Thursday, March 22, 2012

Six Questions for Ian Chung, Editor, Eunoia Review

Eunoia Review publishes poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction on a daily basis. Read the complete guidelines here.

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

IC: Above all, I'm looking for evidence that the writing reflects some degree of thought put into it, and I'm not talking about the 'first thought, best thought' variety. It's unlikely that your first draft is actually as brilliant as you think it is while you're writing it. For poetry specifically, I'm also interested in work that displays an awareness and control of form, image and sound. With prose, what I want is satisfaction when I read the ending. What this 'satisfaction' actually consists of changes depending on the length of the piece. The shorter it is, the more open I am to oblique storytelling and leaving things vague for the reader. Once the piece goes above, say, 1500 words though, I'm typically a lot less forgiving of faulty logic and sloppy storytelling.

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

IC: I'm going to give one reason for each genre I publish. With poetry, it's because the poet's still in thrall to the idea that poetry must rhyme at all costs. I like rhyme. I just don't think it works as well as it used to for poets because the rhythms and patterns of contemporary speech mean that end-stopped, full-on rhyme makes for a stilted poem. For fiction, the writer simply fails to tell an interesting story, or resorts to too many conventional tropes, and not in some sort of postmodern, parodic way. I don't receive or publish as much creative non-fiction submissions as I'd like, and it's partly because I get too many pieces that sound like newspaper articles/columns or personal blog entries.

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

IC: It's slightly off-putting when someone just sends an e-mail with an attachment and their bio. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's obligatory to include a cover letter, but at least write something simple and straightforward, like 'Dear Editor, please consider my submission. Thank you.' It's better than nothing. I'm always pleasantly surprised when a writer's e-mail begins 'Dear Ian', since it means they've dug around the journal (and the Internet) enough to figure out who's behind it. Another gaffe is just forwarding me the e-mail you sent to another journal. (Or forgetting to reword the cover letter within the submission attachment. That's actually happened before.) Just because I'm open to simultaneous submissions doesn't mean you can't at least go about it politely. I also hate it when writers send in Word attachments that contain wonky grammar or spelling. Microsoft's grammar and spelling checks are far from perfect, but most errors I've had to fix so far would definitely have been caught by just hitting F7 while in Word.

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

IC: Not usually, unless there's something very specific that's keeping me from accepting a submission I otherwise like, which I think the writer could easily fix. In that case, I'll point it out in my reply, with an invitation to consider my suggestions and resubmit a revised piece for consideration.

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

IC: As I mentioned earlier, first thought is almost certainly not best thought, so revising is key when it comes to writing. I've also learnt that it's still possible to be surprised by how writers employ language. I love it when I come across a submission that I wish I'd written myself. In a way, I think being an editor has made me want to push my own writing further because I can see there are so many people out there who care enough about words to use them well.

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

IC: Where do you stand on print versus digital publishing?

You'd think that publishing an online-only journal, I'd be completely pro-digital. In reality, I really love print books. I've got shelves of them, both at home and at university, and it drives my mum mad. I've also been buying a lot of print journals lately. I don't like print for nostalgic reasons though, e.g. 'I like the way books smell'. I just think the experience of reading is materially different when you read something in print versus off a screen, and it's not a case of one being better than the other. They're just different ways of reading. I publish online as an editor because it's the medium that fits best with the rest of  my life at the moment. If somewhere down the road, I amass enough money, manpower and layout skills to do a print edition of Eunoia Review, I'd love to make that happen too.

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

NEXT POST: 3/26--Six Questions for Anne Pinckard, Slush Reader, Flash Fiction Online

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