The Adroit Journal is an online journal that seeks creative works of poetry, fiction, and art/photography. Learn more here.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a story and why?
PL: We look for originality, coherence of story, and purpose of imagery when evaluating submissions. We believe that, in order for a poem or story to 'work', it must not be clichéd, must live a story that not only makes sense but is also interesting and enlightening, and must not use imagery as fluff -- but rather as a way to convey the main workings of the story.
SQF: What are the top three reasons a story is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to question one and why?
PL: The top reason for rejection is probably just not being right for our publication. With an acceptance rate around 15% and declining, we have to be very picky about what we select. There may be works that we love, but they just might not be right for the journal. For example, every issue we tend to accept 1-2 'bizarre' stories; if we read another bizarre story and take a liking to it, but the quota has already been filled, it might unfortunately be rejected. This is a reason to submit on the early side of the reading period, if you can!
The second most popular reason for rejection is probably lack of story or original concept. We see so many submissions of poetry and fiction that 'sound nice', but are either indecipherable or superfluously injected with imagery. Don't get us wrong -- we're suckers for good imagery -- but too much of it tends to fall victim to lack of plotline, something that irks us.
The third most popular reason is probably lack of editing or properly submitting -- discussed in the next question.
SQF: What other mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a story?
PL: The most common mistake is definitely not following the stylistic and submission guidelines, or submitting work that is very poorly (i.e. not) edited. This just puts us in a rather grumpy mindset -- you don't want us reading your work with a negative mindset going into it, do you?
SQF: What is it about the characters in a story that makes them pop off the page and grab hold of you?
PL: We strive to find the balance between action, compelling dialogue and imagery/description. A balance of these three things really makes a story click in our view. Same for poetry -- just obviously in a more economical way, unless you're writing an epic (which we probably won't accept due to sheer length).
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?
PL: We certainly don't mind questions or comments about rejection, although there is a fine line between politely asking and being flat-out rude. While I can't say I've ever encountered a particularly rude or bitter submitter whose work we rejected, I can say there have been a few instances where I have corresponded with people that address the journal in a less-than-professional way. We don't keep a blacklist, but it certainly might tarnish our opinion of the author based on the work they submitted, and the work they will submit in the future.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
PL: Perhaps what makes us different?
For one thing, we are a journal completely staffed and run by students in high school or college. I founded the journal in November 2010, in my sophomore year of high school, as a result of frustration after trying to break into the literary world and encountering only form-reply rejections. Since then, the one man production has expanded to a collection of over forty editors and staff members from around the world -- ranging from Mauritius to Hawaii to the United Kingdom to Hong Kong to New York to India and a slew of other places.
Since we are literally made possible by teenagers, we believe we hold a responsibility to consider for publication works by young writers, who are open to submit the entire year, but most encouraged to submit in the spring, when we hold our annual Adroit Prizes in Verse and Fiction, judged by merited adult contributors. Although all work submitted by young writers over the course of the year will be considered for this award, it is quite a treat to spend the months of April and May every year specifically focused on the work of young writers.
Thank you, Peter. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 6/7 -- Six Questions for Lindsey Lewis Smithson, Founding and Managing Editor, Straight Forward Poetry