This site is no longer publishing. Past stories remain online.
Eric's Hysterics publishes one piece of literary humor every Monday. These include prose from 100 to 3,000 words, images, and poetry. Read the complete guidelines here.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a story and why?
EB: First and foremost, humor. That's what this publication is about. I can overlook a lot if a piece is funny, but if it doesn't make me laugh, it's automatically out. Also, it's got to keep me interested. When I read submissions, I pretend I have ADD. Any webzine's readers have the biggest library in the world at their fingers, so when they come across my publication I want them to be thoroughly entertained. Lastly, I look for the piece to be grounded by a clear narrative thread, and for the story to progress. Comedy is really just drama in disguise.
SQF: What are the top three reasons a story is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to question one and why?
EB: I get a lot of stories that I like a great deal but aren't quite right for this publication. They may be funny in a spot or two, but it's clear they weren't written for an audience expecting humor first and foremost. I'm not suggesting people write with this particular market in mind, but they should look over the story and ask themselves, 'did I miss any opportunities for a laugh?' before hitting send. Eric's Hysterics really is a unique market.
SQF: What other mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a story?
EB: While I'm willing to overlook a few typos, people really should have a friend proofread their stories before sending them in. Also, I'm not a fan of poems that rant or don't use specific, concrete images as springboards into the abstract. I like writing that is grounded and can be easily identified with.
SQF: What is it about the characters in a story that makes them pop off the page and grab hold of you?
EB: Each character should have one thing that sets them apart from the rest of the people in the story. Whether that is a physical characteristic, a point of view, or a verbal tick doesn't really matter. Interesting situations grab me too. A story can grab me or lose me in the very first line.
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?
EB: I've received a few of these perplexing rejection letters. I deleted them and think no more of it. As a writer myself, I know it's tough to deal with rejection, but it's part of the business and it truly is subjective. My publication has a very specific criteria for acceptance. I've rejected a lot of great pieces that just weren't quite what I was looking for. Writers shouldn't take rejections personally.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
EB: What flavor ice cream do you like best? Cookie dough. Why, do you have some?
Thank you, Eric. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 6/1--Six Questions for Tom Dooley, Managing and Fiction Editor, Eclectica Magazine