Friday, April 5, 2013

Six Questions for Jean Glaub, Casey Mills, and Rachel Bondurant, The Editors, Treehouse Magazine

Treehouse publishes creative nonfiction/fiction to 1,000 words and poetry in any genre. Read the complete guidelines here.

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

Treehouse Magazine: Good craftsmanship, efficiency, and an idea that’s “pleasingly unusual.” While we don’t demand perfection (a typo won’t doom you), we do expect high quality. Reading can be a chore when the words are sloppy and the sentences convoluted, but it’s a pleasure when the writer uses language with exuberance, creativity, and care. 

Efficiency is another crucial point, especially in flash, because of the limited space. We’ve seen a lot of cool stories get bogged down with too many details or characters. We’ve also seen fine, lean writing lose our interest because the premise was too familiar—or simply boring. It’s exciting to find a submission that surprises us. A talented, imaginative writer can make even the oldest themes seem new again.

SQF: What common mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a submission?

TM: The most common mistake we see in poetry is sentimentality. Poetry can be wonderfully charged with emotion, but if the reader can’t follow the writer into that emotional place, the poem will seem sappy or overdone. 

For essays, a common error is an overly worded introduction and a generalized statement of theme (“People always say that…”/”Have you ever had a moment in your life where…well, this is mine.”/ “I sometimes sit and wonder…”) Many submissions will spend more than half of the story establishing what they are about to say, wasting away a limited word count, which could be used to simply tell the story.

For fiction, clichés are a real turnoff, as is forced figurative language. We look for writers who stand apart, and clichés and common metaphors are a quick way to blend in with other submissions. (On the other hand, we get really excited about fresh and organically occurring uses of imagery.)

SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?

TM: Most of the time we do not, simply because time constraints don't allow us to. If we send a personalized rejection with advice or encouragement to submit more writing, it means we were very impressed. When we get submissions from writers who are very early in their career, we will occasionally include some brief suggestions--just little tricks of the trade that we wished we'd had when we were starting out as writers.

SQF: Will you publish a submission an author posted on a personal blog? 

TM: No. Treehouse doesn’t accept work that has been published before, including writing posted on any publicly available blog or website (because hey, we’re an Internet publication).

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?

TM: We've rejected many submissions that were very competently written but just didn't have anything particularly exciting or original going for them. Sometimes we reject a submission because it doesn’t fit our magazine’s aesthetic, or because our editors can’t agree on it. That said, many rejected submissions need work. Writers should make sure their writing is as good as they can make it, then keep sending it out. It’s common for stories to get rejected multiple times before they find a home. We generally don't respond to questions about comments, simply because we don't have time. (If it's a writer we've asked for a rewrite from, that's of course a different story.) 

One thing that's important to know for writers earlier in their career is that, if we send a rejection asking for more work in the future, it's generally a good idea not to send that new work immediately. As a renowned magazine editor once said: Think of it as a first date. Are you going to call your date the second you get home? Or are you going to wait a day or two and give the date some time to enjoy the possibility of getting to hear from you again? (Except, in the case of submitting, a month is probably a good minimum amount of time before sending again.)

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

TM: Hmm. Not sure. You covered it pretty well with the first five. It wouldn't have hurt to ask us about Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son, simply because we love talking about Jesus' Son (we devoted a whole week to Jesus' Son essays last year to celebrate its 20th anniversary), but you couldn't really be expected to know that. So yeah. Good job. This is a cool project you have going here, and we're grateful to have been included.  

Thank you, Jean, Casey and Rachel. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 4/9--Six Questions for Beth Wodzinski, Publisher, Shimmer Magazine

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