Friday, April 8, 2011

Six Questions for Keely Christensen, Editor-in-Chief, The Red Asylum

The Red Asylum is a quarterly magazine that publishes "dark, twisted, scary, crazy, or just plain strange stories." The editors are looking for original stories up to around 2,000 words. Read the complete guidelines here.

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

KC: The first thing I look for is whether the story is dark and twisted. There are certain levels of dark and I like to read all of them, but the element must be present for me to consider the piece.

The next thing I look for is how the story reads as a whole. Did it make sense? Did it really keep my interest? Did everything have a certain amount of logic to it? I want to read it, finish it, and say, "wow."

The last thing I look for is writing skills. I'm not saying you have to be the next Richard Matheson, but there has to be a certain amount of "maturity" in the writing. Did the tense of the story stay consistent? Was SPaG (Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar) decent? Were the characters written well and believable?

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

KC: A number of stories have been rejected because of the endings. There have been many pieces I have read which were really wonderful, but the ending fell short. Granted, I'm not afraid to ask for rewrites on something that barely misses the mark! I'm a huge fan of twists, and I've had a fair share of my pieces rejected because of it. Hearing reasons why those kinds of endings don't work sometimes, though, has really helped me grow and "pick at" others' endings like that.

Another reason for rejection is that the story just wasn't "there" for me. I like most pieces to have a beginning, middle, and end. I'm not a huge fan of pieces (whether it be poetry or prose) that don't have something to say. Don't just tell me about your feelings of the journey, but take me on the journey with you! I'm not a huge fan of poetic writing, and there have been some which have a bit too much of that in it for me.

Third, there have been a few stories I've rejected because they're just a little too cliché. I'm all about cliché subjects: vampires, ghosts, etc. But if an author is choosing to go with one of those subjects, the story has to have something fun and unique to it.

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

KC: Errors with speech and dialogue. Start new paragraphs when speakers change! :) Comma, quotation mark, and THEN "he said." Make it read so that I can hear them speaking. Not every single change of speaker needs to have "he replied," "she answered," "he whispered," "she giggled" . . . .

I always think, too, that unless there's a specific reason, poetry deserves to have correct capitalization and punctuation!

I believe I mentioned this earlier, but when a story doesn't make sense, it drives me nuts. Elaborating, there are pieces that can get too complicated for their own good. Sometimes, simplicity works. Also, there are things written, although speculatively at times, that just aren't comprehensible. If all the plants in the world died overnight, even with the chaotic fires, vehicles glugging along, etc., people would be able to breathe the remaining oxygen for quite some time. They wouldn't have a mere few hours to live! Or if a man is shot in the gut, he probably would be in agonizing pain for a couple of hours before he actually died. He wouldn't keel over and stop breathing within a couple of seconds. Things like that.

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

KC: I really try my best to give out personal rejections. I know that I appreciate when I get specific reasons why my story wasn't taken! But there are times when I really want to get out a response, and I just don't have the time. So, I have given out form rejections. Keep in mind, though, I do try to respond within a couple of weeks (if not a couple of days).

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?

KC: I've been lucky enough to only get a few people who were upset. But what I'd want authors to know about the stories we reject is that we're definitely not the be-all and end-all of stories! I had a piece I wrote rejected nearly ten times by non-paying markets before it was accepted to a paying one. It's all just personal taste, really.

And if I ask for a rewrite, it doesn't necessarily mean it's accepted!

As for authors asking questions, I love it! I had one author ask how much it would cost to get specific likes/dislikes from a rejected piece. I told them "one hundred billion dollars," and then decided that might be too much, so I did it for free! Lol. I don't mind taking the time to let someone know my thoughts if they ask.

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

KC: Not really an added question, but I wanted to just say a quick thing about my view on poetry. I don't like it very much. I never have. I've read poetry from Browning to [insert poet's name that starts with a letter near the end of the alphabet], and I've just never grown to care for it much. But the little amount of poetry I do like always seems to have some type of "story" to it. Things happen in them. My favorite poem in the world is "Annabel Lee."

So, whereas I really would like to bring more poetry pieces into consideration, I'm just giving a heads-up on where my thoughts are with it!

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

NEXT POST: 4/11--Six Questions for Mike O'Mary, Founder, Dream of Things

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