Monday, October 11, 2010

Six Questions for Lisa Marie Basile, Editor-in-Chief, Caper Literary Journal

From the website:
"Caper Literary Journal publishes high quality poetry and short prose. We encourage submissions of magic realism, surrealism, quirky realism, cultural writing, foreign language play, dark work, Americana-inspired work, writing that contemplates death and existence; themes of sin, mythology, religion and magic. We like work inspired by French, Italian, Latin and Hispanic cultures. Although we have these preferences, we accept and appreciate all kinds of work." Read the complete guidelines here.

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

LMB: I look for a sense of authenticity—poems or stories that seem a bit contrived or forced are never as powerful, no matter how hard they try. I like character-based situations, not plot-based. Something simple and meaningful is always better than something using wild vocabulary (for vocabulary's sake) that means almost nothing. I personally appreciate when a story or poem has elements of the true human condition—things we can connect with (death, family, the things that haunt us, sadness, tiredness) while also being fresh, intelligent and slightly magical. Telling old things in new ways is important. For me, personally, poetry and stories are about meaning and using language to convey feeling and thought. Lastly, we choose a great deal of work that uses magic realism and a multi-cultural perspective.

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

LMB: It should be said that often I reject work that doesn't fit our aesthetic, though it would definitely work elsewhere.The top three reasons I reject a story would include: 1) that they read like a tiresome cliche, 2) have no real or consistent voice or style (usually sounding like they could be told or written by just about anyone else), or 3) are obviously written by people who pay more attention to sounding like other writers or re-writing popular stories than writing from a sincere point of view.

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

LMB: For poetry and fiction alike, I think cliches are the number one turn off, but beyond that I think when people use huge vocabulary words that seem out of place — that's a turn off. Each and every word should be thought out. That's what makes a good writer, not showing off your vocabulary. Meaning is derived in part from language choice and also from inherent idea.

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

LMB: In the September issue of The View from Here magazine, I explain more about why I don't always reject work personally. I receive too much work to personally respond to each. Caper is a top priority, but it comes after my other work and school. I can't always give a reason for rejection besides that the story doesn't work for Caper specifically.

SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?

LMB: What I've learned a lot about writing from editing is that everyone has something to say and a unique way of saying it. I hear a  lot of writers say "why would I write a piece about my own life? Why would I write a character based on me? I've done nothing interesting." I think "interesting" is found in everyday affairs, not anything typically spectacular. You could have the most incredible life but no way of talking about it—I won't want to read about that. It's the average and the ordinary that can really be written beautifully. I wish I had the time to know and hear about everyone's stories and observations!

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

LMB: When I was younger and interested in seriously becoming a writer, I wondered how to get published, find other writers, break into the industry and learn about the craft. I found out by asking questions, going to readings, spending hours on the internet researching literary everything. My advice to an inspiring writer is to purchase writing magazines, visit literary readings, ask for critiques from people who will tell you the truth, submit to journals that fit your aesthetic, research online opportunities and join writing sites (Red Room, Poets & Writers, EWR, SheWrites to name a few) and ask questions. When writing, abandon the sound you think you should be going for. Weed every cliche from your writing. Write about what you truly know (even if it's implanted into a foreign idea or story) and play with language. Put simply, take the time to learn and write well.

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

NEXT POST: 10/13--Betsy Teter, Executive Director, Hub City Press

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