Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Six Questions for Tony Powell, Editor, Circa: a Literary Review

Circa welcomes all types of creative writing, including fiction, creative non-non fiction, poetry, essays, etc. Artwork is also welcome. Read the complete guidelines here.

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

TP: I look for "weight" in a story, that is, something beyond the surface of the story. I get lots of submissions from writers who have only reached the "this-happened-and-then-that-happened" stage of their development. I want stories that are written "against a background," be it a great setting, interesting theme, or deep character examination. I don't care what as long as there is something.

At the same time, I want some lyricism in prose or at least the feeling that the author has thought about his/her sentences. I am a long-time language fan (more "T.C. Boyle" than "Hemingway") and get giddy over incredible sentences.

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

TP: This goes to your first question. The most common mistake by far is a piece that is more annotated outline than story. Live with the characters a while. I want somebody chasing inner truths, not chasing a bad guy.

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

TP: I sometimes will ask for a revision, but never recommend specific changes. 

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

TP: Yes. 

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?

TP: If I reject a story, authors should work to get better. I don't accept/reject based on my preferences or any criteria other than quality/lack of quality. There is no substitute for doing the work that makes a good writer (and this can take years). I don't mind if authors ask questions, but keep in mind they are "asking for it." In other words, I won't pull any punches.

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

"Do you have any pets?"

TP: Yes, as a matter of fact I do. I have a Labrador named "Jack" and a Yorkie named "Nellie." I am a big dog person. 

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

NEXT POST: 1/18--Six Questions for Jordan Blum, Founder@Editor-in-Chief, The Bookends Review


  1. Uh-oh. bad link to the guidelines!

  2. The entire site was down for much of the day. I just tried the link, and it worked.