Thursday, December 8, 2011

Six Questions for Nicole Monaghan, Editor, Nailpolish Stories

Nailpolish Stories publishes literary fiction of exactly 25 words (not counting the title) on a monthly schedule. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

NM: I think it's about connectivity for me. Literature, both reading and writing it, is that something that has the power to connect every human being. Regardless of race, sex, sexuality, social "class," family history, lifestyle, personality, etc., of the reader or writer, words touch, linger, uplift, validate, heal, and connect with their honesty, multitude of meanings, with what they conjure up, and with how they try to make sense of life or reveal life's lack of sense. Music (in large part due to lyrics) is the only other artform that does this so purely. Every literary project is another "arm" for me to connect myself to who I want to be, to others, and to connect to more literature and inspire others to make connections.

SQF: The stories are only 25 words. What do you look for in a story and why?

NM: I look for the same things in these tiny pieces that I love in longer pieces, suggestions of deeply human things, words placed uniquely, unique word choices and characters--or suggestions of characters--who I care about and recognize. The more is suggested, the better. Squeeze it in there with words that hold lots of weight.

SQF: What turns you off to a story, other than it not fitting into your answer to question one and why?

NM: I dislike flowery language. Flowery is for flowers. Give me cold, hard words that just are. If the story is 25 words, and more than a few of them are adjectives, you are describing more than storytelling. I think confident writers don't lean on adjectives. They face the problem of finding stellar nouns and verbs. (I leaned on stellar--didn't say I was always confident).

SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a story?

NM: I might, but probably not. I am a very experienced reject-ee, so I understand wanting to know the why of a rejection. I am, however, more likely to give commentary on a piece I really like and want to accept, but that doesn't seem quite right. I have offered editorial suggestions, the tweaking of a word or two, with the understanding that the author can tell me to shove it and send their work the way it is somewhere else, or maybe they will agree that the change has improved the story, and we will both get what we hoped for.

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?

NM: As a writer, I very much get the visceral reaction to rejection. We often see our work as an extension of ourselves, and quite frankly, it hurts when it isn't "liked" or "wanted." The thing I've learned is that it really, really isn't about you (me). It's really about the particular editor's literary aesthetics and how any given piece does or doesn't resonate. I have never responded to an editor's rejection, and I think it's bad form to do so. I'd advise all submitters to any publication to accept that the piece wasn't right for that pub, and keep writing, no matter what. Always keep writing. In fact, write even more because someone rejected the piece you loved. And ask yourself again if you really loved it and if so, love it even harder.

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

NM: I think a good question is what have I found to be a helpful strategy for improving my own writing, which I'm constantly attempting to do? There's this: walk away from it. Walk away from it again. Leave it to its own devices, and when you come back, believe me, you will see it differently. And you'll make it better. Then, walk away and come back one more time.

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

NEXT POST: 12/12--Six Questions for E.S. Wynn, Editor, Daily Love


  1. Nail Polish stories are a kick in the pants. Of course, enhanced by a foot with Go-Go-Pink polish on its toes!!

  2. Great interview. Nail Polish stories sounds fun. I just looked at the names on all my little bottles: Cherry Crush, Royal Romance, Creme Brulee. :) put the old thinking cap on.

  3. Love the answer to the last question.