"At Referential Magazine we will be nesting a site that builds from one piece of writing (be it prose or poetry). From that piece we want other artists to submit referential material. This material could be visual, auditory, written etc." Read the complete guidelines here.
SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
JC: I enjoy editing and publishing, but I didn't want to just start another online magazine. When the idea for Referential came to me, I knew I had to run with it!
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a story and why?
JC: I now have a Fiction editor (thank goodness!), but I still read the fiction submissions from time to time so I feel confident answering this for you. The top three things I personally look for are: believability, brevity and brilliance. There are many ways these words can be taken but here are my thoughts. Believability: Even if your story is completely sci-fi/surreal etc, I still should find the characters and the storyline truthful. I hate when I read a story that is so obviously a thinly veiled retelling of the author's life. Of course we all use ourselves and the people around us in our writing, but that doesn't always mean that ourselves and our neighbors are the most interesting characters available.
Brevity, for me, literally means I prefer shorter works. I love what could be called flash fiction or items under 2500 words, but we do read longer pieces. My fiction editor likes longer work so brevity also means the avoidance of stories bloated with exposition and extraneous dialog.
By brilliance I'm thinking of work that shines. Maybe you have a plot, character or theme that just draws me in, but I'm also speaking to a synonym for brilliance: ingenuity. I, of course, want to see something knew or something old made new.
SQF: What are the top three reasons a story is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to the above question and why?
JC: Probably the biggest reason a piece would be rejected is because it didn't follow our guidelines. I know that seems like a silly thing to list first, but it is probably why a good 50% of work for Referential is rejected. The biggest mistake people make regarding our guidelines is the "referred" nature of our publication. If you just send a story and say "here read this," we know you didn't read our guidelines. But, I digress. Outside of that the next two reasons: voice and cliche. I had a story once that was from a female POV, but the whole time I was thinking "this sounds like a dude." It turned out the author was male; it showed. Cliche is a no-brainer, but I still see a lot of stories (and we also publish poems, non-fiction, etc.) that fall back on played out themes.
SQF: What is it about the characters in a story that makes them pop off the page and grab hold of you?
JC: That's a hard one! Uniqueness is the first word that comes to mind. You could be writing from the view point of a truck driver in Alabama, but if he also reads "The New Yorker"? yeah, I'm intrigued!
SQF: Will you publish a story an author posted on a personal blog?
JC: Only if they agree to take it down first!
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
JC: Question: Sex and swearing: Are they ok? Answer: Yes, but boy they really need to fit the character and storyline. Nothing worse than just throwing in a sex scene or a 10 year old who swears like a sailor when it seems completely out of character :)
Thank you, Jessie. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 11/18--Six Questions for Pamela Tyree Griffin, Editor, Joyful!