Safety Pin Review is a new, weekly/biweekly literary magazine featuring work of less than 30 words, with a major D.I.Y. twist: in addition to being published online, each story is hand-painted onto a cloth back patch, which is attached (via safety pins) to one of our operatives—a collective network of authors, punks, thieves, and anarchists—who wear it everywhere they go for a week. Read the complete guidelines here.
SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
SJ: I wanted to find a way of sharing work that would otherwise be read only by a limited number of internet hounds with an entirely new and often unpredictable audience, i.e., the people you encounter every day. So I figured, why not wear it for all to see. And now here we are.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
SJ: I don’t want to set a formula for the kind of stuff the SPR publishes, because above anything else I want to be surprised. But yes, there we go, number one: I want to be surprised.
Two: I like short, and I like tone. 30 words is the limit, but a few well-chosen words can do wonders when painted on a stark black patch. And tone is great: I use the word “story” as a convenience. Make it an aphorism, an exhortation, just a something, so long as it begs to be read.
Finally—this has already been said on the guidelines page on the site, but it bears repeating here: I’d like to see more experimental submissions, not just garbled word-vomit stuff but stories in different forms. I want to see a story in a format that I’ve never seen. Break the system, send me a goddamn diagram or something. If I love it and it fits the medium, we’ll make it work.
Just remember, if I’m gonna spend three hours painting a story you wrote onto a patch I’d better freaking love it, so it stands to reason that the writer should too. Don’t send me your rejected Twitter fiction. Or do. Whatever.
SQF: What common mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a submission?
SJ: I’m not a big fan of the “twist” ending that seems to be so popular in flash and Twitter fiction especially, like, the one-word turn at the end. If the only word that matters is the last one, why should I bother?
I also get a surprising number of stories with sound effects, oftentimes as the kickers to stories about suicide. These usually don’t really work. Suicide-stories can be great, yes, I’ve painted a few outstanding ones, but but but there is really only so much angst we can handle. I mean, I’m an angsty guy anyway, but. Yes.
Keep this in mind: you’re writing for everyone, not necessarily a bunch of other poets. So being intricate and obscure and litrey only gets you so far. Your work needs to be appealing, to stir something.
Sometimes people don’t take the form into account. I’ll re-emphasize: you have a 9” x 11” patch to put words on, so if you, for example, send a poem that’s like 12 lines long, it’s probably not gonna fit on the patch in any sort of legible way and will make me wonder if you’ve really considered the medium.
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?
SJ: I nearly always find something that I like about a given story, so I emphasize that in my response. Given how short we’re working and how innately arbitrary the selection process, it’s hard to give feedback on what might make the work “better” (if that word actually means anything), but if I see the potential in a piece for something awesome, then the author and I usually hash it out together and see what comes up.
SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?
SJ: There is a lot of well-intentioned writing out there that I am not partial too.
SQF: What do you want authors to know about the submissions 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?
SJ: If it’s not right for us, it’s not right. I have peculiar tastes, but that’s just the way it is. It’s a long haul from acceptance to publication—find someone to wear the story, paint the story, mail the story, cross fingers and hope for results—so I have to be utterly devoted to it. Questions are fine I suppose, but it’s not going to change my mind. I’ll just tell you to try again later. And don’t be belligerent; obviously then you are not going to win (m)any friends.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
SJ: How can I (reader) get involved in the Safety Pin Review?
A: Wear a story. All it takes is a patch, some resolve, and an acquaintance with a camera. Visit our Operatives page to read about readers past and find the spirit of volunteerism.
Thank you, Simon. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 10/09--Six Questions for Sandra Allen, Managing and Essays Editor, Wag's Revue