Friday, January 18, 2013

Six Questions for Jordan Blum, Founder@Editor-in-Chief, The Bookends Review

The Bookends Review publishes flash fiction to 1,000 words, prose poetry, short stories and creative non-fiction to 2,000 words, multimedia, and academic pieces (interviews, articles, etc.). Read the complete guidelines here.

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

JB: First and foremost, there needs to be emotion, and it needs to be palpable. To me, the primary point of a creative endeavor (be it writing, drawing, music, film, etc) is to connect with the audience, and an emotional connection is the purest, most immediate way to do that. All our submissions reveal something about the human experience; visitors can see a part of themselves in the stories, poems, pictures, etc.  Secondly, I suppose there needs to be uniqueness to it. I realize that that sounds very simple and obvious, but I think it’s worth noting; it’s especially relevant and important today because there is so much generic “art” out there. There are so many copycats playing it safe. Don’t play it safe! Be provocative, be depressing, be hilarious, be shocking, be uplifting. Thirdly, since we mainly publish flash fiction and relatively short work, we appreciate brevity. Make each word count. Don’t waste a sentence. Of course, that applies to written work; in regards to images and music, we want to be moved and intrigued immediately. Give us something that hits us immediately and stays with us for a while. Overall, if it’s easily forgettable, it’s probably not for us. 

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

JB: In terms of written work, if I’m not sucked in by the first page, I’m usually going to pass. That isn’t to say that I don’t read every submission in its entirely, but I can almost always tell if I’ll accept or reject a piece by the first page or so. That isn’t always true, though, of course. So I guess to answer the question more directly, many pieces don’t begin with a bang! Whether it’s written, visual, or auditory, you have, say, thirty seconds to get my attention. Take that for what it is. Also, if it’s clichéd, it’s not going to get far, and that goes along with uniqueness. There are countless break-up stories, murder stories, etc, but if you tell one that’s individualized and rewarding enough, I’ll still dig it. Grammatical issues also bother me if they’re accidental instead of purposeful. Not everyone can manipulate the rules as well as Ellis and Palahniuk, so be careful about it. 

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

JB: No, not really. We’re a brand new journal, so we naturally try to learn a bit about what we’re doing from other journals and our own experiences with acceptance and rejection. I’ve never gotten feedback on a piece, whether it was accepted or rejected, so I figure that that isn’t necessarily part of the game. Also, to be honest, the editors and I are so busy doing other things that we don’t really have time to write a response to each submitter. We’re more than happy to explain our decision if anyone ever asks, though. We do, however, leave comments for each other about our votes. For example, I might say, “I like the imagery, but I feel that it doesn’t quite work overall” and someone else will respond, “Okay, but I disagree. I think it’s quite effective as a snapshot of life.” Then we’ll go back and forth about it, so it’s never just “yes” or “no.” 

SQF: Will you publish a submission an author posted on a personal blog? 

JB: Sure. We accept just about any form of creative art or scholarship, so as long as we like it (and it fits certain guidelines), we’ll publish it. We also accept previously published work as long as we know where it was placed first, and likewise, you are free to publish work published with us first as long as you credit us with the initial exposure. 

SQF: 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?

JB: As clichéd as it sounds, the most popular response – “While we enjoyed reading it, it simply isn’t right for us at this time”— really does apply. All journals have a specific aesthetic, and ours is no different. We may absolutely love something we read/see/hear on a personal level, but if it isn’t representative of what The Bookends Review seeks to express, we probably won’t publish it. Like just about every other artist throughout time, I’ve had pieces rejected several times and then accepted somewhere else. Just because we say, “No” doesn’t mean that your work isn’t good (or even great); it’s just not right for us. Please don’t ever be discouraged by rejection, be it from us as one journal or from a hundred outlets. Just hone your craft, revise as much as necessarily, and submit everywhere you can. Eventually, your pieces will find their homes. 

Going along with that, authors are free to write to us and ask for an explanation if they wish (so far, none have). Actually, we’ve gotten nothing but positive reactions from rejected writers; it seems that everyone is appreciative of our attention, and they still help us out through feedback on Duotrope, which is wonderful. 

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

Haha. Perhaps “Where did the name The Bookends Review come from?” And I would answer: “Mario Gullo, Spencer Hayes, and I are all major fans of Simon and Garfunkel. We spent a few weeks thinking about a proper title for the journal, and we decided to reference their work. To me, the coupling of “Old Friends” and “Bookends Theme,” from their Bookends album, is among the best examples of combining ease and emotion. I’ve rarely heard a song (or two) that is so overwhelmingly affective while also being relatively stripped down and organic. Just like those songs, our journal seeks to promote work that speaks volumes quickly and simply. Also, because I’m also a music journalist and musician, I’m always looking for ways to combine my love of music and my love of creative writing. Titling the journal this way was a no-brainer in that respect.” 

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

NEXT POST: 1/22--Six Questions for Carolyn DeCarlo, Editor, UP

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