to do with the work—but we knew we liked it. The piece is bursting with all of the qualities I mentioned above. It's haunting and eloquent and after you read it once you want to read it again.


SQF: What magazines do you read?

KAS: I am a big fan of The Believer and a subscriber to Poets & Writers and Bitch. I also really like to pick up a copy of Bomb or n+1 when I am feeling ambitious in my reading. I read a lot of work in online journals like Everyday Genius, ILK, Sixth Finch, and Interrupture, to name a few. As for print journals, Stonecutter is a favorite, and a new favorite I just discovered at DC's Conversations & Connections conference this past April is The Intentional Quarterly. Good stuff.


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

KAS: "Do you run any contests for submitters? If so what makes them different than other contests writers can enter?" would be my question. My answer: YES! We recently ran our 3rd annual flash fiction and poetry summer contests, judged respectively by Mat Johnson and Dawn Lundy Martin. What makes our contests different is that we don't just offer a cash prize. We're a cash-poor journal. We fundraise hard year round to get the money together it takes to put out our journal—so in order to entice contest entries, we curate interesting prize packs to give away in addition to the cash prize we can offer! 

This summer, we're giving away a prize pack to each winner from the Poetry Society of America, Verso Books, Barrelhouse Books, and Small Press Distribution. The prizes include books (obviously), tote bags, shirts, and more. We also are giving $75 to each winner—not TOO shabby. Another thing that makes our contests different is that we run a FLASH fiction contest as opposed to a short story contest. We don't intend to, but we often love shorter style stories over longer ones, so this is a great way for GS to appreciate and award what we think is an already under appreciated genre. We hope, this winter, to run a flash non-fiction and comics contest, starting up a whole new series of winter contests for people to get excited about.


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

NEXT POST: 8/22—Six Questions for Robert James Russell and Elizabeth Schmuhl, Editors, Cheap Pop

Friday, August 8, 2014

Six Questions for Diana Smith Bolton, Founding Editor, District Lit

District Lit publishes poetry, fiction, and visual art online and year-round. Read the complete guidelines here.


SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Diana Smith Bolton: I started District Lit as a home for accessible and stunning literature and art. I live in Arlington, Virginia, just outside of DC, so District Lit is an appropriate name. However, there's also another reason. I find that sometimes people think of writing and art as specialized, discrete, and difficult, like inaccessibility is necessary for something to be really great. District Lit seeks to break down the separation of art (written and visual) from everything else, publishing work that is appealing on the first read, but continues to be interesting on repeat visits. I really don't believe that art and literature have to be difficult to be good. It's a similar concept to Billy Collins' Poetry 180 project.


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

DSB: The pieces that we accept all share a uniqueness of voice and perspective; an eye on the details in terms of diction and format; and an openness to the new. District Lit's submissions are primarily read by myself and editor Diya Chaudhuri. Diya and I occasionally disagree on a submission, but we have great conversations about what we are looking for, and that drives us to publish stronger work in every update.


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

DSB: Unfortunately, poor editing. We want to know that this submission is your best, not a first draft.


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

DSB: We often provide comments, especially if a story or poem is very close to what we are looking for. When we can't accept a piece for one reason or another, but it shows promise and has many strengths, we will encourage resubmission and provide feedback on what we liked and what could improve. I fondly remember the personalized rejections that I've received and how they have really helped me improve.


SQF: The three fiction pieces in your current issue fit the category of flash fiction. The poems are likewise brief. In general, do you favor shorter works?

DSB: In general, yes. We find that shorter pieces are suited to an online publication. I also personally really enjoy flash fiction like Katherine Stutzman's story Wood and Warped Glass, published in District Lit, because it showcases the author's ability to create a plot, mood, and character in such a tight space.


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

DSB: I think a question about our art submission process would have been nice. We publish paintings, drawings, sculptures, and installations, all edited by District Lit's art director Jenny Mary Brown. Jenny is a wonderful interviewer, and she is always able to highlight our artists' many strengths. Her thoughtful questions really connect to my answer to the first question you asked... Art isn't, and shouldn't be, a separate thing from our daily lives. Art is everywhere, and Jenny is able to draw out what makes art great through her interviews. I think she makes it accessible and interesting for everyone, even those who think they don't really understand art.

Thank you for the opportunity to answer these questions!

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

NEXT POST: 8/15--Six Questions for Kimberly Ann Southwick, Editor-in-chief, Gigantic Sequins

Friday, August 1, 2014

Six Questions for Glen Phillips, Publisher, Front Porch Review


Front Porch Review publishes literary short fiction, poetry, essays and visual arts. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Glen Phillips: Forum for seniors who still have one or two sparks of creativity and a graspable reading experience for those who are advanced in wisdom and grace.


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

GP:

Fiction: A protagonist who struggles to satisfy a universal need (truth, justice, atonement, etc.) and learns something significant about himself and humanity in the process. Why: such an individual is someone a general audience can empathize with.

Poetry: straightforward language, poetic imagery, comprehensible messages as found in the works of Mary Oliver and Pablo Neruda. Why: our readers do not want to stumble over flights of fancy.

Visual arts: photos of ordinary people doing the ordinary are the favorite, then animals, then Nature. We also accept photos of paintings and sculpture. All photos are evaluated in terms of composition, perspective, coloration, and meaning.


SQF: What common mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a submission?

GP: Fiction: protagonist without an emotional/psychological issue, lack of tension or conflict, no thematic message, over-used themes. Poetry: clichés, trite expressions, banal visuals, lame poetic language, overabundance of adjectives and adverbs


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

GP: Yes. We find that by doing so repeat submitters are more likely to have material approved.


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

GP: Successful authors capture and hold the reader’s attention through real-world dialog and situations. Beyond that, they encourage the reader to care about the story’s resolution. But above all, the author realizes that he or she is writing for someone other than himself; thus, the best writers are those who have the best sense of their audience.


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

GP: Do you accept memoirs?

No. As the old saying goes, “Your sex life is boring. Mine is exciting.”

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


NEXT POST: 8/8--Six Questions for Diana Smith Bolton, Founding Editor, District Lit