Friday, December 21, 2012

Six Questions for L. Lambert Lawson, Publisher/Editor, Kazka Press

Kazka Press publishes short stories of 2,000 to 3,500 words, flash fiction from 713 to 1,000 words, and various anthologies in the SciFi, Horror, and Fantasy genre. Learn more here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

LLL: I love to read short stories. I'm a subscriber to a number of magazines in the SFF genre, and I make consumption of their stories a part of my daily routine. I've noticed, though, a trend towards more esoteric or opaque stories in some magazines. While the language can be beautiful in these stories, and the straining toward being unique and artful and edgy is quite clear, I felt that the story--the narrative arc, the conflict, the tension, the character, the resolution--had been left on the cutting room floor of a few too many pieces. I started Kazka Press because I wanted to pull slightly against that growing inertia in short fiction in the field. I wanted to find and publish good stories.

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

LLL: I look for immediacy. If there's an engaging first line and then a graph of backstory or needless exposition, I have a strong sense that I'll reject the story. I want clear conflict up front; I want to know the stakes by the end of the first graph. I also look for clear character and world-building in the first few graphs. I want to know who I'm reading about, what they want, why I should care, and where they are. I like to be grounded in a story immediately.

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

LLL: Backstory. I often see a promising intro graph and then three graphs of flashback. If that flashback's important, why not start there? Or, better yet, decide if that flashback really is important. Does it help with the immediacy of the piece? Does it add to the forward momentum? Often, the answer is no, and authors are just spinning their wheels, looking for a way to really get started in the story. That's great. That's what 1st drafts are for. Just don't submit that first draft. Sit on it. Sleep on it. Then cut it down to the essentials.

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

LLL: We have for a long time--for a year now. We try to give a few lines explaining our decision. However, we're seeing a lot more submissions now, and we've unfortunately had to begin offering form letters. If a piece is a near miss, we'll still offer comments. Otherwise, we've got to be smart with our most important resource: time.

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

LLL: I've learned to get to the point. Cut the fluff. Crack the bone and show the marrow. What's really important? Why would anyone want to read the next graph? Why would anyone relate to these characters? I've learned to sink a driving rhythm into the narrative, something that urges the reader forward. I'm still learning how to do this effectively, but a year of slushing has been a great boon to my craft. I recommend it for any emerging writer.

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

LLL: Who are your literary influences? Stephen King, Raymond Carver, Kij Johnson, Chuck Palahniuk, George R. R. Martin, Cat Rambo, Douglas Adams, Annie Proulx, Anne Lamott, Ed McBain, and Billy Collins.

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

NEXT POST: 12/28--Six Questions for Kurt Luchs, Co-Founder & Editor, The Big Jewel

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