Friday, May 20, 2011

Six Questions for Rusty Barnes, Editor, Fried Chicken and Coffee

"No word limit/no content guidelines, within the broad categories I’ve established in my first post to this blogazine. Send me rural, funky, dirty stories about churchgoing women who never sin. I’d like to read that. I would love to see more stories about women, though. Get to the grit, get to the love, show me the scars, and take Harry Crews to heart: “Blood, bone, and nerve, that’s fiction. Show me the stuff that cuts to the quick.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

RB: I wanted to print stories and poems that come from a rural, gritty, perspective like many of the authors I admire: Larry Brown, Harry Crews, Lee Smith, Tom Franklin, Pinckney Benedict, Chris Offutt, Chris Holbrook, Silas House, for example. I wanted to print things that no one else might. I wanted room for the quiet and the fiery, the angry and the decomposed, and stories that come from the oral and written traditions. Many of those published so far have come from the South or Appalachia, which are areas that readers associate most with rural subject matter. But you can find Eric Rickstad writing about Vermont, though, Andre Dubus about Massachusetts, etc.

Rednecks come from every state and in all shapes and classes. I feel pretty safe in saying I grew up redneck, though you probably wouldn't associate that word with me if you saw me in person. Unless I was wearing my Hank III t-shirt.

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

RB: I look first for a command of and familiarity with the contemporary rural tradition. Some people can fake it well, but many can't. Second, I look for a 'jump' in the writing, something that takes it beyond the quotidian voice we're all used to and bored with. Third, I look for a reason to read beyond the first page, some element—could be many things—that propels me forward into and through  the story (or poem).

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

  • Boring prose
  • Doesn't fit well enough within the tradition
  • Boring subject matter

SQF: When reading a story, how do you know it was written by a novice author?

  • Unskilled openings and endings.
  • Unrealistic dialogue.
  • Errant pace.
  • Over-reliance on specific detail.
  • Over-explanation.

SQF: Will you publish a story an author posted on a personal blog?

RB: Yes.

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

RB: I wish you'd asked me how many submissions I get. I don't get enough. I solicit all I can, but I rely on new blood, which is tough to come by. Send me a story or poem, please.

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

NEXT POST: 5/23--Six Questions for Brian Huggett, Editor, The Short Humour Site

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