Thursday, December 17, 2009

Six Questions for Diane Smith, Editor, Grey Sparrow Journal and Press

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

DS: This December, Grey Sparrow Journal will offer writing from a group of writers I consider spiritual in their ability to share concerns for humanity with elegance and insight.

I invited them to teach by example. I was deeply touched at the poetry and prose they offered. I could not pay them, but still they shared.  Our December Issue (III) is titled,"Peace and silence came on angels' wings, one cold, December day."

I believe the authors' writings are a beacon for those learning about poetry, flash, short story writing and more, as well as for those in need -- the poor, the homeless, those with little power in our society. I would rather have new writers come, read, and learn from those who know, than listen to a formulaic answer by me that doesn't explain what a literary work offers. I cannot explain the mystery of a Walt Whitman, Emerson, or Thoreau. Yet, it's ever present in their words.

I do think voice, community and congruence of characters are moments that have meaning and are critical to sound writing. I will explain further.

Voice speaks to the writer's world view; how scenes are described, what is valued, what is characterized. Community speaks to the larger issues of the world.  An individual voice can echo for a thousand miles. Congruence has to do with that internal voice aligning with the external action as part of characterization.

I am reminded we are moving into the season of giving. Jim, thanks so much for asking me these questions.

SQF: What are the top three reasons a story is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to question one and why?

DS: Mechanics (basic writing skills), structure of the story (plot development, arcs, subarcs), and the message (character values, POV, motivation, and intent) are not developed sufficiently to warrant publication.

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

DS: A writer, in an earlier stage of learning, may lack critical writing skills to bring a story to fruition.

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

DS: I generally do provide a few words, but not always.  Form letters may be forwarded in the future at Grey Sparrow Journal.

SQF: I read a comment by one editor who said she keeps a blacklist of authors who respond to a rejection in a less than professional manner. I'm sure you know what I mean. What do you want authors to know about the stories you reject and how authors should respond? Along this same idea, do you mind if authors reply with polite questions about the comments they receive?

DS: I believe most editors want to take everyone's work. Sometimes beautiful writing is just not a good fit for a particular issue or the journal itself. I will tell you how I have responded to rejections for my own work. I thank the editor for taking the time to review it and wish them the best. I would be satisfied with a 'thank you' from any writer or no response as an editor. It's important to be polite, as you may well find yourself in subsequent issues with new work for that same editor; and it shows you understand an editor took the time to read your work and consider it.

SQF: Along this same idea, do you mind if authors reply with polite questions about the comments they receive? 

DS: I do think writers don't realize how busy editors are.  Editors receive a fair amount of work, they need to make quick decisions and address a number of concerns and tasks external to writers' work.  I don't mind polite questions if I'm allowed to disengage after a reasonable amount of time.

Learn more about Grey Sparrow Journal here.

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

NEXT POST: 12/21 - Six Questions for Idgie, Editor/Owner, Dew on the Kudzu

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