SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a story and why?
JC: I know this sounds cliched but it is very important nonetheless. Something in the first few moments has to catch my attention or else I'll look at something else quickly. And with so many things vying for my attention on the net, that's an easy thing to happen. Another thing is simply that the writer is actually saying something, or at least telling me something that I want to read about. That kind of goes with the first thing but somehow it's different. Lastly, it needs to stay with me after I finish and make me want to re-experience it at least more than just a second time. Otherwise, why should I spend time reading something that is a complete bore?
SQF: What are the top three reasons a story is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to the above question and why?
JC: Oh that's easy:
- The writer uses cliches and doesn't do anything to make them fresh somehow by working them into a piece so that they're disguised and not recognized as the trite things they really are.
- The writer writes about something I swear I've read before, the sentences are just in a different order or something.
- The writer doesn't really know how to write. It's very obvious when this happens. There are misspelled words, bad grammar, etc. If you don't know the rules, you certainly aren't allowed to break them.
SQF: What other common mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a story?
JC: That's fairly easy too. When the writer finishes his/her piece and leaves me wondering what they were trying to get across, or exactly what the main point of it all was. Anyone can sit down and write words into what appear to be sentences. You must make them work in your favor and thus entertain the reader so that they don't feel like they are wasting their lives, albeit brief moments of it, on you.
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a story?
JC: Not usually. I send fairly straightforward rejections. But there have been times when I like the piece well enough that I make some suggestions, in hopes that the writer will work with me and thus get the piece fit for publication.
SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?
JC: The answer to this makes me humble. I have read so much great writing that many times I wonder why I even do it myself. So, to answer this one further, I would say that I have learned more about getting my own writing better by reading what I get from those who submit to my zine.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
Q: How did the name of the zine Negative Suck come about?
A: It started as the title of a failed piece of writing way back in 2007. I kept the title in my head for a long time, wondering what I should do with it. Then in late 2009 I decided that I would make it the name of a zine for writers and artists who don't suck. The term "negative suck" is used in pediatrics. An infant who sucks on a bottle or breast feeds many times does it so long that a vacuum is created, thus allowing no more air to proceed through the nipple. Thus, the infant can no longer suck: it is then a negative suck situation. I thought the term was pretty cool and used it for the zine.
Thank you, Jeff. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 5/9--Six Questions for Lori Titus, Editor, Flashes in the Dark