**With input from co-editors Amber Ginsburg and Rebecca Keller
"We are interested in all kinds of work, including that which can be easily categorized and that which defies labels; we publish a variety of sculpture, installations, poetry, prose poetry, fiction, photography, nonfiction, socially-engaged research, essays, editorials, interdisciplinary creations and art of all stripes and varieties." Read the complete guidelines here.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a story and why?
AG: Because we publish art, poetry, and narrative (fiction and nonfiction), our definition of a story is very open. It can be made of images (static or moving), sounds, or words. We look for original interpretations of a subject.
KG: We hope to find fresh voices with insightful takes on challenging topics; we’re particularly interested in artistic collaborations and socially engaged pieces.
RK: I’m also drawn in by an interesting topic or connection, something I didn’t know before, or haven’t seen before, or a poetic or surprising juxtaposition or combination. We are interdisciplinary--if you are using words and images and research together in interesting ways, I am very likely to want to work with you--even if we need to do some editorial work together to bring the piece to stronger focus.
SQF: What are the top three reasons a story is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to question one and why?
KG: Spelling and grammar should be a given. Poor writing is the first and most immediate turn off, probably followed by immature or tired takes on a common subject.
AG: Trite metaphors!
RK: Or people who really, truly don’t get it, haven’t read the magazine, or keep sending emails saying they don’t understand our premise and then submit multiple things anyway.
SQF: What other mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a story?
KG: Sadly, contemporary attention spans are short, and anything in a story that isn’t absolutely necessary starts to weigh it down. Take the time you need to express the story, but no more than that--brevity is usually better than verbosity. Having said that, of course, there are exceptions; we’re always open to longer short stories that, as Amber says, are a slow simmer.
RK: There are also people whose works are really trying to make a broad/generalized (as opposed to individual and specific) political or social point, and are trying to do it though fiction—this is very tough to do and often these fall into allegory or moralizing. So am I being contradictory to say I love it when it is done well, and stories poetry etc. connect to larger political or cultural issues? The devil is in the execution, I guess. But we also publish non-fiction, essays, and other things that are not easily categorized, which is something I love about YoYo.
AG: The three of us, with divergent practices and creative focuses, are almost always in agreement about not only submissions but areas of concern. We each blind edit a work, and while our suggestions might differ slightly, VERY OFTEN all three of us spot the same sentence, visual placement or other concern in a work. It has been curious and quite remarkable.
SQF: What is it about the characters in a story that makes them pop off the page and grab hold of you?
RK: A sense of a convincing, and interesting, inner life: If a character HAS character and intelligence.
KG: Strong dialogue.
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?
KG: We believe that stories we reject might very well find a home elsewhere; different publications have different missions. We hope that authors realize a rejection from us is just saying that their work doesn’t fit our vision for this issue, not that we don’t think it should be published by others. Rejection is part of the game. It’s important to get used to it in any artistic profession, and rudeness in response to a rejection only confirms that the rejection was deserved. We are happy to correspond with authors regarding their work--we often have extended email conversations about submissions, both those that were and those that weren’t accepted.
RK: I don’t think we’ve had too many of those so far...but people need to behave with maturity. But, as Kristin says, we have had extended email conversations with submitters--I like to think they were helpful.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
AG: How is your publication different from other publications?
RK: I second that--because we have a unique structure that is responsive and iterative; each issue builds on a conversation and upon other works.
Thank you, Amber, Rebecca, and Kristin. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 9/19--Six Questions for Dena Rash Guzman, Editor, Unshod Quills