Thursday, January 5, 2012

Six Questions for Nicolette Wong, Editor, A-Minor Magazine

A-Minor publishes literary and experimental fiction to 500 words, poetry, genre-blurring and hybrid works and artworks. Read the complete guidelines here.

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

NW: I look for honesty, daring and quiet and well-crafted works. Stories and poems that tell the truth we live but can't begin to conceive, and sing with such simplicity that reveals a deeper ambivalence.

I look for risks. Writers who push the limits of voice, language and imagery in what they're doing. Form is never the question. If someone has a pair of quatrains that take surprising turns and make the heart stand still, please, let me have them.

I look for fresh voices that may not be recognized at other venues. When I read a story or a poem that makes me go, "This feels like something for (name of any hugely popular literary magazine)," chances are it's not for A-Minor.

It's for this reason that I seek genre-blurring and hybrid works, art/text and anything else a writer has to astound me. Some of us write both prose and poetry or our writing treads a fine line between the two. Many writers are also visual artists. I hope to create a venue for those who explore different possibilities in their works.

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

NW: Sentimentality - when I sense the writer's emotional attachment to the work all over the page, trying to drive the readers to a particular stop. This is the top reason many submissions get rejected even when the writing has a lot of merit. I get turned off when I feel the work isn't what it's trying to be, e.g. bitter interior monologue disguised as poetry. The last reason? The work doesn't stand out.

SQF: What other common mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a story?

NW: Throwaway comedy, ethics, gimmicks, cliches, implosions, adverbs. The blanket bombing approach - writers who haven't read anything at A-Minor, or send another batch of stories or poems right after their works have been rejected. It'd be more constructive for both parties, if the writers took a bit of time to think it over and send something new.

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

NW: I give honest answers when there's something I'd like to comment on. Some perfectly good stories and poems aren't a snug fit for the zine, so I explain what I'm looking for and encourage the writers to submit again in the future. Some works are good but don't make the cut, and I tell the writers where I think the writing falls short.

SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?

NW: Every line I write must be as fantastic as it can be, because one weak turn could send an otherwise good story or poem to the rejection pile.

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

NW: The question: "How did you become the editor of A-Minor Magazine?" My answer: "The founder of A-Minor, Sheldon Lee Compton, was looking for someone to pick up the zine. I said yes because I'm a fan of his work. Who isn't?"

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

NEXT POST: 1/9--Six Questions for Chris Rhatigan, Editor, All Due Respect


  1. Good, honest interview, thank you. Glad to be at A-minor again.

  2. I always tell people to try to avoid adverbs even if they like them, because a lot of editors don't.

  3. Great interview, Nicolette. Always love interviews with the editors, so interesting.

  4. Great interview, Nicolette! You're an excellent editor!!! Thank you for sharing your tips on what you look for!