SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
BW: It actually started as a way for me to motivate myself to learn Adobe programs like InDesign and DreamWeaver. I started it right after I received my BA in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing. I intended the first issue to be nothing more than my own writing sent out to my friends and family. I called it WonderZine. When I asked my friends for their mailing addresses, two of them, Mishon Wooldridge and Jory Mickelson, expressed interest in helping out. It quickly grew from there and turned into something I had not originally intended. Something much better. We had to change the name, because WonderZine already existed, and it hasn't stopped growing.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a story and why?
- Creativity. I know that's broad. Each of our issues has a theme word. We've gotten better over the nearly three years that we've been around at choosing themes that prompt creativity. Sometimes we miss the mark. Our most recent theme was Visitors. We thought that would be a great issue to publish just before the holidays. What we got was an overwhelming number of stories about aliens. That was a surprise to me. I'm not saying that stories about aliens are bad or lack creativity (in fact we published some of those stories), but if you want to stand out above the other submissions, you don't want to go with your first instinct. Another theme, Secrets, gave us a large number of stories about spousal abuse or molestation, so the stories that really stood out were the ones that weren't about spousal abuse or molestation.
- 5x5 is a concise magazine, so we look for concise writing. We prefer not to publish sections of larger pieces, like a chapter of a novel. We want the story to have a beginning, a middle and an end all in itself. We know that's a challenge in 500 words, but it's also a joy to read when it's done well.
- A finished product. If there's a typo in the first line, it isn't a good sign. If there are multiple mistakes, it seems like you're not even trying. I actually find it to be disrespectful. Get a friend to read it for a second set of eyes if you need to. Don't use us as your second set of eyes. We don't want to correct your work; we're going to accept it or reject it.
SQF: What are the top three reasons a story is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to the above question and why?
- If our guidelines aren't met, we throw it out. The number one guideline to be ignored is length. We can't fit your 2000 word story into our small magazine. That's an instant rejection.
- We use Submishmash. If you email me a submission, I will not respond. When we first started out, I read emailed submissions. As we grew, I had to stop that in order to put my time and energy to better use. I started emailing those artists back and asking them to resubmit through Submishmash. I have since stopped responding to emailed submissions altogether. I simply don't have the time, and I'd prefer to reward the artists who take the time to read the guidelines. If you're emailing me your submission even though there's a message on our website that says, "We use Submishmash. Please don't submit by email. You may not get any response at all," then you probably didn't read the rest of the guidelines either.
- Other than these technicalities, not addressing the theme will get your work rejected and being too sexually explicit will also get your work rejected. One of our main target audiences is high school students. We just want to keep it appropriate. It can be a fine line sometimes.
SQF: Approximately what percentage of your submissions do you accept?
BW: I'd like to answer that based on category.
- Poetry: We receive nearly 300 poetry submissions for each issue, and we accept five. So that's 1.6%
- Fiction gets about 100 submissions, and again, we accept five. So 5%.
- Nonfiction only receives 10 submissions for each issue, so we accept 50% of those. This is an area where we have room to grow.
- Comics: if it fits our guidelines, we accept it. We get very few comics submissions.
- Visual Arts: We get about 30-50 and we try to accept five, but cost comes into play with this category. We may not be able to afford five color pages in each issue.
SQF: Will you publish a story an author posted on a personal blog?
BW: Yes. We don't consider posting to your own blog "published." And, like most literary magazines, after we've printed it, it's yours again. So you can post it to your blog if you want to. Leaving a note that tells your readers where to find a printed copy would be swell.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
BW: How long should an artist wait to hear back from you?
We don't start reading until after the deadline. You'll hear back from us within two or three weeks after the deadline. This means if you submit six months before the deadline, you'll be waiting a while and if you submit just before the deadline, you won't wait too long at all. We know six months is a long time to wait for a response, but we allow simultaneous submissions, so take advantage of that and just wait patiently. The good news is that once we accept your piece we definitely publish it (some magazines accept the work, maybe pay you for it, but never actually use it) and we publish it in our next issue (some magazines won't publish your work until a year later). Those are two aspects we're proud of.
Thank you, Bradley. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 2/2--Six Questions for Nathaniel Tower, Founder and Editor, Bartleby Snopes