SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a story and why?
- Internal consistency
- Does it make me think
Anything that is written has to make sense inside itself. In other words, internal consistency or continuity matters. Consistency in language, in approach, in viewpoint and voice are all important to me.
The last should be self-explanatory
SQF: What are the top three reasons a story is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to question one and why?
- Being fairly new to the editor business, what I can say thus far is not following the simple directions on the Guidelines page. That's one strike right there. I've gotten fiction submissions that exceed the word count guidelines. That's a no-no.
- First off, I have to like the poem or story. I want to publish the piece, not the person. Doesn't matter who they are if the piece is boring, mundane, or I don't care for it. There's enough incest in the Lit Mag world. That's why for the first issue, I solicited people whose work I like. To sort of set the tone.
- Not fitting the aesthetic of Cats with Thumbs--which is purposefully ambiguous.
SQF: What common mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a story?
MS: Trying to blow smoke up my ass in the cover letter. Don't get cute, don't get chummy, don't be clever. Tell me the who, the what and possibly a bio. Anything beyond that strikes me as a used car salesman.
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a story?
MS: I plan on trying to be kinder than 'I'm sorry but we can't use any of your submitted poems/stories at this time.' What that will turn out to be only time will tell, as this is still early days.
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?
MS: Being polite and/or considerate is always helpful. In the same way that I expect the professionalism of notification of a submission being accepted elsewhere, I would hope to be as professional in return.
But remember, acceptance or rejection in many cases is purely subjective. So, what may work for Cats with Thumbs may not work for other publications. And vice-versa.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
MS: What are your Desert Island Albums? Limit of 5...
To which I would have answered:
• Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen
• Abbey Road - The Beatles
• Ellington Uptown - Duke Ellington
• Neptune City - Nicole Atkins
• My Favorite Things - John Coltrane
I know it's off-topic...but everyone should know!
Thank you, Mark. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
MS: Thanks for asking and keep up the great work!
NEXT POST: 4/16--Six Questions for Lynn Alexander, Editor of Full of Crow, Fashion For Collapse, and Blink Ink Online.