Paper Tape publishes visual art, articles, reviews, interviews, creative nonfiction, and fiction. Read the complete guidelines here.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
1. Good writing. Does the author use language in an interesting way? Are there at least not too many mechanical errors?
2. An intriguing concept. Sometimes, the concept is so interesting that I stop thinking about the way it's written immediately and just pay attention to the story. When that happens, I almost always accept it. Reading Cody Luff's "Fireman" for the first time was like that. The idea of a fireman burning down a firefighters convention got my attention right away. It held my interest all the way through, and there was nothing distracting about the way it was written, so accepting it was a no-brainer.
3. Passion. Paper Tape isn't a technique showcase. I want to feel like the writer cares about what they're writing. If I get the sense that there is something there that needs to be said, I am often willing to work with a writer on mechanics. Commas can be fixed, but it's a very difficult thing to give a story a heart transplant.
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. The writing isn't tight enough for the web. I send back a lot of work that print journals would probably jump on. I try to be clear in the rejection letter when that's the case, but I have to draw a hard line. Paper Tape is hosted by Tumblr, and people scroll through their Tumblr dashboards at 600 MPH. If it's starting to feel padded to me, the reader probably moved on a long time ago. The longer a story or essay is, the tighter the writing has to be.
2. It isn't right for our audience. Paper Tape has a really diverse audience, and I sometimes read work that feels like it's talking to a group of insiders. Sometimes it's subtle, and I catch a note of disdain when a certain group of people are mentioned, or, instead of talking from their experience, the writer mentions something that "we all know" about religion or politics. I rarely get anything actually hateful, but I occasionally get an antagonist whose only negative traits are being stupid and belonging to the "wrong" party or sect, which is not very interesting, anyway.
3. The submission is a poem. It's unfortunate that we don't publish poetry because the poets who send their work to us usually follow the rest of our guidelines flawlessly. Maybe there's an extremely polite spam bot out there trying to take over the world with poetry. Who knows.
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.
KH: Both are preferable, but it's much easier to sell me on a lackluster plot than a story with lifeless characters. It's a matter of preference. I'm sure there are many editors out there who prefer page-turners. I'm not one of them.
SQF: What advice can you offer new authors hoping to publish their first submission in Paper Tape?
KH: Don't send us poetry. In all seriousness, don't worry if you don't have a long list of publications in your bio. I started Paper Tape because there are few things more exciting to me than finding a new voice. Being new is nothing to be ashamed of.
SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?
KH: Before I became an editor, I spent a lot of time worrying about sounding smart enough, but I don't worry about that anymore. I've read too many stories filled with $50 words that have nothing to say. Simplicity is invisible, but a lack of substance is impossible to hide. I spend a lot more time meditating before I pick up a pen than I used to.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
KH: James Gapinski from The Conium had a good thought in his interview when he mentioned what he was reading. Lately, I've been reading Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan and rereading Neil Gaiman's American Gods. I'm also a really big fan of Scarlett Thomas, Anne Carson, and Miranda July.
Thank you, Kristy. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 7/2--Six Questions for Changming Yuan, Editor-in-Chief, Poetry Pacific