Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Six Questions for Kimberly Longhofer, Manager, and John Haworth, Owner, at Brainfood Bookstore


Brainfood Bookstore is located in Longmont, Colorado and sells indie lit, exclusively. Learn more here.

Twitter: @BrainfoodVenue. 
Author & reader resources and blog: BrainfoodVenue.tumblr.com

1. Please provide us with a brief history of Brainfood Bookstore. (How long you've been in business, philosophy, goals, etc.)

KL: Brainfood Bookstore opened just a few months ago, in October 2012. Longmont had a few used bookstores but since the downfall of Borders, no sellers of new books had opened in the town. We knew that needed to change. But, looking to Borders, we knew we couldn't open a traditional new bookstore and expect to survive. We instead looked to the competitor, Amazon. We feel that Amazon is so successful-- successful enough that they've pushed Borders out of business and have their sights set on bankrupting traditional publishers like the Big Five-- because they sell the indie books you can't buy at traditional bookstores. While the former Big Six were banking on books by celebrities with built-in fan bases, indie publishing was attracting all the new authors. 

There is little other option for buying indie lit besides Amazon, and that's the niche we hope to fill. There are readers who prefer new authors and undiscovered stories, and there are readers who will always prefer shopping in a real bookstore to browsing Amazon. We are the bookstore for those readers. 


2. Your store carries only indie books. What do you look for in the books you stock?

KL: We believe in quality literature, regardless of where or how it is published. That is what separates us from traditional bookstores; we will carry a book regardless of imprint. Most will turn down anything that isn't from the Big Five, no matter how great of a read it is. When selecting books to carry, our first criteria is quality. Then we check to see that the book is independently-published, and we prefer local authors and publishers. We've discovered a host of small indie presses around the state, most with quality literature that you can't find in traditional bookstores. We want to know where the book comes from, because we don't believe in collecting our customers' money here in Colorado and then sending it out-of-state for stock. After quality of literature, type of publisher, and location, our next criteria are the audience the book is meant for; we try to stock a diverse selection of literature to compete with other bookstores' mainstream-only policies. 


3. Do you provide authors any services beyond selling books?

KL: Most of our authors have published through small publishing houses that can't afford to sponsor marketing campaigns, author tours, events, and advertising for their books. They're not big publishing houses, so that's not their function. They find new, quality literature from new authors, they publish a quality book, and then their job is done. The author is responsible for marketing their own book, which is difficult and frustrating once the author finds that most brick-and-mortar bookstores won't even stock their book. 

In addition to stocking indie lit, we help most of our authors develop a marketing strategy. We supply a list of resources, including reviewers, marketing articles, sample strategies, etc. Whenever an author scores a review or interview, or participates in a blog tour, Brainfood provides a platform on which to broadcast that information. 

We also sponsor author events several times a month, including book signings, readings, children's events, seminars relating to the topics of our nonfiction books, and even writing and publishing workshops. We sponsor the advertising and refreshments for these events, which is a huge help to our authors. It also helps us to attract more crowds. 


4. Can authors contact you directly about carrying their books?

KL: Yes. Although we do work with indie publishers and recognize them as a valuable component of the publishing process, authors are our focus and we like to work directly with the authors as much as possible.


5. What is your advice to authors looking to publish a first book?

KL: Your work needs to appear as professional as possible. There are three stages in which you can accomplish this. One, your book needs a professional editor. Find beta-readers for every draft, and revise after you get feedback from each beta reader. By doing this five to ten times before paying an editor, you ensure that the editor is only fine-tuning, not taking a hacksaw to rough draft. If you're going to pay a professional editor, you need to make sure you get every cents' worth by putting in the work yourself first. Two, whether you are personally responsible for your cover or a publisher is assisting, your cover needs to look professional. This can be the hardest part, especially because authors tend to live by the maxim, "Judge not a book by its cover." Find a design or graphic arts college student that will design your cover in exchange for credit ("Cover designed by..." somewhere on your cover) and a blurb on their resume (work/ intern experience). Three, your marketing needs to be professional. This can be difficult to motivate yourself to do, because as an author you tend to believe that once the book is written, your work is over. It's not. The work has just begun. You need to create an online presence: Check out Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, Salman Rushdie and John Green on Twitter. Check out Goodreads' bestselling author list, and look at what they are doing on Goodreads. This is what you need to be doing. In addition to maintaining an online persona and presence, seek out reviews and interviews with bloggers. Never underestimate the power of a blogger.

More author resources are available at http://brainfoodvenue.tumblr.com/authors.


6. What question do you wish I’d asked that I didn’t? And how would you answer it?

KL: Does Brainfood Bookstore have any plans to expand their customer reach?

We are currently in the process of expanding to include Brainsnacks, indie-lit-dispensing vending machines. We believe that independent literature should be available to everyone, not just those who shop online or can drive to Longmont. Imagine walking into a bus station or laundromat in your home town, and being able to purchase a book from a vending machine-- a book that was written right in your own community. In addition to providing a convenient outlet for customers who are running errands and about to get on a bus or wait for laundry, these vending machines will serve as visible reminders to members of the community that anyone can write a book, that being an author is still a viable career option.  

We have a few vintage snack vending machines, but they only accept quarters so they are impractical for books that are priced more than $2. We are using these vending machines to sell used books while raising money for more modern vending machines that accept debit and credit cards. 

You can check out our Indiegogo campaign at http://www.indiegogo.com/brainsnacks. For a $15 contribution, we'll send you a random locally-published book; for $20, we'll send you a T-shirt. So on and so forth. We hope that by conducting this campaign, we will be able to reach new customers as well as fund Brainsnacks. It's a win-win for authors, for prospective writers, for contributors, and for the community. 

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

NEXT POST: 3/1--Six Questions for Amy Pollard, Founder/Editor, Brevity Poetry Review

Sunday, February 24, 2013

March at Six Questions For. . .


Below is the schedule of posts for March at Six Questions For. . .

3/01—Six Questions for Amy Pollard, Founder/Editor, Brevity Poetry Review
3/05—Six Questions for Jeremiah Walton, Editor, Nostrovia! Poetry
3/08—Six Questions for Sam Bellotto Jr., Editor, Perihelion Science Fiction
3/12—Six Questions for Mandi M. Lynch, Editor, Ink Monkey Magazine
3/15—Six Questions for Martin Hooijmans, Founder/Writer/Editor, The Story Shack
3/19—Six Questions for Susan Solomon, Editor, Sleet Magazine
3/22—Six Questions for Todd Pederson, Poetry Editor, Sleet Magazine
3/26—Six Questions for Kathy McEathron, Fiction Editor, Sleet Magazine
3/29—Six Questions for Kate Brown, Fiction Editor, The View From Here


If you stop by, leave a comment for the editor/publisher. If you’re an editor or publisher and would like to participate, or know of a publisher who might be interested, please contact me at sixquestionsfor@gmail.com. Finally, please share this information with your subscribers, authors, Facebook and Twitter followers, and writing friends.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Six Questions for Nancy Scott, Managing Editor, U.S. 1 Worksheets


In 1973, a small group of poets got together in the Princeton, NJ area to share their poetry. From this nucleus of poetry lovers came the long-standing U.S.1 Poets’ Cooperative, publisher of the U.S. 1 Worksheets. Submit up to five poems, single-spaced, but no more than seven pages in total. "We do not regularly publish prose, but will consider short work, not to exceed 1000 words (double-spaced)." Manuscripts are accepted from April 15th through June 30th. Read the complete guidelines here.

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

NS: We are primarily a poetry journal and we look for focus, developed imagery, and control of craft because we feel these are the components that are most likely to be lacking in poems we receive. 


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

NS: There is no distinctive voice, lots of abstractions, lackluster craft with regard to line breaks and use of metaphor, too many adjectives, spelling errors. We are inclined to automatically reject a poem that does not arrive in professional form, i.e. it is typed on both sides of the page, uses weird font, is sent on colored paper doused in perfume, includes a photo of the family pet.


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

NS: We do not provide comments; we are all volunteers and this goes beyond the scope of the time and energy we can commit to the journal. Many of us, however, do freelance editing, so if someone wants to pay for our expertise, we encourage them to ask.


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

NS: For us, anything that has been published in any medium, even a church newsletter, is considered previously published.


SQF: What do you want authors to know about the submissions 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? 

NS: We receive over 1200 poems for our annual issue. Since we are a cooperative, we have an obligations to our members; however, about 2/3 of the 125+ poems we publish are from outside the cooperative. So a lot of poems are going to get rejected because they are badly written, because we try not to publish a spate of poems about cancer, or snakes, or springtime, or we know the poet’s work and he/she did not submit their best poems. We have found over the years that we tend to publish work by many of the same poets, in and out of the cooperative, because these poets have figured out what we are looking for—well-written, accessible poems (we love eclectic variations) with developed imagery and focus. What would be most useful to authors whose work has been rejected is to purchase the current or back issue of the journal and analyze it, because we have not changed what we are looking for in a poem. This is how we would reply to a request, we do not personalize responses.


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

NS: What do you expect from authors whose work you accept? 

We expect to get prompt and courteous replies if we need additional information or there is something in the poem which needs to be corrected or clarified, i.e. we do not make corrections, except for simple punctuation, without contacting the poet. We are not asking for clarification in order to rewrite the poem, just that we’d like to publish the poem, but a line or a word doesn’t seem right. When we ask for an email copy of the poem after we’ve accepted it, we would appreciate the same version as the original; if we get a revision, we’d appreciate it if the poet would not argue with us if we prefer the original or not keep insisting on yet another revision after we’ve already compiled the manuscript. We do contact every poet directly in order to avoid these kinds of problems, but they still happen. We would also appreciate, but don’t require, that a poet think about buying an extra copy, in addition to the free contributor’s copy, because we cannot turn straw into gold and we need to pay bills. We really appreciate it when poets take the time to thank us for accepting their poems and let us know how much they enjoyed the issue. We strive to create a community of poets, not just publish a journal of poems.

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

NEXT POST: 2/26-Six Questions for Kimberly Longhofer, Manager, and John Haworth, Owner, at Brainfood Bookstore

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Six Questions for Björn Wahlström, Owner/Editor in chief, H.A.L. Publishing


NOTE: This interview is being reposted due to a hiatus caused by a server change.

Ink on paper, mayhem on stage - H.A.L. Publishing specialises in publishing exceptional local and expat/postpat authors in China, for whom this country forms the natural backdrop of an at-times mundane, at-times wholly extraordinary existence. H.A.L. is actively seeking new and inspired authors of all kinds of China related texts, be it short stories, novels or poetry for publication, both E and paper. Read the complete guidelines here. Bjorn is also the founder of the literary journal Far Enough East.


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

BW: Coherence. A story must connect through all parts, characters, and shifts. If it doesn't, any brilliant beginning/idea/language you might have become mere ornaments.

Tension. Do not forget the reader. It's all too common for brilliant writers of poetic style fiction to forget that you still need the reader to understand who is currently saying what, and why your story just took a sudden turn. 

Writing from the heart. The mistress of said tension: write close to home, even if writing sci-fi. Kafka's formal injury reports from his day job as an insurance claims officer still bear his distinct drive and so should yours, always. Our core subject being China, I consider it even more important to take an angle you actually know, and not pretend.


SQF: What are the top three reasons a story is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to the above question and why?

BW: Texts irrelevant to the H.A.L. declared field of interest (which is: exceptional stories out of the PR China). If only I had a penny for every photo book/textbook/mathematical thesis I've received and rejected. It's really simple: if you are in need of a dentist you wouldn't go to a heart surgeon, so why send anything but fiction to a publisher of fiction? There is no point what so ever in spamming around a manuscript. 

Poorly presented material. I don't read anything that comes in without proper introduction, title, mini-bio etc. On that same note, ridiculous pen names do not increase your odds either. 

China bashing. One slight hint of neo-colonial attitude towards China and you're in the bin. 


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

BW: Characters named John or Jim taking a walk in the park on the first page. That is, poor beginnings. I can not enough stress the importance of a strong lead-in. If nothing grabs me after five paragraphs or so, I'm already half way to dumping it. 


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

BW: Only to a very selected few texts, and with very carefully moderated comments. Comments are only provided if I feel the text might still work with certain changes/re-writes. In my experience commenting on a definite rejection, regardless of the reasons, only serves to anger the author. You need a dialogue to improve on a text, and rejection destroys the premises for that dialogue. 


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

BW: Most importantly I would say I've learned the importance of calibrating your work as a whole after reaching the end. Much too often does a writer find the right tone for his story only half way through, but never go back and re-work the beginning. Goes for both content, style and language. I've also learned that you should never consider a story finished until your editor has gone over it. Writing is a solitary type of creative work, and we all develop blind spots for flaws in our work. Allow your editor into the process.


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

BW: What can an author do to follow up after initially submitting?

I recommend to submit, and then call to confirm manuscript received. After that the editor will (hopefully) go through your text in his own tempo, which can be anything between 5 minutes and 1 year. Do not send off email after email to speed up the process which serves only to annoy. Be patient. Move on, and keep writing. It is hard to believe for most authors, but your editor actually needs you. 

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

NEXT POST: 2/22-Six Questions for Nancy Scott, Managing Editor, U.S. 1 Worksheets

Friday, February 15, 2013

Six Questions for Bud Smith, Non-fiction Editor, Red Fez


Red Fez publishes poetry, fiction, non-fiction, art, photos & comics and more. "We obey no genre and take anything from limericks to fantasy to genres yet invented. Our key desires are originality, accessibility and quality. We like work with a point, something to say or some sort of inner magic that gives greater meaning to the pretty words and thrilling plots." Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: For those readers unfamiliar with creative non-fiction, please explain what it is and provide links to a couple of examples, if you can.

BS: Creative non-fiction involves the use of entertaining and artful literary devices and styles used to convey fact. Think: novelistic. This can be expressed in many ways, whether it be a memoir style piece, an essay, an article, etc. Generally, effective creative non-fiction is written in the first person POV, but that's not a hard set rule. Really, that's the point. There aren't any hard set rules — be creative. The one thing to keep in mind is to be a little more personal and less sterile than what most people immediately think of when they think non-fiction.

Character. Don't be afraid to show your character.

By no means, the end-all, but I'll nod to Hunter S. Thompson as a starting point. Truman Capote's In Cold Blood might be another great example. Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire … Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. Stylistically it runs the gamut and is easily mold-able to your personality. Here's some ideas that Red Fez has run.


A note on the non-fiction department: Red Fez is looking for all kinds of non-fiction, not just creative non-fiction, but it is of note for the fiction writer/poet out there who would never consider writing a straight journalistic article/essay. Everybody has a great story, a great memory … something you would tell at a party. I'd like it if you sent your best personal stories. People all have that story. Many of them, really. Send them our way.

Red Fez also, certainly wants you to send your journalistic non-fiction: your reports on topics scattered all through the ether.


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

BS: First, it should be fact checked. It shouldn't be a lie. Second, it should be entertaining. Third, it should be thought provoking.


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

BS: In the case of creative non-fiction/memoir/essay style: pieces that lack flow, direction, quality writing. As much care should be put into your creative non-fiction submission as you would if it were a literary fiction submission. Beautiful writing with an edge, will never go out of style. 

In the case of articles, problematic pieces usually have the gripe against them that they read like fact-dumps, or don't seem to be well researched. An article should carry with it a sense that the author actually went out, spent some time studying the subject, or in an even better case, is a real-world authority on the matter. Not to say that you have to be one. Just don't come out slinging guns from the hip, randomly firing into the air on a topic that you're not familiar with.

In all instances, send well constructed work, on a topic that has interest and validity to the staff and it's readers. Consider your audience. Consider your topic. The best way to figure out if a publication will like your work is to spend some time getting to know the feel and loose aesthetic of the publication itself. Read it. Click around. Works like a charm.


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

BS: Yeah! There is an option with submission to Red Fez to receive critical responses to your work. It's not required. There's a box to check in the submission form, so you get to choose, yes or no. Not everyone wants critiques, but for the writer looking to improve, it's nice to have the option. An effort is made to send a thorough response when the author requests one, because that kind of thing is so beneficial to everyone involved. Of course, it's important to take anyone's advice with a grain of salt and remember that it's just an opinion.

Try to remember, a critique is written to help, not hurt. If you are just starting out in the writing and submission game, pay careful attention to any critiques you can get. If you are feeling brave, seek quality readers/editors who will give you constructive criticism, under any rock where they may be hiding.


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

BS: Certainly, it's to not take rejection personally, to use rejection it as an advantage. Then, to spend some time on a re-write and send it off somewhere else.

I've also learned a lot about brevity (not evident here). The importance of getting to the point. That most successful writing is that way because it is engaging in the beginning, middle and end. It has a flow to it. Usually, when a piece of writing has no movement to it, it just needed a little more focus. Some of the extra padding cut out. Rewrites. I've become a big rewrite guy, and I've learned the importance of reading things out loud. That another draft is usually a great idea, but to never suck all the life out of something in the pursuit of unattainable perfection.


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's the most important thing about editing your own writing?

Don't take all the warts out of it. Don't buff it too clean. Led Zeppelin was a great band for many reasons. I'd say it's arguable that the most appealing thing about them is their character. They weren't afraid to leave some of the mistakes in there. It added a lot. Writing is the same. Have a sense of adventure in your writing, even in the final draft. Do the best you can with your grammar, but don't lose your voice. People want to read your unique story written from your unique point of view, the way that you do it, not some long dead English scholar. Be a little punk rock, but make sure you fix all your goddamn typos, too.

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

NEXT POST: 2/19--Six Questions for Bjorn Wahlstrom, Owner/Editor, H.A.L. Publishing

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Six Questions for Michelle Wotowiec, Editor, The Watercress Journal


The Watercress Journal is looking to showcase stories that leave the reader feeling privileged, surprised, and inspired. We like stories that know the rules and how to break them. Give us something that no one has ever seen before. Learn more here.

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

MW: I would say the top three things I look for when going through submissions are plot, subplot, and character development. I enjoy pieces that have a clear plot but offer something below the surface. I look for stories that I remember reading weeks, or even months, later. I tend to find myself enjoying character driven stories more so than plot driven. That said, a well written plot driven story has the capability of blowing me away.


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

MW: Grammar. It is always grammar. I find when I hold contests (versus open submissions) the pieces tend to be more polished. While I do enjoy editing, I expect the pieces submitted to be ready for publication. As I have vowed to give feedback to everyone who submits to contests, I will finish a piece regardless. My feedback will entail grammatical corrections which is something that should have been corrected before submission. The best feedback you will receive is in regard to plot and character development. If am unable to get past grammatical errors, you will miss out on the feedback that really counts.


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

MW: Originally, I intended to provide feedback for every submission. This became unrealistic when the submissions piled in from all over the country. There are just too many to provide feedback to every one. I have now vowed to provide feedback to every contest submission (in which so far, I have only asked for a $5 submission fee). As stated above, these submissions tend to be more polished and will really gain from the feedback more so than many of the general submissions which are first in need of a good grammatical edit.


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

MW: Yes, if it is good enough. I will even consider previously published submissions as long as the author holds the rights. If work is good, I say lets get it out there as much and as often as we can. I am not getting rich off of this journal. I look at it as having the opportunity to play a hand in the writing community and deciding what is worth reading. 


SQF: What do you want authors to know about the submissions 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?

MW: I want every author to remember that I am just one person. I have my own personal tastes and those may not coincide with the author's. But what do I know? Write what you love, and write from your gut. Take grammar seriously and never censor your material. If I reject it, take a close look at it and send it out elsewhere. Never give up and take rejections with a grain of salt (avoid cliches whenever possible--ha). I do not mind questions about the feedback I provide. I am happy to help a fellow writer whenever I am able.


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

MW: I want to briefly address genres and formulas involved. I tend to enjoy realistic fiction that breaks the rules. As an editor, I know when a writer understands the rules of a genre and is able to break them. There is a difference between doing that and not knowing the rules to begin with. That said, try not to write something that has been written before. Stay away from cliches and what the reader expects. Give me something new and unique. 

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

NEXT POST: 2/15--Six Questions for Bud Smith, Non-fiction Editor, Red Fez

Friday, February 8, 2013

Six Questions for Ben White, Editor, Nanoism


Nanoism is an online publication for twitter-fiction: stories of up to 140 characters. Shorter than traditional flash fiction, it’s both a challenge to write and quick as a blink to read. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

BW: I began writing Twitter-sized fiction in January 2009. I found the exercise fulfilling, both as a sort of public writer's notebook and as standalone stories. I created Nanoism to encourage others to do the same. After almost four years, it remains the longest-running Twitter Fiction publication.


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

1. Avoidance of overworn tropes
2. Change (explicit or implied)
3. Staying power


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

BW: A character sketch is not a story, as it is a description. No matter how pleasantly crafted, there is no motion.

The over-reliance on the sensational: murder, rapes, child kidnapping, etc. Occasionally captivating but mostly a cheap thrill.


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

BW: I used to for every single submission (even those longer than 140 characters, which would be automatically cut off by our submission form). Now, I rarely do, except for those cases that I'd like to see a rewrite of or came particularly close. I feel now that Nanoism's more than 500 very very short stories provide an excellent explanation of what it is I'm looking for. Unlike magazines featuring longer pieces, reading Nanoism's archive is not a cumbersome request!


SQF: What is the best part of being an editor?

BW: Being part of a product. There is a site that has hundreds of stories from hundreds of people chosen from thousands of submissions. It didn't exist before I made it, and now it does.


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

BW: Tastes change over time, not always for the better. The enterprise may be fickle, but the product is its own reward.


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

How far has the Twitter-fiction fever spread?
At least as far as Sweden! See nanoismer.se.

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

NEXT POST: 2/12--Six Questions for Michelle Wotowiec, Editor, The Watercress Journal

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Six Questions for Dustin Luke Nelson, Editor, InDigest


[Ed. note: This is another interview where a seventh question snuck its way into the proceedings.]

InDigest is an online literary magazine and arts blog focused on creating a dialogue between the arts. InDigest is also a small press publisher and runs a reading series in New York at Le Poisson Rouge. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

DLN: I started it with a few friends in St. Paul, MN mostly because we wanted to share the writing and art of a community. There were a lot of interesting people around us (me, David Doody, Chris Koza, and Jesse Sawyer), and we thought we'd start to pull it together and maybe just do it for a little while and see what happens. A lot of editors answer this question with these "The short story was dead, and then we started publishing" kind of answers that are kind of myopic and full of bull-shit-tery. We just did it because it was an interesting project. It's grown and changed over the last five years and I think it's become something different, but we really just started InDigest because we saw a lot of people that we thought were doing interesting things and we wanted to showcase those things.


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

DLN: I'm no good at this sort of question. I don't know what I'm looking for. I'm just looking. I'm trying to dig through the slush pile with an open mind. There's a sort of paradox in the often-seen note on submission pages that says you should read an issue before submitting to get a sense of what the publication publishes. That's true. But on the other hand if it's just like something we've published, then I probably won't like it. When selecting pieces for publication we often say that we want to be able to justify to a stranger why they should read any individual piece we publish, and if it's not different and unique with distinctive qualities, it's hard to tell a stranger why they should read it.


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

DLN: Spelling and grammatical errors top the list. It's hard to keep reading when you think someone isn't respecting your time by sending you the best version of this piece of writing they can create. To that same end, no one likes getting emails that say things like "What gives? It's been two months and I haven't heard from you." Any sort of aggressive email makes me far less inclined to give a close read. I try to overcome those kind of things, but it's hard to be completely objective. We're an online magazine, and don't get paid for this, ever, we lose money on this, and any time someone contacts us and acts as though we owe them something, that's hard to see since we're doing this out of love for the craft, experimental work, and new writing. There's a relationship between editor and submitter that is unspoken that I think should be honored. The submitter needs to remember what kind of publication they are submitting to and the unique editorial situation that they are entering, and the editor, by the act of saying they are reading submissions, has agreed to give some time and care to someone's writing. They've trusted you with their work and you have agreed to respect it and consider it. Anything that breaches that agreement is hard to tune out.


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

DLN: No. 


SQF: What is the best part of being an editor?

DLN: It's the moment when you're digging through the slush pile for hours, you've read 15 straight pieces that were marked instantly in the "no" column, and then you find yourself completely engrossed in a submission and someone has trusted you with a piece that is clearly special. That's a great moment. That moment of discovery.


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

DLN: Honestly, everything I learn as an editor about writing comes from our worst submissions. I learn what not to do. You see a lot of the same "moves" and people attempting to take on similar themes and you get a sense of what is really kind of boring as a reader. That's helpful, because as writers we try to read really great writing and see what others are doing that is interesting, how they do it, what works about it, and we rarely seek out writing that is not good and making lots of mistakes. It's powerful as a writer to be exposed to bad writing.


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

DLN: "What can you do for your local online lit mag editor?" Send them a note when a new issue comes out if you like it. Editors of online poetry publications are 99.9% unpaid and do a lot of great work to keep spots to read poetry alive and viable. Most of these editors don't get a ton of feedback. They probably hear from the authors in the issue and a few friends. Get a friendly note from a stranger is awesome. It makes the whole process feel a little more imbued with purpose.

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

NEXT POST: 2/08--Six Questions for Ben White, Editor, Nanoism

Friday, February 1, 2013

Six Questions for Lisa Andrews and Meredith Davis, Editors, Apeiron Review


Apeiron Review is a Pennsylvania based literary magazine that publishes poetry, prose, and photography. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: What are the top three reasons a submission is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to the above question and why?

Lisa:
  1. Anyone that fails to follow the submissions guidelines is rejected. We have guidelines so that we can streamline the reading process and report back to our authors as quickly as possible.
  2. Unpolished work will be rejected. Meredith and I both have day jobs that keep us pretty busy. We'd love to take the time to help authors with the revision process, and on rare occasions, we do, but for the most part, if a piece has potential but looks like a first draft we will reject it. That doesn't mean that a single spelling mistake will send a piece to the trash bin, only that pieces with more than a handful of errors per page are probably going to be too much work.
  3. We definitely get a lot of pieces that are very good, but that aren't right for our magazine. Until we have a few issues up, though, I feel like that's just going to happen. If a more suitable magazine comes to mind when I'm reading  a piece, though, I'll include the suggestion with the rejection. 

Meredith:

My top three reasons are pretty easy for me. 
  1. If it is boring. That may sound harsh, but I would want to know if my writing has someone skipping to the next paragraph to find out "if something actually happens." We have a lot of submissions to read and if my interest can't be held then I'm not going to force it, or offer it to our audience.
  2. If I've heard it before. This is difficult because we all know (or think we know) there are only so many stories to tell. But if I can guess what this is about, who this character is, and what is going to happen then it usually gets rejected. I'm all for new perspectives on old ideas, but those get published, so it's not an issue. 
  3. If it's not quite there yet. We get submissions from great authors of all ages and skill levels. Sometimes we get something that has a hint, a feeling, a sparkle of something real real good. It's really exciting for me to get these types of submissions. Although, they get rejected, because, like I said, they're not quite there, it makes me a little giddy to know that potential is out there. I try to let these authors (who are usually young) know that it just needs more work. I try to encourage that they put the piece away for a bit and come back to it after they have new and different experiences to pull from.


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. 

Lisa:
Plot and character are fairly equal in importance, but a character without life is irritating. No one wants to listen to a puppet lecture on the author's personal beliefs.

Meredith:
Character is more important for me, but only because you're asking and I'm forcing myself to choose. I think a character can have a plot structure. So, if we're deep in their mind, but "nothing" is happening I would say that can be just as intriguing as any other actions in the world of the story. I can also forgive a mediocre plot if the characters are dynamic. "Life, friends, is boring," therefore it must be filled with interesting characters.


SQF: What advice can you offer new authors hoping to publish their first submission?

Lisa:
Always send in your best, keep trying, and don't let rejection letters keep you down. It's just one more place you know not to send that particular piece to, but on that note, please don't send us pieces every day as fast as you can. Sure, I'll learn your name very quickly, but it isn't going to score you any points.

Meredith:
Keep revising. Keep sharing. Read publicly at open mic nights, to friends who will listen, join a writers group and learn what gets a good response. Take criticism, but know that you can always "throw it away." Not everyone who has a critique knows what they're talking about. And keep submitting.


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

Lisa:
I've learned that all writers at all levels are amazing people. They try and, succeed or fail, keep moving. They're a beautiful and supportive community, and I'm proud to offer a place to showcase their work. 

Meredith:
I've learned a lot about what doesn't work. When a piece is written really well that craftsmanship is almost transparent. You have to go back and analyze why it worked well, and that's a major part of the joy of reading for me. When a piece is poorly done it's easy to pick up on it and say, "Well, talking bananas are a terrible symbol for totalitarian regimes. I'll be sure to never do that." I've also learned there are more stories out there that need to be heard and that need to be written. That's ultimately why I wanted to do this magazine with Lisa. Stories are so important for culture, life, learning, and our minds. We need them and there can never be enough. 


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

Lisa:
Maybe, "What advice would you give to an inexperienced writer or someone who wants to improve their craft?" I volunteered, for about a year, as a slush reader for a popular fantasy magazine. It was one of the best experiences I've ever had within the industry. Learning about the submission/rejection process from the publishing side vs the writers side was invaluable. I learned more about what not to do when writing or submitting than at any craft workshop.

Meredith:
"What do you have planned for the future?" We are always discussing how to make it better, better, and more better. (We don't frequently say "more better," but in this case I'll allow it. I am the co-editor after all.) We have hopes to make the magazine more accessible, more aesthetically pleasing, more fun to navigate, and possibly in a real life version that you can hold. Being able to hold my literature is really important to me, and I stare at glowing screens enough in my professorial life, so a print version is key in my mind. And a little cash for everyone involved wouldn't hurt.

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

NEXT POST: 2/5--Six Questions for Dustin Luke Nelson, Editor, InDigest