PRISM international is a quarterly magazine out of Vancouver, British Columbia that publishes fiction and creative non-fiction to 25 pages and poetry. Read the complete guidelines here.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
Pi: It's tough to rank the "top three" things we look for in a submission, but the three things that most often draw us into a piece (in no particular order) are originality (and this could be in structure, subject material, voice...), quality of the writing, and the ability to engage a reader.
SQF: What common mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a submission?
Pi: Not to discourage longer pieces, because we've seen and published some fantastic ones, but we do see many pieces that are much longer than they need to be and include information and scenes that are outside the scope of the story. We also often turn down short stories because the arc of the plot doesn't feel complete. Sometimes the ending is too abrupt or doesn't fit the piece. Sometimes conflict is introduced but never resolved. Writers should also be careful of "over writing," that is, using language that is overly complex and uneconomical.
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?
Pi: On rare occasions, we'll provide some feedback and ask to see a revision, but generally speaking, we just don't have time to provide comments on the pieces we reject. We are also very sensitive to the fact that our opinion is subjective, and don't want to unduly influence the shape of a piece. Just because a piece isn't right for us, doesn't necessarily mean it needs to be revised.
SQF: Will you publish a submission an author posted on a personal blog?
Pi: No. PRISM asks for First North American serial rights. This means the piece has not appeared on any media outlet including websites, chapbooks, anthologies, magazines, newspapers and so on.
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?
Pi: Just because a piece isn't right for PRISM, doesn't mean it isn't perfect for another magazine. A rejection should never be taken personally, because there are all kinds of factors besides the writing itself that could have influenced our decision (for example if we just published a piece featuring ice cream, and the new piece features ice cream...). We typically are unable to respond to author queries, but do welcome continued submissions. We've had some contributors who submitted to PRISM for up to 8 years before getting a piece accepted.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
Pi: We wished you'd asked us which genres we publish. PRISM's mandate includes publication of drama and translation as well as fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry. We are very hungry for awesome prose translated into English and excellent pieces of drama that are 25 pages or less in length.
We also wish you'd asked about our contests. PRISM international runs 3 contests a year for a whopping $6,000 total in prizes. We have a contest in fiction, non-fiction and poetry. The editors read all of our shortlist, and often publish pieces that didn't place. For example, in our upcoming issue, 51.4, we have a non-fiction contest shortlist piece by Heather Tucker entitled "Vanishing Point."
Finally, we wish you'd asked if we are involved in any awards nominations. The answer is YES! PRISM regularly nominates for the Pushcart Prize, O Henry Prize, Western Magazine Awards, National Magazine Awards and Journey Prize.
Thank you, Anna and Jane. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 6/11 -- Six Questions for Jessica Rosevear, Editor, Killing the Angel