Cactus Heart seeks new and original poetry, fiction, nonfiction, book reviews, art & photography. We want spiny writing & art—sharp, relentless, coursing with energy and able to thrive in the harshest of places, all while maintaining a vulnerable, succulent interior. Cactus Heart publishes four e-issues a year, and will add two print issue in 2013. Read the complete guidelines here.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
SR: First, language. That being said, I'm not particularly interested in writing that concentrates only on that one element. So, secondly, I like a combination of detail, imagery, dialogue and characterization -- and I think those can be found in poetry as well as prose. Third, color and verve.
SQF: What are the top three reasons a submission is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to the above question and why?
SR: First, the language isn't well used. Second, it's flat or cliche. Third, the writing objectifies women. I see this a lot and it's a huge pet peeve of mine.
SQF: Which of the following statements is true and why? Plot is more important than character. Character is more important than plot. Plot and character are equally important.
SR: Character is more important than plot. I like a good plot though, don't get me wrong.
SQF: What advice can you offer new authors hoping to publish their first submission?
SR: Don't send your first draft. Good writing takes time, so don't rush. And proofread, proofread, proofread.
SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?
That's a tough question. I've been in publishing for almost 7 years at this point, and I studied writing as an undergrad and as a graduate student, so I think it's hard to pinpoint one thing that editing has taught me about writing. I guess the thing that comes to mind first is that I've learned to be ruthless when cutting out unnecessary words. I love detail and description, but there are so many places and ways that writing can be more streamlined, and thus more effective and enjoyable.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
SR: Do cover letters matter? Now that I've been through two and a half reading periods, I can honestly say no. I very rarely read cover letters, because where a writer got their MFA or where they've been published before doesn't really influence the quality of the piece as I read it. I also find it a little strange when writers tell me what their piece is about or the feeling they're trying to evoke in their piece in their cover letter -- if you've done your job as a writer, you shouldn't have to tell me.
Thank you, Sara. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 1/29--Six Questions for Paul Soderberg, Editor, The Feathered Flounder