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?

  • 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 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

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