Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Six Questions for Stewart Grant, Editor, MediaVirus Magazine

MediaVirus Magazine publishes poetry, short stories to 5,000 words, non-fiction to 5,000 words, audio performances, and photography and art mediums. Read the complete guidelines here.

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

SG: Is it believable, is it entertaining, and is it something new. First and foremost a story and its characters must be believable. Even if the story is science fiction, fantasy, or horror, the people and situations presented have to seem plausible given the world created by the writer. If I’m reading something and events or character’s actions seem unmotivated, I lose interest very fast. Second, it must be entertaining. Pretty much everybody, myself included, reads because they enjoy it. Therefore a story must be fun to read. Much of fiction writing is about world building and as a reader if I’m not having fun exploring that world with the characters, then I’m done reading. Lastly, a story should feel fresh. Between submissions and personal reading, Lawrence and I read a lot of stories, so when we are reading for MediaVirus we look for ones that offer something unique. It doesn’t have to be a literary watershed moment, but just something different. Either a character that stands out or a voice that is different from what we are used to. If we are reading something and say to ourselves “this reminds me of…,” we have already moved on.

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

SG: The top reason a story is rejected is due to poor editing. One or two typos in an entire story certainly won’t get it rejected, but nothing is worse than reading a story full of misspelled words and typos. If I am reading something and there are two or three typos on the first page it doesn’t matter how well it is written, I’ll move on right then. To me it shows a lack of respect for the publication you are submitting to if a writer can’t even bother to proofread his or her own work. The second reason a story is rejected is if it doesn’t conform to our submission guidelines. Our length guidelines are not arbitrary. We ask stories be no longer than 5,000 words. This allows us to read them, respond in a timely fashion, print them in our magazine, and still maintain a nice looking format. My third reason also ties into ignoring submission guidelines. If an author submits what amounts to a chapbook worth of poetry, it is likely none of it will be read. Again, to allow us to keep to our one month response time we can’t read 25 poems from a single submitter.

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

SG: One other big turn off has to do with simultaneous submissions. MediaVirus accepts simultaneous submissions gladly, but we do ask to be notified if a piece is accepted elsewhere. There have been many times we will e-mail an author accepting a piece, only to find out it was accepted weeks before by someone else. When we accept pieces, we are planning out issues of MediaVirus, and we typically accept them with that in mind. We always try to plan an issue with diversity and differing styles, and when we plan to accept a piece only to find out it is no longer available, it can affect the layout of an entire issue. Not notifying a publication that your submission is no longer available seems to show a lack of respect for that magazine.

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

SG: This sort of goes back to my answer in question one. For me to really enjoy a character, it has to seem believable. Their actions must feel motivated. Also, dialogue between characters has to seem like a real conversation. I often struggle with believable dialogue in my own writing. To me it is one of the most difficult aspects of fiction writing. That said, nothing kills a good story like poorly written or cliché dialogue.

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?

SG: We absolutely keep a blacklist, and will be happy to share it with other magazines for a small fee.  Getting rejected is never fun. Both Lawrence and I have been writing and submitting much longer than we have been running MediaVirus, so we are no strangers to rejection notifications. We don’t keep an actual blacklist per se, but I would be lying if I said responding poorly to a rejection didn’t color our reading of subsequent work submitted by the same author; that’s just human nature. When we reject a piece we always try to include our reasons and also occasionally some comments on the piece. Nothing is worse than getting a rejection and having no reason why. We are always happy to respond to questions from authors on why their work was rejected. Open dialogue between writers benefits everyone.

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

SG: Are there any types of fiction you won’t publish and why? MediaVirus has no genre specificity and we read any and every submission we receive. That said, fiction that is exploitative or contains explicit language or images that serve no purpose other than for the sake of being explicit will be rejected. MediaVirus doesn’t shy away from graphic material as long as the story has a point and the explicit material is central to that point.

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

NEXT POST: 2/11--Six Questions for Lawrence Gladeview, Editor, MediaVirus Magazine

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