Note: The questions were answered by Mira Brunner, Editor, Out of Print Magazine, in discussion with Founding Editor, Indira Chandrasekhar
The editors of Out of Print, an online magazine for short fiction connected to the South Asian subcontinent, "seek original writing in English or translated into English that is strong, well-crafted and reflects the pace and transition of our times. … We encourage new writers and we encourage writing that tells a story." Read the complete guidelines here.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
OPM: The first is obvious – the story must have a connection to the subcontinent. It may be by a writer living in the South Asian subcontinent, a writer from the diaspora, a story set in a South Asian setting where place is important, a story where a South Asian character plays a pivotal role – in other words, the story must penetrate some aspect of South Asian character or life. Our standards for judging these criteria rest with the three editors and are responsive rather than prescriptive.
Liveliness is another. A story that engages the reader and has energy.
A contemporary voice. Even while positioned in a narrative tradition, we are interested in the writers who are unafraid to critically examine the world around them.
SQF: What are the top three reasons a submission is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to the above question and why?
OPM: Sub-par craft, “cutesy-ness”, and bigotry (about race, gender, caste and so on) whether it be overt or covert. We’ve had stories that were well-written and engaging but carried an underlying bias that I am not sure the author was aware of or intended, but which we found unacceptable.
SQF: What other common mistakes do you encounter that turn you off a submission?
OPM: The classical error of ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing’ can be off-putting. Also excessive over-writing. Overly sentimental work with too much closure in ways that veer towards commercial fiction also turn us away from a piece.
SQF: What is it about the characters in a story that makes them pop off the page and grab hold of you?
OPM: Energy, integrity, and humour in their voices makes characters cut through even choppy writing.
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?
OPM: We’ve never had to go as far as a blacklist. When we get notes (that have on occasion been aggressive) asking for clarity on why a piece was rejected, we have to respond saying that we cannot give individual feedback. Since two of us are writers we know how disappointing that can be and how angry you can feel about an editor’s apparent obtuseness. So we are sorry that we cannot critique a work and point out the positives and justify the rejection in a manner that would reassure the author that it’s worth sticking to it all.
We intend to offer short online workshops soon. Hopefully this will help provide constructive feedback.
SWF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't, and how would you answer it?
OPM: The question we would like to answer is why we have restricted ourselves to writing connected to the subcontinent. Our answer would be, firstly, at the time we started the magazine, we found there was no easily accessible online platform for Indian and subcontinental writers. Our editor, Indira Chandrasekhar found it frustrating that when her stories were read by her British and American peers she sometimes felt her work was being exoticised. From thence sprung the idea of Out of Print. Secondly we began to get interested in South Asian writing in English and its implications, given the history of the area, its political ramifications and the multiplicity of its literary languages. We thought that a platform for short fiction would be an interesting way to explore the contemporary voice
Thank you, Mira and Indira. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
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