Thursday, May 31, 2012

Six Questions for Cetywa Powell, Editor, Underground Voices

Underground Voices publishes poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and flash fiction. Read the complete guidelines here.


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

CP: Is it entertaining, is it well-written and does it fit the style of Underground Voices? I read a lot of submissions that clearly come from talented writers, but the stories are often lackluster and tedious to finish. I consider myself to be the first audience, and if I can’t get through it, I assume the average reader won’t be able to either.

Thirdly, does it fit the style of Underground Voices? I always encourage writers to read a few stories and poems from the magazine before submitting because Underground Voices has a particular style. Sometimes stories get rejected simply because they aren’t a right fit for the magazine.


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

CP: Bland writing. A lot of submissions fail to resonate. There’s nothing particularly bad about them but there’s nothing particularly interesting about them either. They’re grammatically sound, decently written, but they suffer from mediocrity. Unfortunately, it’s the main reason submissions get rejected.

Cliched writing. Across every written spectrum, there are phrases and words that are overused. It’s easier to justify clichés in blogs or social media, but literary fiction needs a higher bar. Additionally, the style at Underground Voices is quite specific, so I tend to weed out writing that leans on clichés. Impressive submissions are always writers with a strong voice and distinct writing style.

Finally, rhyming poetry. It’s just a preference thing.


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

CP: Writers who submit too much: 10 attachments with 10 different stories, 102 pages of poetry (it’s happened), novellas instead of our 4,000 maximum word count… overkill is a big mistake.

I guess because of the name, Underground Voices, some writers misinterpret this to mean a magazine that will print anything with excessive violence or offensive language. They mistake this for being edgy. So there are always submissions where offensive language seems randomly peppered in. Violence or offensive language isn’t off-putting, but it has to be earned and it has to enhance the story not degrade it.


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

CP: I’m hesitant to provide feedback because writers, like all artists, are a sensitive bunch. It’s important to let them know that I rejected it because it didn’t fit Underground Voices. However, it may be perfect for another magazine. I don’t want to discourage writers from sending their work out again and I don’t want to discourage them from writing, writing, and writing. Another reason I don’t provide feedback is because I know the pass is final. No amount of revision is going to change my mind about the submission. I’ve read it, I’ve passed. If I passed for minor reasons, however, I’ll provide a few comments. In these cases, I usually encourage writers to submit more of their work.


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?

CP: Any level of rejection stings. However, the most important thing to take away when an author is rejected by Underground Voices is that it’s not the be all and end all. Underground Voices is a small magazine and a rejection here counts for very little in the bigger world of literary magazines. Put the rejection in a larger context and keep sending your writing out.

Along this same idea, is it okay for authors to reply with polite questions about the comments they receive? Sure, but I’ve never offered suggestions on how to fix stories. I think writing courses and online writing forums do a better job of guiding writers. The decision process is very narrow at Underground Voices because it caters to one style: the style of the magazine. Many stories simply don’t fit that style. A rejection doesn’t always mean “bad writer.” It could mean “wrong fit.” It’s important for writers to remember that too.


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

CP: This will seem like a relatively simple question, but it’s deceptive. How honest should writers be about having their previously published stories re-published elsewhere? Does it matter? It does matter. I think writers should be careful about being disingenuous. Many magazines, Underground Voices included, won’t publish work that has been previously published online. Yet, a couple of times, we’ve had to pull stories down when an irate editor from another magazine said UV had republished a story from one of their writers. Clearly the writers knew they were being dishonest when they submitted their work, and they suffered the consequences. Both were blacklisted from the previous magazines and had their writing taken down at Underground Voices. I think writers have to understand that this rule is a courtesy rule amongst magazine editors. Writers should respect that rule too.

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

NEXT POST: 6/4--Six Questions for Peter LaBerge, Editor-in-Chief, The Adroit Journal

Monday, May 28, 2012

Six Questions for Amanda Bales, Fiction Editor, The Umbrella Factory

Umbrella Factory publishes fiction of 1,000-5,000 words, poetry, nonfiction, and art. Read the complete guidelines here.


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

AB: First of all, I’m going to state how awkward I feel making these claims. It feels like trying to pinpoint what I find attractive in a romantic partner. Dark hair? Blonde hair? Tall? Short? None of that ever really matters. Attraction is always about the unique individual (and chemistry and hormones and, I don’t know, string theory or something). I think the same applies to stories. Each story, no matter its parts, can be wonderful.

 At the same time, there are certain things hoped for, and it’s probably best to know them and be honest about them (likes Townes Van Zandt, doesn’t kick puppies…I think this just turned into a dating column, I’m going to stop now). So, here are some hopes, or some guidelines, in any case.

Language – I look for language that breaks me in some way. I want to read back over a line or two and marvel. I want to be jealous of those words. I want a sense that the author has taken care with their work.

Revelation – This is a tricky word. I definitely don’t mean that a character needs to come to some sort of revelation about his or her life (Why, of course I should stop mainlining heroine and go back to school! Thanks, Inspiring English Teacher!). I will say, however, that the stories I like best reveal something about others, or myself, or a culture, or physics, etc……… I guess when I say revelation, I mean discovery. I want to discover something as a reader.

Investment – This is another tricky word. (Most words are tricky. I’ll stop saying this.) I want to be invested in the story. Ideally, at the end of the story, I will continue to imagine the lives of the characters.


SQF: What are the top three things that turn you off to a story and why?

AB: I think we can take the three above and reverse them for this: A story with no sense of discovery comprised of careless language and featuring innocuous characters.

 Things I am not exactly the largest fan of, although a good writer can change my mind:

  • Stories about academics, or writers, or students trying to become academics or writers
  • Machismo stories (Masculine stories are great. Swagger stories are great. Machismo is a false, blustering kind of masculinity. Machismo is Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds.)


SQF: What advice can you offer new authors hoping to publish their first story?

AB: I don’t know that advice can be specific to new authors. Some pretty standard comments:

  • Read the journal to which you are submitting. Ours, like most online journals, has an archives section, so it’s pretty simple. (And, really, why would you want to be published somewhere unless you love their work? What if they accept your story, and then you read a few past issues and discover that you think they publish crap? Wouldn’t that be far, far worse?)
  • Make your bio concise. Even if you decide to go the quirky bio route, make it briefly quirky.
  • Don’t, and I repeat, DO NOT, respond to a rejection.

 The journal just didn’t “get” how awesome your story was, right? It’s their fault entirely, those stupid jerkfaces.

 Look, maybe this is the case. We all know tales of amazing stories being rejected by lit journals. Maybe one day your hard work will be just such a tale. Let your amazing story being published elsewhere be the response to rejection. Let the jerkfaces be the ones in the wrong (with their stupid, sad, jerkfaces). Although the publishing world can seem giant and amorphous, it’s really very small. We all talk to one another, and nothing beats a great angry submitter story. They get passed around, taped to office walls, posted on Twitter. One inebriated rant against the oppressive oligarchy of Stupid Jerkface Journal, and it’s highly possible that your name will become a punch line. Your name is important. Resist.

 My only other advice would be this: Don’t despair. Don’t take it personally. Keep working.


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

AB: If the submission has impressed me in some way, then yes. I (we) usually let this person know that we would like to see more work if it is available. For the most part, however, a rejection is clean and impersonal. I admire the process at Our Stories more than can possibly be expressed, and, as a writer, I understand how getting a personal rejection can be helpful and encouraging. But, as a writer, I also know that an impersonal rejection is not more of a rejection. 


SQF: What do you consider to be the primary responsibilities of an editor?

AB: My primary responsibility at The Umbrella Factory is pretty simple: find fiction we can all be proud to publish.

But I have a responsibility to those submitting as well. I do not read submissions when I am tired or cranky or hungry (this leaves a pretty small window of time in my day). Did you read that report about judges being more likely to give harsh sentences just before lunch? We all like to think we use our gut to decide if a story is what we are looking for, but, ya know what? Sometimes our guts just need cheeseburgers. I promise those submitting to The Umbrella Factory that their work will never be rejected because I need a cheeseburger.

In the largest possible sense, I have a responsibility to promote and foster quality contemporary short fiction. That’s what I try to get at with my section on our “The Beginning” page.


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

AB: Um, “Who will take the AL Central?”

I’m actually quite glad that this interview was brief. I think setting parameters can be helpful, but trying to codify something this subjective can also be pretty damaging, maybe even silly.

Do I like redheads?

Yes.

Do I exclusively date redheads?

Good grief, of course not.

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

NEXT POST: 5/31--Six Questions for Cetywa Powell, Editor, Underground Voices

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Six Questions for Adam, Editor, Morpheus Tales

Morpheus Tales publishes fiction to 3,000 words and articles to 2,000 words in the horror, science fiction and fantasy genres. Read the complete guidelines here.


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

A:
  • Correct formatting - shows professionalism.
  • A story that grabs me from the first line - we read several stories a day so you need to stand out.
  • A story that makes me feel something - a story that doesn't engage us is not something we want to read.


SQF: When reading a submission, what clues tell you the submission was written by a novice author?

A: There is no reason why a novice author should not be able to submit a story in the same condition a professional author would, the most common mistakes are below and include not reading the guidelines and adhering to the rules. Yes, some rules are set in stone. Professional authors tend to be very polished: very few, if any, typos, standard manuscript format, meet deadlines, etc.


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

A: Incorrect formatting, typos, bad grammar and punctuation, not meeting the writers guidelines. The guidelines are there to help you and us. They tell you what we want. If you can't provide what we want there are other authors who will. Your story, no matter how marvelous, won't be considered if you can't meet the guidelines.

Stories with familiar themes or stereotypes, lacking good characters or settings, clunky dialogue, bad descriptions, lack of plot, lack of atmosphere, etc.


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

A: When we can we do. Sometimes stories just don't fit, even if the story is perfectly good. If there are ways of improving the story to a degree that it is publishable, we will try to work with the author to fix it.


SQF: What do you consider to be the primary responsibilities of an editor?

A: To produce the best publication possible. To edit the material to a publishable standard. To find and nurture talent.


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

A: What piece of guidance would you give a writer thinking of submitting? Read the magazine, as many issues as possible to give you an idea of what we publish. Then read the guidelines.

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

NEXT POST: 5/28--Six Questions for Amanda Bales, Fiction Editor, Umbrella Factory Magazine

Monday, May 21, 2012

Six Questions for Ryan Swofford, Editor, The Weekenders Magazine

The Weekenders Magazine publishes fiction and essays to 2,000 words and poetry. “We're a literary magazine (sort of). The kind of thing you wouldn't want your grandmother to read. There is no such thing as censorship, and this online mag aims to show the world that. We believe creativity should serve itself and the earth, and it should in some way better it...even if that means making someone crack a smile or giving someone something to think about.” Read the complete guidelines here.


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

RS: I look for simplicity, uniqueness, and a sharp, biting reality behind the entire piece. If there is something that shocks me (but not for the sole value of doing so), then I will more than likely be interested. If you can grab me by the shirt-collar, then you're gold. Just make sure there's a payoff somewhere...otherwise it just seems like a trick.


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

RS: For whatever reason, I keep receiving submissions about politics. We are not into politics at all. Please, under no circumstances send us anything to do with politics; you just don't write poetry discussing politics unless you seriously know how to do it. Otherwise, you're just ranting, and that is not what poetry is for (let alone fiction). Another reason I reject submissions is ghastly usage of violence. For some reason, some writers think that if they have a lot of blood, it'll be good. Not at all. In fact, it's gross. And lastly, I reject stuff because of un-followed guidelines. And that one's a given. If you're not invested enough in my magazine to read the guidelines, then I don't care to publish your work. You'll find that with any publication.


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

RS: Crafty dialogue tags. A simple "he said" will do. You don't need to throw out words like "hiss" or "bark" or "growl." I mean, does this sound good to you: "Get out of my life!" he growled"? I don't think so.


SQF: What is it about the characters in a submission that makes them pop off the page and grab hold of you?

RS: Characters that we feel like we know oftentimes have suffered the same woes that we have. Oftentimes, we feel like we know a character when every time they speak, it's obviously them speaking. Or when there's a single, repetitive detail about a character, a reoccurring description or line about the character...then we're drawn into that unique character by the narrative. For example, say a character always chews tobacco. A nasty habit, sure. But what if he swallows it instead?


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?

RS: Being a writer myself, I understand how frustrating being rejected for the fifteenth time feels like, but in all those times, I have remembered to keep my head screwed on tight because of this: "If you're good to mama, mama's good to you." And I live by that. And I think when writers want to respond unprofessionally to a rejection, that's their right, but just know that I have friends.

Now, I usually send a polite rejection letter detailing exactly why a submission was rejected, so usually I don't get too much correspondence after that point. Thankfully, I have yet to be insulted by a writer, but I know what to do if I do...I'll probably go tell all my little friends. Most of the time, I reject pieces because it's not the kind of writing we'd like to publish...okay, that's fine. That means there's someone else who'll probably publish it. So don't ruin your chances by being mean to magazines after they say no.

Be professional. Always, always, always be professional. People will like you better that way.


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

RS: Probably: "What are some specific topics you're interested in?"

And I would answer like this: Read the content already up on the site. It's hard to pin-point exactly what I like, but perhaps narrowing the list will be shorter. I do not want to receive genre fiction (Westerns, romance, sci-fi, fantasy, etc.) or anything other than literary fiction. When I say literary fiction, please do not let it be synonymous with "serious" fiction. In fact, if you can make us laugh (usually through wit or dark humor and the like), then we will be all the more in love with your work. We have been pretty well-known for publishing slam poetry, bizarro prose/poetry (without the fantasy and all, or without magic or voodoo or anything silly like that), and stuff that conservative people should not read if they want to sleep well at night.

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

NEXT POST: 5/24--Six Questions for Adam, Editor, Morpheus Tales

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Six Questions for John E. Smelcer and Rod Clark, Editors, Rosebud

Rosebud publishes prose from 1,000 to 3,000 words long, poetry, and occasional essays. Read the complete guidelines here.

NOTE: This response is from Rosebud editors, John Smelcer (poetry) and Rod Clark (fiction). Rosebud is one of America’s premier literary magazines, distributed on the shelves of over 1,300 Barnes & Nobles in the US, Canada, and the UK.


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

RC: A voice that lifts me out of my chair and takes me somewhere unexpected. Why else do we read?

JS: Years ago, I would have said don’t rhyme, avoid overt use of older poetic forms, and stop writing about grandmothers watching children play in the rain or about your bad break-up. But over the decades, I’ve come to realize all that really matters is the affecting experience a reader has with a poem.


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

RC:
  • A labored beginning is a biggie. We all want to see a painting, but who has the time to watch someone carpenter the frame and stretch the canvas? Start in the heart of the story.
  • Too much generic prose in the middle! We are looking for voice, personality, style
  • An ending that looks like an ending. A close that tells us we’ve been somewhere interesting and leaves the taste of it in our mind.

JS: I’ll be honest, I receive as many as 7,000 poems a year, and I can accept as few as twenty a year! Against such odds, I have to turn away some very good poems. If Rosebud was only a poetry journal, using, say 100 pages of poems per issue (300 or more a year), the story would be very different.


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

RC: If you do not do dialect well, please, please, don’t attempt it. Titles should be interestingly indicative, not blandly descriptive. Don’t just tell us what you are going to say. Have the title point us toward something we don’t know yet. Short fiction is almost always better when it runs no more than 4000 words. Ask yourself: What is necessary? What is gratuitous? Overly biographical? Preachy? Unnecessarily tangential? Is there a paragraph that you love and doesn’t fit? Save it to insert in something else.

JS: Believe it or not, I often receive poems from brand new writers who insist on absurd terms in their cover letter, as if they are movie stars demanding chocolates and Pepsi without ice in the Green Room.


SQF: What is the best part of being an editor?

RC: Calling writers up to tell them we want them in ROSEBUD.

JS: Frequently, I work with a poet if I think her poem could be strong enough to publish. We’ll exchange a series of emails (used to be letters; ah the good old days) in which I offer suggestions until the poem is ready. 99% of the time, writers welcome such unaccustomed and useful feedback.


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?

RC: If an author is impolite, I am unlikely to be enthusiastic about working with them again. If they apologize—I clean the slate, and give authors new chances. Everyone makes mistakes, (even editors!) and when we acknowledge that we can grow as people and writers. Regrettably, we do not have much time to teach writing. Mostly, pieces are a fit for the magazine or they are not—and we cannot always comment on why. On the other hand, I don’t hold it against a writer for asking for feedback. Unfortunately we can’t always provide it.

JS: I have received letters and emails telling me to jump off a bridge after sending the usual rejection letter. I remember those names. I can tell you that your poems are going to be rejected most of the time (perhaps as high as 90% at first). I used to send out wheel barrow loads of submissions expecting that only a few might get accepted. Deal with it.


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

RC: People often ask how long it takes to reject a piece, and are upset when I say it can take as little as 30 seconds to realize a piece is not for ROSEBUD. A much better question would be: How long does it take to ACCEPT a piece. That can take days or even weeks as we map out a given issue and assemble the editorial quilt.

JS: Once a poem (or story) is accepted by a magazine or journal, it can be a year before it comes out in print. I’ve had many poems accepted (and paid for) only to come out in print many years later. Don’t bother editors after only a couple months demanding that your work come out in print asap.

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

NEXT POST: 5/21--Six Questions for Ryan Swofford, Editor, Dumb Butt Magazine

Monday, May 14, 2012

Six Questions for Susan Terris, Editor, Spillway

Spillway is a twice annual, print poetry journal. Issues are themed. Read the complete guidelines here.


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

ST: I like to be surprised. Spillway issues are themed, and I’m always looking for unusual ways to approach any of them, though I think all themes are probably variations on “love and death”.

I look for a variety of poetic styles, because I think an eclectic volume is always more interesting than one that feels as if it reflects only one type of poem. I think of each volume as an anthology, which – I hope – is rich in possibility.

I am always looking for musicality of line and a strong sense of poetic craft – poems that seem finished (whatever that means), rather than still in process.


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

ST: Poems that seem to be still in process. (Sorry a repeat, but the #1 reason poems get rejected.)

Good, well-made poems that seem to lack the spark that makes me fall in love with them. It’s always necessary for me to fall in love with a poem before I say yes.

Poems that are excellent but seem to duplicate poems already accepted for a volume. Often submitting late in a cycle is a disadvantage, because I do a kind of rolling acceptance. That means by the end of a cycle it’s much harder to get a “Yes” from me.


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

ST: Poems that don’t seem fresh. Poems that don’t make me feel something. In general, I excuse spelling, punctuation, even grammatical errors – all of which can be easily corrected – but I don’t like: lower case “i” in first person poems, poems that are centered, poems that arrive with ornate, hard-to-read fonts, or cover letters with long, padded bios.  For me, it’s always strictly about the poem, not about the prior credits of the poet.


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

ST: I provide comments for poems that come close and for poets I’ve published before; but most poets receive an online note that is not individualized. I read at least 5,000 poems per issue, so individual responses to all are simply not possible. I am a one person editorial staff with no assistant editors or interns. And I also act as Poetry Editor for two online journals – In Posse Review and Pedestal Magazine, so I read & reply to those poem submissions also. I wish I could reply to each poet individually, but I simply can’t.


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

ST: I’ve learned a lot about the kind of surprise, spark, or originality that will attract an editor. Interesting titles seem to make an editor take a good look at a poem. Any poem should have concrete details that intrigue or delight the editorial reader. I’ve learned themed issues offer a somewhat better chance of acceptance, since editors need poems that fit or broaden the theme, rather than only poems by better-known poets. Oh, yes – and I’ve learned not to send out work in that first flush of excitement right after it’s written but to wait, revise, reread, revise again until any poem is as well-crafted as I am able to make it. And, lastly, I’ve learned that sometimes, no matter how hard a poet works, a poem is simply not a poem – that it should be something written as prose or that it should (yikes!) simply be deleted.


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

ST: Are you more interested in the poet or the poem?

For me, it’s always about the poem. If I fall in love with a poem, it doesn’t matter to me who the poet is or how many impressive publishing credits he/she has.

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

NEXT POST: 5/17--Six Questions for John E. Smelcer and Rod Clark, Editors, Rosebud

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Six Questions for M. R. Branwen, Editor, Slush Pile Magazine

Slush Pile Magazine publishes literary short fiction to 7,000 words. In addition, essays and poetry will be considered. Learn more here.


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

MRB:

a. The prose must be transparent and elegant. Transparent in the sense that the words should be a conduit into the story by means of which I am being carried along. But I should never be made aware of the mechanism. There should be no stumbling over awkward syntax or affectation. I should almost be unaware that I am reading.

But simultaneously, in the part of my mind that is listening, not translating, the words should be reverberating. Because they should have personality and cadence. Ideally, I will wake up in the middle of the night and realize that I am ruminating on a passage of the story.

b. There should be tremendous momentum. From the opening sentence, my mind ought never wander -- and not because there is action taking place in the plot, but simply because the pacing is appropriate. I notice that in an effort to bring readers into the characters' reality writers will spend time dwelling on minutiae. There is a place for that, sort of, but that is often where writers lose me. 

c. Ideally, after that, is some kind of narrative arc. Your story and characters should progress, they should accomplish something. This is not nearly as important as the first two points, except when a story has gotten off to a good start and then suddenly falls off of a cliff. That's actually how we talk about it in our readers' notes to each other, by the way, because it is such a common occurrence. Why spend all the time and effort crafting a story to just suddenly abandon it at the end?


SQF: What are the top three things that turn you off to a submission and why?

MRB: I don't know if I can do a top three, but common culprits include too much dialogue and too many adjectives. And, you know, the absence of everything I noted in response to question #1. 


SQF: What advice can you offer new authors hoping to publish their first submission?

MRB: Write prolifically and join a workshop. Then write more. Then take your favorite story, scrap it entirely and without looking at the first version, write a new version. Do that again a few times. Once you have done that, you will have a much better perspective on the story, which parts of it are actually important, and which version is actually working. After that, submit. But, realistically, you're going to be rejected on your first go-round.

There isn't an easy answer to getting a submission accepted; it's not like you can trick an editor into selecting your story by implementing a strategy. It has to be a solid story and it has to suit the editor's taste. In order to accomplish the first point, you have to work diligently. Blood, sweat, and tears and all that. There's no getting around it. The second point is just a matter of identifying your market. Hone in on a few publications whose aesthetic you really admire and get on in there.


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

MRB: I will always give feedback if it has been requested.


SQF: What do you consider to be the primary responsibilities of an editor?

MRB: I can only speak for myself, here, but my primary objective is to find and champion new, great work. To find the people who are writing it, and to help them further their careers.


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

MRB: I don't know what the question would be, but I'm just going to offer a bit of unsolicited advice (that has most likely been offered to you by everyone who has ever given you advice about writing, not to mention all of your high school English teachers and Ezra Pound). If you want to be an excellent writer, you must read a lot, and you must read almost exclusively good writing -- preferably writing that has a bit of distance from your own day and age. Because whatever you put into your brain is what will be coming out on the page. What you read affects your vocabulary, your syntax, your internal dialogue. I would go so far as to say it affects the way you interpret the world. So just as you would eat healthier foods to obtain a healthier body, you have to read quality literature if you want to produce a quality body of literature yourself. And then, as I said above, WRITE A LOT.

Best of luck to you!

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

NEXT POST: 5/14 -- Six Questions for Susan Terris, Editor, Spillway

Monday, May 7, 2012

Six Questions for Michael Brantley, Editor, What The Fiction

"What the Fiction Journal is a labor of love — love of well-crafted stories, love of reading and love of publishing. We want to see the best work of writers on our pages, whether those writers are world famous or never-before-published." Read the complete guidelines here.


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

MB: We want a story that gets our attention early, and gives us a reason to keep reading. Little things matter, because a writer who does not pay attention to detail may not be passionate and thorough in his/her work. We set guidelines and expect submissions to comply.


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

MB: A story that doesn't get our attention in the first page is rejected. One that doesn't comply to our submission guidelines is rejected. We like fresh stories, especially if using an "old" theme. A story has to engage the casual reader for us to publish.


SQF: Which of the following statements is true and why? Plot is more important than character. Character is more important than plot. Plot and character are equally important.

MB: I don't think there is a correct answer. It depends on the writer, the story and how the whole thing develops. Case by case is how you judge something such as this.


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

MB: Sometimes, if a piece is really, really close or we agonized over it. But we get a lot of submissions.


SQF: What do you consider to be the primary responsibilities of an editor?

MB: An editor has to be the gatekeeper of the journal and keep a high standard. An editor has to be fair to all writers, even if it is not a story the editor finds appealing ... it can still be well done.


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

MB: How do you decide what goes in your journal? It is purely subjective. That's why we always encourage writers to submit elsewhere if we reject a story. Just because it doesn't connect with us, doesn't mean it is not good.


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

NEXT POST: 5/10 -- Six Questions for M. R. Branwen, Editor, Slush Pile Magazine

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Six Questions for Kate Bernadette Benedict, Editor, Umbrella

Umbrella publishes poetry and kindred prose. From the Mission Statement: "Invariably the poems I love best provide an intense focus. They zero in. It is as if a single aspect of human experience steps forward into a cone of light and speaks its soliloquy. Nothing extraneous interferes. One could speak of this focus in many terms, as distillation or alchemy or integrity; as a process of economizing, particularizing or even husbandry. Read the complete guidelines here.


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

KBB:
  • A poem exhibiting intense focus and a shaping concept, what I term the “umbrella idea,” which is explained in more detail in Umbrella’s Mission Statement, to which you've linked, above.
  • A poem which uses language vividly and originally
  • A poem with a nice momentum

SQF: When reading a story, what clues tell you the story was written by a novice author?

KBB: Novices can write good poems too. It’s amateurishness that leaps off the screen – stilted topics and tropes, loose language, mawkishness, emotion unbridled by craft or deep thought. Amateurs sometimes submit work in a nonprofessional manner by, for instance, sending a submission as a mass mailing to many editors, or sending a single poem with no cover note, or sending their submission via multiple emails rather than sending a packet.


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

KBB: A disregard of guidelines is a turn-off to editors. And I do wish people's email addresses showed actual full names and not a spouse's name or some bit of personal shorthand like wowpoet@whatever.com. That may not "turn me off" to a submission, but it makes contacts management difficult.


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

KBB: Only if I love the poem and feel it would be a great fit with a small revision or two. 


SQF: What do you consider to be the primary responsibilities of an editor?

KBB: I feel that my job is to select poems with care, work cordially with those I publish, and put forth a journal that is readable and beautiful to behold.


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

KBB: Why do you spell out your preferences so specifically in your Submission Guidelines and Mission Statement? 

I’ve received both praise and complaints for this specificity, so recently I decided to preface the sub guidelines as follows:  “... these guidelines are offered in the spirit of helpfulness. Your editor is a submitting poet herself. She feels that the more information about a given journal’s editorial preferences a poet has, the easier it is to select the poems for a submission packet, and the easier it is to decide whether to approach that journal at all.” As might be expected, some poets can’t stand a couple of my stated preferences --  they complain or make fun of them -- and so be it. But submitters need to acknowledge that all editors have preferences and all journals have a particular mission. Make everyone’s life easier and tailor your submission to the journal.

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

NEXT POST: 5/7--Six Questions for Michael Brantley, Editor, What The Fiction