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

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