Friday, March 22, 2013

Six Questions for Todd Pederson, Poetry Editor, Sleet Magazine

Sleet Magazine publishes fiction, flash fiction, poetry, interviews, and irregulars (cross-genre works). Read the complete guidelines here.

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

  • Proficiency—a demonstration of craftsmanship.  A poet who pays close attention to the imperatives that guide our art: meter, rhyme scheme, line and stanza breaks, imagery, simile, metaphor, etc.
  • A moment of surprise—a line or image that is unexpected.  A published poem should contain at least one moment so lovely or unforeseen that the reader must pause and compose his or herself before they continue.
  • Risk—a sense of poetic courage, or that the poet has challenged him or herself in order to make their voice unique.  There are a lot of poems that sound just like other poems; I prefer a writer who endeavors to make his or her work, or voice, entirely their own.

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

  • Linear narrative—Poetry can be a story, but not necessarily one with a clean beginning or conclusion; a poem should be less concerned with time than a sense of timelessness.  I enjoy poems that don’t answer questions or leave breadcrumbs to follow down the page.  I’m not looking for a poet who walks me from point A to B; I want a poet who throws me to that place, or makes me fly.
  • Lack of focus—Although I am not looking for clean narrative, I do enjoy poets whose work conveys direction.  I don’t need a solution or conclusion, but I do want a poet to point me somewhere.
  • Grammar—If a poem has too many grammatical errors, it will be rejected.  One, or maybe two, errors are understandable, but a handful suggests a poet who didn’t proofread their work before submitting it to SleetSleet sees a lot of poems, most of which are grammatically correct—be one of those writers.

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. 


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

TP: Have enough courage to take one or two risks.  I’m interested in work that stands out from the milieu, or mishmash, of poems that all sound and look alike.  I am far more predisposed to consider a weaker poem that seems new and fresh than a competent poem that echoes a poem written by another applicant.

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

TP: Be distinct.  Voice is the element that drives our art; voice is what a reader encounters ahead of image, rhyme scheme, etc.  I can attenuate my voice and art so that it joins into the poetic tapestry, or I can create work that engenders surprise and is noticed.

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


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

NEXT POST: 3/26--Six Questions for Kathy McEathron, Fiction Editor, Sleet Magazine

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