Friday, February 25, 2011

Six Questions for Carol Novack, Publisher, Mad Hatters' Review

Please note: Carol Novack passed away on December 30, 2011. MHR continues to publish.

Mad Hatters’ Review is an annual online multimedia magazine, featuring “writings that address psychosocial issues, the pollution of minds, hearts, bodies and nature. We also welcome purely aesthetic pieces, packed with surprising images and whimsical wordplays. The name of our annual reflects our view of the world as essentially demented and nonsensical, too frequently a nightmare or 'non-dream' that needs to be exposed to the light for what it is, as well as what it is not. However, we, as artists, can also see another side of this world by voyaging into our own unique terrifying and joyful wonderlands and sharing our visions with others. Accepted writings (poetry, non-fiction, fiction, whatnots, drama, and wit &whimsy’s) are accompanied by custom-made artworks and audio (recitations, music, or both). We generally present features, an interview, and new media.  We also publish columns and book reviews." Learn more here.

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

  1. Exciting use of language/formal risk-taking;
  2. Rhythm of prose and breadth of imagination;
  3. Intriguing, thought-provoking content, i.e., the fiction should say something, demonstrating the psychological or intellectual sophistication of its author.
We are not interested in publishing the play by the rules fiction or poetry. Here’s what I said on

"If you're thinking of submitting, rest assured that Mad Hatters decry the standard "we want the best writings on the Internets." We are firmly rooted in theories of relativity and we try hard not to take ourselves seriously. We want you to give us what delights you, what makes you leap and dance, what makes you cry deeply inside the core of yourself, and what you've revised and re-revised till it shines. We're particularly interested in "edgy," risky, gutsy, thematically broad (i.e., saying something about the world and its creatures), psychologically and philosophically sophisticated works. We opt for maximalism over minimalism. Black/dark humor, whimsy, wise satire, irony, magic realism and surrealism are welcome. We love humor because we need it! Traditional arc, resolution, "Story" structure are beside or off the point. We look for originality, surprise, intellectual and emotional strength, lyricism and rhythm. We love writers who stretch their imaginations to the limits and challenge pedestrian notions of reality and style; we care little for categories, favoring fusions, alien creatures, and borderline personalities. We also love collaborative ventures, between/among writers, writers and artists, and among writers, visual artists, and composers.

What are MHR fictions?

Prose pieces that tell stories, in some shape or form, but not necessarily following the generally accepted norms of arc, character development, plot, resolution, etc.”

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

CN: I don’t think I can give the “top three reasons.” I’ll just say that I usually can tell almost immediately whether the story is something I’d want to publish, for the reasons detailed above.

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

CN: It’s not always a question of “mistakes,” but MHR aesthetics, as described above. I should say, however, that I’m turned off by grammatical/word usage mistakes, such as the use of “lay” instead of “lie,” and clunky “like” instead of “as/as if/as though,” even though the latter error seems to be acceptable. I also wince at clichés and awkward and flat phrases.

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

CN: Seeing that the finished product is fantastic and appreciated for its exceptionality and originality. There’s no journal like ours.

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?

CN: I don’t keep a blacklist. I understand very well why/how writers get pissed off by rejections. If someone wants to dialogue about why we’ve rejected a submission, I’m happy to dialogue.  

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

No response

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

NEXT POST: 2/28--Six Questions for Amber Skye F, Founder and Fiction Editor, The Corner Club Press

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