Monday, January 7, 2013

Six Questions for Bud Smith, Head Editor, Uno Kudo

Uno Kudo is an art meets lit publication that features significant new words and artwork from a diverse array of contributors, presented in expressive and luscious layouts. Proceeds from the book sales go to charity. The first two volumes were print run anthologies, full color glossies available through Amazon. Monies from Uno Kudo: Volume 2 help support the Pen American Center ( In 2013 Uno Kudo will release its annual Anthology Uno Kudo: Volume 3, as well as various web related content, contests and features on it's site Submissions are open year round.

SQF: How did this project get started?

BS: The project came out of the Uno Kudo art collective that operated online. A salon, really. Everybody in the collective had this great thing they loved, whether it was writing, painting, design, editing, reading … there was a desire to try to get everyone together to work on the project to try to raise some money for charity. We put out volume one as a collective. 

SQF: Who can submit to this project?

BS: Now submissions are open to anyone, anywhere. 

Send your short stories, poems, essays, art and photography to

The artwork used to be hand selected and searched out by invitation by the designer/art director, Erin McParland. But that's silly: you don't need an invitation. Send your beautiful art, I wanna see it anyway. Then, when you're in town, I wanna buy you a beer. How does that sound? 

Artists are encouraged to submit, and they do — gladly.

I have no idea how they make this stuff, I still paint with my fingers.

Writers … any and all. Send. Send. Send. Man, nothing makes me happier than getting to read the stuff that the writers send in. Really wild stuff. I'm grateful for everything they send. Contributors make a magazine/site/book what it is. 

Occasionally, I like to request things from writers who I'm lucky enough to get to know here in NYC or otherwise online, but I'm not worried about nepotism or unfairly publishing a cliche of writers. Everything is read blind by our editorial staff.

That only seems right, to read and select blind..

SQF: What do you look for in the works you publish?

BS: In the writing, I personally want an abundance of humanity. Whether it's funny, or gut wrenching, I want to see stories and poems that come along and really make my heart ache, or steal my wallet, or hit me with a water balloon. I get real knocked out when I can tell that somebody isn't just "going through the motions." I want a submission with some blood to it, one way or another. Whether the blood is all over it, or running through it. If you think it's crazy, I'm psyched to see it.

SQF: What is it about a submission that will cause you to pass on the work?

BS: Something that's jumbled up, unclear. I like clarity. Simplicity. That doesn't mean it should be stupid or juvenile. But it can. I just want your message to be unavoidable for me to see. Natural, that's another thing I'm looking for. If it feels forced and clunky, then, I might pass.

Things elegantly dressed up, hidden behind fancy devices, metaphors, twenty dollar thesaurus words ...those things are always a tough sell for me. Of course, there are writers that do that brilliantly. I like when they prove me wrong, too.

So, there's that.

Mostly, I like stories that can be told to me at a party, or maybe in the bar after the funeral. One of those two places. If you were able to read your story out loud to me over the telephone and I was to lose track of the fact that I'm being read a story, that's beautiful. That's what I want. 

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

BS: I've learned that it's the little things that kill a story. It's rattling on and on about pointless details and avoiding the heart of it. It's not mentioning those details that really get you close into the thing. I've learned to dump as much character in it as you can while I'm writing it. Afterwards, chop out all the extra "ands" and "ors." Tighten it up. 

I've learned to make sure I entertain myself, foremost. The things that I wrote that failed for others to read were generally things that I didn't have a blast writing. Even if the subject matter was painful. 

If you can't have a revelation while you write, at least have a thrill.

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

BS: What does Uno Kudo do differently? What sets it apart?

Well, the artwork is lovingly gathered and even more lovingly laid out. That's a team effort. It's paired up perfectly to match the writing after all the submissions are in. Art and writing. For us, the two things really go hand in hand. There's just a lot of care put into that. The process is slower, but I feel like the end result is more rewarding. The art comes out like something from another galaxy and has extra impact because it is so relative to the writing. 

Vice versa of course. The writing takes on a new life when it is paired with the art. 

Also, of note: Uno Kudo has a tendency to get attached to a piece of writing that really has something great happening below the surface, but might need "a lot of work" and when that happens, we might actively reach out to the writer, ask if they'd like to be teamed up with an editor, to work one on one and try to make the story really shine. 

This doesn't work with every writer. Not everyone wants to get involved with an editor's opinion on a rewrite. I can't say I blame them on that. But, when it works, I think it really works. I've seen it first hand. The results are usually stunning.

It's my theory that most rejections are things that were first drafts.

Spend some time, do another draft. Have someone look over your work for you. Clean it up as best you can. Just leave all your character in there. 

A general rule is: more character, less typos, for the win.

So maybe that's why we're different. We want to keep the spirit of our art collective alive even with people who stumble upon us and want to submit.

We want the writers to feel like they can do something really unexpected with a team of designers and editors, who are just as into your work as you are.

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

NEXT POST: 1/9--Six Questions for Barbara Diehl, Founder and Senior Editor, The Baltimore Review

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