Thieves Jargon has been publishing prose and poetry since 2004. The editors like things tight & strange. 5,000 words max. Read the latest issue to get a better idea here.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a story and why?
DS: Strangeness of concept, strangeness of execution, efficient use of word count. Note that weird does not equal strange. Weird is frequently quirky (see McSweeney's). Strange is frequently slant (see Emily Dickinson or Wallace Stevens).
SQF: What are the top three reasons a story is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to question one and why?
DS: Many writers try to get laughs, but they fail to or refuse to realize the formal quality of humor. Others ignore the realities of internet readers' attention spans, failing to install an early hook or writing in a novelistic style. The bulk of the rejected try to pass off their derivative journal scribblings as flash fiction. This is a shame, because I see many excellent kernels in these underdeveloped pieces.
SQF: What common mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a story?
DS: Many bad writers hide behind gimmicks like second-person perspective (in fiction), magical realism, and Raymond Carver-esque terseness. The mistake is that they're separating form and content.
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a story?
DS: Whenever possible I deliver a compact reaction in order to encourage better or more appropriate submissions. Sometimes, though, there's nothing to be said.
SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?
DS: Most people lack the critical reading skills to progress from idea to draft to final draft. They cling to the mythology of inspiration.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
Q: If you could change one thing about writing, what would it be?
A: I would make the act of writing physically painful. I want college students fainting at their computer terminals and prolific authors dropping dead in coffee shops. Serious writers should wake up with stains on their pillows from the blood seeping out of their ears.
Thank you, Dan. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 9/1--Six Questions for Doug Paul Case, Editor-in-Chief, The Emerson Review