Monday, March 29, 2010

Six Questions for Fiona Robyn, Editor, A Handful of Stones

A Handful of Stones publishes "very short pieces that precisely capture a fully-engaged moment." Learn more about writing small stones here.

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

FR: Firstly, that it gives me a difficult-to-define 'ah'—a frisson of recognition or surprise, a tingle of pleasure or disgust or humour. Secondly, that it's well written—not just grammatically, but that it uses all the right words in the right order. Thirdly... I don't think I have a thirdly.

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

FR: A lot of what I receive just doesn't appeal to me—that's not the fault of the writer. I have a particular taste, and I like close observation, quirkiness, brevity. Other editors will have different tastes. Although having said that, some of the small stones I receive are overly sentimental, or haven't been polished very well.

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

FR: Anything that doesn't surprise me.

SQF: What is it about the characters in a story that make them pop off the page and grab hold of you?

FR: That's a very difficult question as it's a very intuitive thing for me. I think good authors learn to bring their characters to life because they just KNOW them.

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?

FR: Although it's difficult to do, I don't think it helps to take it personally. For me the writing process (which includes getting as much feedback as possible and learning to be a better writer over the years) should be kept as separate as possible from the submitting business. I wouldn't mind people asking for feedback but may not be able to respond. I need to be aware of time or I wouldn't get my own writing done, and I get a lot of submissions.

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

I'd like to be asked what would make my job easier. You'd be surprised at how many people don't read the submission guidelines and don't include their blog addresses or their URLs. This makes my job much more time consuming, which adds up over many submissions. I'd encourage people to read the guidelines carefully.

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

NEXT POST: 3/31--Six Questions for Caren Gussoff, Co-Editor, Brain Harvest

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