The Journal of Microliterature is an online and print journal of critically acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction between 1 and 1,000 words. Read the complete guidelines here.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a story and why?
JoM: The first quality we always expect is a certain "wholeness" to the story; that is, that the story generally has all of the traditional parts of a story: character(s), setting, conflict, and resolution. If the piece doesn't have a true conflict or resolution, there's very little chance it will be accepted. There are exceptions for very creatively composed pieces, but you'll note a lack of literary fiction in our publication.
The second quality we expect to see is depth. Wit, foreshadowing, quips, and other hard-to-see aspects are very important to storytelling – and even more for microliterature – and we enjoy seeing how creatively an author can include those aspects in his or her work. If the piece is seemingly entirely superficial, there's little chance of it being accepted.
A third quality we expect of all works is a connection to the reader. As we're a group of reviewers and discuss/debate the works, we need to be touched by the works. Works that draw emotion from the readers tend to get extra discussion time. If a work doesn't touch us in any way, then we wonder what we gained by reading the story. Emotion really connects the reader to the work.
SQF: What are the top three reasons a story is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to the above question and why?
JoM: The top reason a story is rejected outright is due to inaccuracies, mistakes, and nonconformity with spelling, grammar, and punctuation. We generally aren't fans of an author who decides he or she doesn't like a particular punctuation mark and so doesn’t use it. Spelling mistakes in a submitted work are just sloppy. The words should flow, and any time we get agitated by a mistake it interrupts the flow of the work. If there are too many mistakes, it never makes it to the review panel.
The second reason a story is rejected is that the story doesn't contain the basic elements of a story. Besides spelling mistakes, the next most irritating aspect of a story is when it lacks conflict or resolution. It makes us wonder what the point of the story was.
The third most common reason a story is rejected is, interestingly, not conforming to the word limit. We only accept works containing 1-1,000 words, and occasionally we will receive submissions just over the limit or even wildly over the limit. These are never passed on to the review panel and are never accepted. We keep 1,000 words as a strict limit.
SQF: What other common mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a story?
JoM: Another common mistake is the unfortunate view by some authors that a funny or witty biography will make you stand out. I review the biography before the work is passed on to the review panel. If the biography is immature or has absolutely no relevance to, well, anything to do with literature, the entire work will be rejected.
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a story?
JoM: In the vast majority of cases we do. Usually I keep it to 2-3 lines that summarize the review panel's decision for rejecting the work. Depending on their comments, I sometimes encourage the author to submit a different work that might better fit the journal.
SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?
JoM: I've learned that credentials don't necessarily mean someone is a great writer. I've rejected a tenured professor for going two words over the limit; the review panel has rejected known, respected authors; we've accepted submissions from high school students. It all comes down to the integrity of the story.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
JoM: What is the most important thing you would tell writers who are considering submitting to your publication?
I would tell them to submit the work. There's no reason to be unconfident. Some people will really enjoy your work; others will really dislike your work. I've found that sometimes I don't even like all the stories I write, but it still feels great when someone else enjoys that piece. Sometimes you're writing for yourself, sometimes you're writing for others, and sometimes you're writing for the sake of writing. There's nothing wrong with any of those!
Thank you. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 5/30--Six Questions for Eric Bosarge, Editor, Eric's Hysterics