Friday, April 22, 2011

Six Questions for David James Keaton, Editor-in-Chief, Flywheel Magazine

Inspired by a British magazine of the same name published in a German prison camp, Flywheel Magazine publishes flash fiction to 1,000 words, and poetry and fiction of any length. The editors want the poem "that makes us jealous and/or slightly afraid of you" and stories that "you felt weird about writing because you thought someone close to you would get upset." Read the complete guidelines here.

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

DJK: A powerful opening page. And if you fail to do that, we may jump to the end to see if you at least finished on a powerful final page. If you've done that, we will gently submerge our toe on the middle. At some point, because of all this jumping around, because we desperately look for a reason to love it rather than reject it, we will have the loose papers of your work covering our bodies completely.

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

DJK: A quiet epiphany. These stories will be rejected immediately. How do we know there is a quiet epiphany if the first thing we look for is a strong opening page, you ask? Good question. We just know. We can smell it coming a mile away. Actually, if you just barely pick up the the corner of the last page, you can hear the quiet epiphany in there. It's like the delicate, faint sound of a child's music box.

The next thing that will receive an instant flush is too much angst. If the story reminds us of the worst writing we did when we were first driving around our hometowns in circles wallowing in self-pity, we will hit the trap door.

And the number three reason for rejection: If the story is that ol' chestnut, writing about writing. This is a red flag. Oddly enough, however, if you have an actual red flag in your story, you will probably make it past the first line of defense because chances are you are writing about a mailbox. And mailboxes are our friends. In fact, the next story or poem we receive about the red flag and/or a mailbox will be given special consideration. Seriously.

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

DJK: Terrible titles. Also, long titles seem to be trendy these days, and that makes us angry. So we will resist this fashion as long as we can, at least until something is finally called, "The Day I Put Up The Flag On The Mailbox And Discovered That It Was Actually My Heart That Needed A Flag (Too Bad Nothing Comes Or Goes On Labor Day)." On that day, we will probably give in.

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

DJK: Doing something. Action or arguments. In the moment. Flashbacks are okay if we feel like we're in that flashback. But then, of course, we're tempted to ask why you didn't start there instead. We're not a big fan of your characters staring at objects and remembering what they mean to you, if that makes any sense. Think of it this way. In the movies, sure, there will sometimes be a flashback that makes you forget it's a flashback. But sometimes, most of the time, the flashback will be in black-and-white or clearly a child that looks a bit like the adult star doing a small thing that is symbolic or, more often, Ultimately Effects The Rest Of Their Life. We hate that shit. Except in Officer And A Gentleman, which violated both these rules at once. Clearly I'm only talking about Officer And A Gentleman and its greatness so ignore everything above.

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?

DJK: Can I please have the name of this petty, power-hungry editor that has decided to flex what little power she has to keeping a poor, hungry, rough-around-the-edges writer down? I want to get rejected by her immediately. I want to react in a "less than professional manner" so bad right now I'm typing with my forehead. Seriously though, the only reason someone would need a black list would be to remind them not to forget their fragile feeling for a moment and accidentally let a good story slip through because, gasp, she was insulted or someone didn't know the secret handshake. Come on. The quality of the story should be all you need. And if you have a black list that you're keeping, you should probably realize that some of the greatest writers ever were monsters. And why did she even need a list? What's wrong with her memory? What is this, Memento? Okay, I demand this woman's resignation immediately. But I should confess that I myself have a list of license plate numbers of cars that have cut me off on the highway, and I would probably reject their owners' fiction if I was able to match the vehicle with the story. This has yet to happen. But we still ask that all vehicles that appear in a work submitted to us include in their description an actual license plate number.

But let me be clear, we here at Flywheel are all about the challenge of a "less than professional response." We welcome this with open arms. Anything, questions, comments, arguments. As long as you understand that we may, in return, continue this conversation for the rest of your life. It's up to you.

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

DJK: The question of handling submissions from friends, relatives, colleagues, neighbors, and minor celebrities, or especifically my sister. I mean anyone who deals with submissions from my sister, not just myself. But that's okay. We were thinking about tackling this very subject on our blog. Or maybe just thinking about tackling...

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

NEXT POST: 4/22 -- Six Questions for Amanda Deo, Editor, Thunderclap

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