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.
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