Friday, June 18, 2010

Six Questions for Leah Browning, Editor, Apple Valley Review

From the website:

"The Apple Valley Review is an online literary journal. It is published twice annually, once in spring and once in fall.  Each issue features a collection of poetry, short fiction, and essays." Find the current issue, previous issues, subscription information, and complete submission guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

LB: I’ve been reading literary journals and magazine fiction for as long as I can remember.  When I was about twelve, a teacher recruited a group of kids to start a literary journal for our school.  That was my first formal editing experience.  Although we were quite young at the time, she took it seriously; and we did, too.

Everything about the process of putting that journal together intrigued me; and from that point forward, the idea of one day launching my own journal was always in the back of my mind. I think I was just trying to ensure that I’d never run out of reading material.

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

  1. An engaging story with enough detail that I can visualize it.   
  2. Language that is beautiful but not so ornate that it becomes distracting.
  3. A complete arc: a story that starts out strong, keeps its momentum, and finishes in a satisfying way.  It’s difficult to start a story, and even more difficult to keep it going.

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

LB: Oh, goodness.  Well, a story should float, if that makes sense.  I guess what I want, as a reader, is the suspension of disbelief.  So here are a few things that pull me right out of a poem or story:    
  1. A lack of authenticity, either in the voice or in the details.
  2. Writing that very clearly doesn’t fit with the submission guidelines in some way.  
  3. Loss of engagement with the story, the scene, and/or the character(s).    
But deciding whether a piece is “good” or not is so subjective.  I have tried to be very candid about my biases in the submission guidelines; and like anyone, I have my own preferences.  If I send a story back, it doesn’t mean that it’s not good—just that I’m not the right person to champion it.

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

LB: This is a great question, but it’s so difficult to answer.  I’m trying to think about stories I’ve published in the past and what their characters have in common.

It’s helpful if I like the characters, or at least don’t actively dislike them. It’s hard to care about what happens to someone, especially a fictional person, if you don’t like him or her.

The content of a story is really important, though, too.  I can be very sympathetic to a certain character; but if all he does is sit on a couch staring into space for 12 pages, the story will probably still not be accepted.

(I say probably because now I feel certain that someone will send me an amazing story featuring a man who sits on a couch for 12 pages.)

SQF: Will you publish a story an author posted on a personal blog?

LB: The short answer is no.  Although work included in a personal blog isn’t considered “published” in a traditional sense, it is still widely available online and seems, in essence, self-published.  That said, I have in the past published at least two poems that had previously appeared on a blog (but had since been removed). 

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

LB: What is the best part of being an editor?

Every once in a while, there is a moment when I’m reading through manuscripts and I find a piece that just completely transports me. I love the experience of finding something that I want to shove into someone else’s hands and say, “Read this.”

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

NEXT POST: 6/21--Six Questions for Lisa Swerling & Ralph Lazar, Editors,

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