Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Six Questions for Alyce Wilson, Editor, Wild Violet

Wild Violet looks for works that "challenge and uplift the reader." The magazine accepts a number of formats, including poetry, lyrics, fiction, creative non-fiction, and more. There is no length limit for fiction, but the editor may serialize stories longer than 11,000 words. Essays should be 3,000 words or less. There is no line limit on poetry. Read the complete guidelines here.

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

AW: Solid story-telling, character development and originality. While I have published some more experimental pieces, stories that ignore the fundamentals typically crash and burn. If I were to add a fourth thing, I would say a distinct voice. Even the most ordinary story can hook the reader if the language resonates.

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

AW: Use of cliches, overwriting, too many characters. We publish some fantasy and science fiction, but stories which clutter up the first paragraph with overused conventions are destined for the "rejection" folder. As far as overwriting is concerned, writers need to spend more time focusing on the important details of their stories, rather than trying to embellish scenes with window dressing. Remember, Shakespeare was originally performed on a bare stage! Finally, the problem with too many characters is that, in a short story, there's very little time to develop so many characters fully. Instead, they tend to get jumbled up in the reader's mind and impede understanding.

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

AW: Unjustified endings, where characters take actions that feel implausible or forced and seem like the author is simply trying to wind up the story. I tend to be a very logical person, and while I'm willing to suspend my disbelief, I have trouble with stories where the characters behave in ways that simply do not fit what the author has established for that setting and that character.

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

AW: Rarely, simply because there isn't enough time. I typically provide comments for three reasons: if I felt a story was very close to being accepted and wish to provide the writer with guidance; if the writer requests comments; or if the submission comes from a student as part of a class project (which I've had happen several times).

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?

AW: While I don't keep a blacklist, I do tend to remember people, especially if their behavior was particularly unprofessional. On the bright side, I tend to remember those who impressed me with their professionalism and writing ability, as well.

Authors should realize that a rejection should not, in any way, be taken personally. I have rejected work sent to me by some of my oldest friends, simply because it did not work for the magazine. Sometimes I reject a piece because I've just run an entire issue of work with a similar theme, or because I'm planning to run a very similar piece that I've already accepted.

I never have a problem answering polite questions. At times, I've had authors rework a piece, based on my suggestions, and resubmit it. In those circumstances, I've sometimes chosen to publish the piece.

Among my pet peeves are people who, once I've sent them a rejection slip, feel compelled to reply with a note that lists all their writing credits or, in some similar way, to assert that, really, they're a good writer and I'm "missing my chance." You would be surprised how often I see such responses! I always wonder if they're sending work to those other editors that is better than what they sent me. At any rate, it's a poor practice. Accept the reply and move on.

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

AW: What's the most important thing that authors should do before submitting to a magazine?

Read a sample issue! In my case, it's extremely easy, since we're a free online publication, and all of our previous issues are archived. By reading an issue, you can better tailor your submission to the magazine (whether it's mine or any others).

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

NEXT POST: 6/11--Six Questions for Kevin Dickinson, Gardener-in-Chief, Writers' Bloc


  1. Very insightful and educational interview!

  2. Thanks, Alyssa. I'm glad you found this helpful.

  3. This was delightful. The description of the arrogant writers who send LISTS of their writing credits after a rejection could inspire a story! Ha! The reference to resonating language in an ordinary story is great, as is the note to OVER writers. Thank you Ms Wilson and JH.