Versal is a publication of wordsinhere, a community organization based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, whose purpose is "to help build and sustain a translocal literary community and transnational networks through which writers here can develop and continue their word practices." Submissions to Versal are accepted between September 15 and January 15. Read the complete guidelines here.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a story and why?
RG: We like to see that a story is really a story, or, regardless of your definition of story, that the text has a shape. Often we receive excellent ideas or anecdotes that have no real sense of development, evolution or involution. Because we have a story limit of 3,000 words, the best stories have carefully considered their shape. A good shape for an 8,000 word story will rarely be successful in a two or three thousand word story.
We prefer work that was really thought through and utilized detail/imagery which is both vivid and can carry some symbolic/metaphoric weight.
While we like stories that test or challenge language/syntax, we do publish plenty of amazing stories that employ conventional syntax. Even in these stories, however, it is clear that the writers pay close attention to sound, syntax, and language, which allows the stories to best display their power.
SQF: What are the top three reasons a story is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to question one and why?
RG: Other than not fitting into answers to question one, rejected stories are either competently crafted but otherwise lifeless, lacking emotional/intellectual/linguistic urgency, or prurient for the sake of prurience.
SQF: What other mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a story?
RG: We’re big proponents of the notion that the reader should do some work, and that the writer doesn’t have to spell everything out. Often, a writer does this very well until the last paragraph, where he/she summarizes in a boring and/or overly symbolic way. That failure of the last paragraph really hurts, because we’ve been with you up to that point.
SQF: What is it about the characters in a story that makes them pop off the page and grab hold of you?
RG: This question assumes that character development makes the story. Often this is true, but in shorter formats, it is not always the case. It is very difficult (and sometimes undesirable) to develop “round” characters in such a short time. For us, the best characterization occurs a) when the character is in motion (i.e. not static), and b) through detail that does other work in the text, so the detail does not announce itself as a character trait.
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?
RG: We try to be transparent as well as compassionate with our rejections (since we’re all also writing, we receive plenty of our own rejections) and the level of encouragement they offer. My general rule would be: please don’t ask questions if you don’t receive a personal comment. If you receive a personal comment about your story and you have a short, simple question (i.e. does the last sentence kill it for you? Are there too many rhinoceros references?), please feel free to ask.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
No answer provided.
Thank you, Robert. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 5/19--Six Questions for Bryan Burch, Co-Editor, The Whistling Fire