Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Six Questions for Kerri Farrell Foley, Editor, Crack the Spine Literary Magazine

Crack the Spine publishes flash fiction to 1,000 words, micro-fiction to 500 characters, poetry, short stories, book reviews and art/photography. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

KFF: Crack the Spine began years ago, in a most informal way. I am a voracious reader, constantly scouring the internet for the latest independent literary magazines and journals. Whenever I came across a piece that struck me in any profound way, I would feel the compulsion to share it with every writer and reader I knew. I firmly believe that the best way to improve one’s writing ability is to devour as much literature as possible. In the craft of writing, as in life, we learn by example. In this spirit, I decided to create a literary magazine that publishes works that inspire, both by their depth of meaning, and their richness of language. Crack the Spine is designed first and foremost for the readers, but has also grown to take great pride in being a platform for both established and emerging writers. 

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

  1. We want poetry and prose that elicits an emotional reaction.  We call it “punched in the throat” writing. Palpable subtext and unpredictable language get much further with us than blatant shock lit or last-line plot twists.  
  2. We’re looking for literature that sings.  Our favorite pieces that we’ve published in the past (the ones that are usually selected for print publication later on) are works that manipulate language and phrasing in an unexpected way. 
  3. We want living, breathing characters that exist, not as a vehicle for flowery phrases or poetic philosophizing, but simply because they must exist.  That is not to say that we are looking for overly detailed character studies.  We simply avoid “yellow brick road” writing, where the style of storytelling is “this happened and then this happened…”  Characters and their motivations are what make a plot truly relatable.   

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

KFF: We don’t want to be spoon-fed.  Overly detailed prose and poetry generally indicate a distrustful writer who is insistent that an audience see it his or her own way.  Such writing, in our opinion, comes across as under-developed and flippant.  Subtext and metafiction are the keys to our heart.  Successful writers allow us as readers to imprint our own emotional experiences and draw our own lessons from the text.  Don’t tell us who the narrator of a poem is; let your readers decide that for themselves.  Don’t spell out a character’s complete motivation; let your audience assume based on their own experiences.  Trust is the difference between a writer and a person who is just transcribing facts.

Submissions should not tackle a predictable or well-worn subject unless doing so in a very exceptional or unexpected way.  Poetry submissions in particular can seem prone to redundancy.  Your poem about the various hues of fall leaves may be perfectly lovely, but unless it’s the absolute best out of hundreds of poems about seasonal colors we’ve received, we’re unlikely to get excited about it.

We don’t mind violence and profanity, but only if it is serving the poem or story in a meaningful way.

Grammatical, spelling, and/or formatting nightmare manuscripts need not apply.  While our goal is to read each and every submission in its entirety, we will seldom venture past the first page of a document that is not properly proofread. 

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

KFF: No.  Unfortunately, the volume of our submissions makes rejection specifics impossible.

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

KFF: Literature begs for conversation.  While reading is a solitary task, the reactions that a person experiences in relation to a work of poetry or prose beg to be shared.  We encourage conversation amongst our readers, by providing an option to comment on our weekly digital issues.  We find that the best writing comes not from individuals who lock themselves away in a sparsely furnished room under a bare bulb and toil, but rather from people who expose themselves to new writers and engage in meaningful discussion about the trends and methods of modern writing.  

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

KFF:  Is there a Crack the Spine mascot? 

Why, yes - a little Jack Russell Mutt named Butters.  He is our living reminder that, despite what we were taught in elementary school about perseverance, sometimes the best things in life do just wander right up to your front door. 

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

NEXT POST: 4/5--Six Questions for Jean Glaub, Casey Mills, and Rachel Bondurant, The Editors, Treehouse Magazine


  1. I have enjoyed reading this enlightening interview and found it to be super helpful in terms of being an emerging writer, and wanting to clearly understand what is expected from future writers when submitting work. I have found it refreshing and actually inspiring just having that knowledge of what is expected and what’s not... It’s also interesting reading about how a magazine was started, and I also like how the editor was able to share her own experiences of what she’s learned about writing. I also really like the name of the Magazine!

    Thank you for sharing.

    Jane Ewen

  2. Thanks for the information! :)