Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Six Questions for Christine Chesko, Editor-in-Chief, Snail Mail Review

Snail Mail Review accepts previously unpublished fiction to 1500 words and poetry of no more than 35 lines. Learn more here.

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

  1. First impressions are a big deal, and if I notice right away that the writer did not follow submission guidelines, I'll be cranky even before I get to the poetry/short story. I know it can be a pain to include an SASE, but if you'd rather be notified through e-mail, make note of that in your cover letter. If I open a submission and find no SASE and no other form of contact information, I'm liable to just toss out the submission. It's also important to me that submissions look professional. Don't distract me with bright paper or stickers on your cover letter. Using fancy/fun font on your poetry/short fiction submission won't impress me; let the work speak for itself. 
  2. How a poem/short story opens is really crucial to me. I once had a short fiction professor tell me that if your readers don't "hop on the train" after reading the first paragraph or page, then you're going to leave them at the station. I apply the same philosophy to poetry as well. If I'm not "on board" by the first stanza, I'm likely to pass on the submission.
  3. I  look for attention to craft, focus, strong/innovative use of language, and cohesion.  

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

  1. As stated above, I'm likely to disregard a submission if it's unprofessional or does not follow the guidelines. Typos and mechanical errors in a submission are also a really quick way to put me in a cranky mood. If it's obvious to me that you didn't take the time to proofread your work, why should I take the time to read it seriously? I am first and foremost an editor, and I don't mind correcting a few grammar mistakes in a submission, but I do expect the pieces submitted to be polished and mostly ready for publication.  
  2. Use of cliches, archaic language, unimaginative or mixed metaphors.  
  3. Usually, I do not accept work that can be considered experimental. It's just not my preferred genre of literature. Similarly, if I feel like the writer is using an unconventional form or using language in such a way as to just sound esoteric and 'artsy,' I will most likely reject it.

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. 

CC: Plot and character are equally important. A good story needs momentum and character development.  

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

CC: Don't be discouraged if you don't have any publications to list in your bio section. I don't take a writer's bio into consideration when looking through a submission. Generally, I don't even give the cover letter much attention until after I've first read the poetry or short story. I have rejected writers who have had an exhaustive list of previous publications, and I have accepted writers fresh out of their first creative writing class. Also, when you're looking to submit to a journal, it's not a bad idea to do a little bit of research. Maybe buy a copy of the most recent issue or browse the website to see what kind of work is generally accepted.

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

CC: Never underestimate the power and importance of revision.

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

CC: Who are some of your favorite writers of poetry and short fiction?

Dorianne Laux is definitely one of my favorite contemporary poets.  I love her use of language and narrative. I also really enjoy Jeffrey McDaniel's work. His ability to craft crazy original metaphors and similes consistently impresses me. I love getting lost in his word play. I also enjoy Adrienne Rich and Sylvia Plath. Charles Bukowski, too, will always hold a special place in my heart. 

I could go on for days about how much I love the short fiction of Joyce Carol Oates, Raymond Carver, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, and Flannery O'Connor. To me, each utilizes their craft in very different ways but all to very, very effective ends.  

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

NEXT POST: 4/26--Six Questions for Sara Rajan, Editor-in-Chief, Literary Juice

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