Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Six Questions for Jason Cook, Founding Editor, Fiddleblack

Fiddleblack’s mission is a basic path toward the discovery (and sometimes rediscovery) of literary and speculative works that eloquently capture what it means to know the finite bounds of self and place. Learn more here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

JC: Fiddleblack was started with the same impetus I think drives many small record labels. I was unable to find another press or journal focusing solely on the sort of material I enjoy writing and reading, so I felt the creative responsibility to build the space I could not find.

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

JC: I believe we carry a more technically specified mission statement than most other journals, and we tend to know rather quickly whether a submission will fit or not. At the top of the list, we look for a capable quality of writing, whether the piece demonstrates atmospheric elements, and whether the piece speaks to us in some transgressive manner. Our acceptances sometimes come to work that isn't quite a match-by-mission, yet it's a match-with-heart or something possibly inspiring to us, in terms of aesthetic deviation.

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

JC: Often we receive submissions that have not been informed in the least by our catalog. This includes stereotypical genre work, poetry, school papers, and so forth. Moreover, we're turned off by work with very boring, uneventful content. On occasion, we receive emails from authors close to our catalog with snippets from news articles, things that sound like Fiddleblack stories but are, of course, real life events. It's disappointing to see the number of authors submitting work that's wholly and drably imagined when all of society's daily machinations go on providing far more interesting, dreadful, lacerating ideas by the minute. 

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

JC: We almost never provide feedback for rejected submissions. On the rare occasion that we do, often the submitter is first being welcomed to submit again. There's enough specificity in our mission, catalog, podcast, and print books to spell out what it is that we're publishing. We don't believe any niggling comments may help. However, this is not to say an author cannot or should not first write in with a story idea, brief writing sample and so forth. Upon request, we may happily provide notes.

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

JC: Less so than writing, the process of driving Fiddleblack for myself, and for our associate editor Melissa Lewis, has taught quite a bit about art. The literary journal world is an overcrowded and anxious place made by its contemporary design to support the self-validation of many students and exploratory writers. I don't feel as though we have much common ground with that arena. Instead, our company's experience up until this point has more clearly revealed the shape of the publishing landscape, or at least our bettered opinion of it. Writing will go on reflecting people's fantasies. How (and where) publishing chooses to show those fantasies feels like the closer art to us.

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

JC: I thought you might ask where we see the press/journal going in five or so years. I try to pay attention to the goings-on at this level, with Night Train having closed, Mud Luscious closing, groups like PANK straddling the scene. There's a perception folks have of these journals, that they're fleeting, and in many cases I believe they are. The old-guard journals with academic ties have existed as they have because of their funding. Night Train endured from, I think, love. Many of the others seem to exist because they're perceived as cool, as a cool thing to be a part of or as a self-validating thing to have started. I'd like to believe we're small and controlled enough to shy away from trend-riding, economic hardship, and so forth. So I to say we'll be here, still pushing a handful of projects at a time, hopefully closer to our authors than ever.

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

NEXT POST: 8/2 -- Six Questions for Jeremiah Walton, Editor, Walking Is Still Honest

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