The Story Shack is a daily flash fiction (up to 1,500 words) platform that celebrates the collaboration between writers and illustrators. All accepted authors are linked up with an illustrator, who goes on to create an accompanying art piece for the story. Learn more here.
SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
MH: The Story Shack originally started as a personal portfolio website, an incentive to output at least one short story each week. When I began collaborating with an illustrator friend, Lars de Ruyter, I noticed how much artwork actually adds to the story and how it can even show a different interpretation of it. This sparked the idea to expand The Story Shack into the daily platform it is today. Currently, I work with a pool of fourteen very talented illustrators, who deliver work every two weeks. All of them illustrate voluntarily, and it's amazing to see the time and the passion they invest in this project.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
MH: First off, The Story Shack is an e-zine that places an emphasis on the visual. Even though I will never turn down a strong, well-written story, I love reading writers who paint with words. Experience has taught me that stories with interesting visual elements result in more interesting illustrations. Second, I like writers who take chances with their work, who are not afraid to tread into uncharted territory. Originality is a definite plus. Finally, it's important that a story moves me in a certain way. When a tale leaves me with a smile, a skipped heartbeat or a hint of a tear, I know it's a good one.
SQF: What common mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a submission?
MH: While I'm a patient guy who will read pretty much everything he receives, failure to adhere to submission guidelines always makes me cringe a little. When work is sent in unusual, undesired formats, I know I will lose a lot of time reformatting it later, and that is a definite turn-off. Another turn-off is that some writers do not properly edit their work before sending it. This ranges from little typos to poorly formatted dialogue. All these problems have nothing to do with the actual narrative, but they have everything to do with respect towards an editor. Submission guidelines are there for a reason.
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?
MH: It depends. As a standard procedure, I don't provide feedback, as this would take up too much of my time. I simply thank the writer, encourage him or her to continue submitting the story to other publications and ask to send other work whenever he or she feels like it. However, sometimes I receive a story that truly entertains me and takes me in its grip, but then disappoints in the end. I can't accept it, but I also don't want the potential to go to waste. So in a case like that, I will provide feedback to the writer and ask for a re-submission.
SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?
MH: I've learned that there is still much more to learn. I've learned about the importance of developing and maintaining an own writing style. And I've learned that becoming a good writer means you have to work long and hard on improving your craft.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
MH: A question I noticed somewhere on this blog: 'Do you publish work that has previously been published elsewhere?'. The answer is YES. I have no problem at all with this, as long as I know where it was published. In my opinion, on this vast web, chances that readers of The Story Shack will have read the same story over on another site are close to none. Apart from that, I believe gifted writers need as much exposure as they can get, and I'm very happy to help out.
Thank you, Martin. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 3/19--Six Questions for Susan Solomon, Editor, Sleet Magazine