Friday, August 30, 2013

Six Questions for Alexander J. Smith and Adonis Leboho, Editors, Dead Beats

Dead Beats is a Sheffield-based, student-run publishing and performance poetry organisation, set up to cultivate literary aestheticism. The site works as an interactive publishing space which showcases poems, short stories (max. 2000 words) and experimental pieces. Read the submission guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this blog?

A&A: Dead Beats originated from a post-seminar study group at the University of Sheffield. From the initial membership of this group, numbers dwindled to form a three-man membership.

Under the moniker Dead Beats, we created a social media platform which would provide a  space for unpublished writers, especially young (student) writers, to  share their work. Taking cues from the counter-cultural literary sentiments of the Beat Generation, we hope to rekindle the self-expressive and socially aware messages that they articulated.


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

A&A: I don't think we select poems by means of any few 'key' ingredients; usually, our selection criteria can be derived from the holistic effect or impact of the piece. Particularly evocative pieces engender a certain response and this general lack of prescriptiveness allows us to engage with all manner of different pieces.


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

A&A: This isn't so much of a mistake but there  is a general misconception amongst some of our contributors that we are only  interested in work of a Beat orientation, and yet, Dead Beats publishes any work  of an inspired or inspiring nature; the Beats guided the ethics of the blog but their work doesn't define our goals.


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

A&A: We started out doing so, but after about a year of providing feedback we found that this didn't really offer much to the contributor. We generally take the pieces as they are and only in special circumstances collaborate with the author on changes.


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

A&A: There are certain recurrent themes in the writing that we receive. We do not know whether this is an expression of inter-subjective experiences in 21st century life or what but, nonetheless, there is something telling about the distaste of mass-produced images, a predilection towards abstract values and a nostalgia for a reality other than the one authors seem to be living that is encoded into a lot of the contributed pieces.


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

A&A: 'Does publishing sometimes get routine, like you are a simply a conveyor belt for creativity?'

We are taking certain steps to engage more both with authors and readers in order to deepen the experience of creating and reading. Watch this space!


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

NEXT POST: 9/3--Six Questions for Mary Stone Dockery, Co-editor, Stone Highway Review

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Six Questions for Annabelle Carvell and Carlotta Eden, Co-Founders/Editors, Synaesthesia Magazine

Synaesthesia Magazine publishes short stories, flash fiction, poetry, illustrations, photography, articles and reviews on a bi-monthly basis. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Annabelle: Synaesthesia Magazine started when both of us were unemployed. I had always longed to be entrepreneurial in some creative way. The word 'synaesthesia' was something I had first heard about as a teenager, and the sound itself was a romance in my mouth. Out of nowhere, one day the idea dawned on me - 'What about a literary magazine?' I knew I wanted to embark upon this journey with someone else, and I knew exactly who instantly.

I contacted Carlotta, who I knew to be just as passionate about reading and writing as myself, and there was instant business 'electricity'. We discussed the idea animatedly; we wanted an explosion of the senses through the expression of the arts. We wanted synaesthesia. 


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

Carlotta: Quirkiness, energy and short, rich lines. We like writing that’s honest and brutal, both structurally and in the story. We look for short stories that change, even if that change is small. We want to feel the inspiration and passion behind artwork and photography, and, luckily, we usually do. Our favourite submissions are the ones that blur senses and evoke a certain amount of synaesthesia.


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

Annabelle: Correct grammar, punctuation and spelling is a must, but it doesn't mean we toss these submissions aside. We read every single one of our submissions, and if we can see the content behind the mistakes, we'll suggest relevant edits. It just helps us to immerse ourselves in the pieces we receive if errors are minimal. The biggest mistake that would turn us off to a submission completely would be complete disregard of our set theme! 


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

Carlotta: We try to, yes. We’re both writers so we know what it’s like to be rejected again and again and receive no why or how or anything at all. It’s dejecting, so our shortlisters (those who we put on a shortlist before the final decision making process) always receive feedback about their submission from us (this applies mainly to our writers). We then begin liaising with writers in a mini-workshop conversation. Our writers don’t have to listen to our critiques or suggestions, but we’re the ones who are going to be honest, not their family or friends.


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

Annabelle: We've learnt what we like to look for in a submission, and have employed that in our own writing. More personally, however, is what our experience as an editor for Synaesthesia Magazine has done for our writing - we are conscious of what the term itself means - we believe that synaesthesia itself is the greatest tip for any writer. Hear with your eyes, look with your hands, feel with your nose and smell with your ears.


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

Carlotta: Rather selfishly, we’d like to have been asked about synaesthesia. The studies on the condition are so minimal, and we hope to spread a little more awareness and understanding about it. We try to place a heavy emphasis on sensory confusion in an artistic sense. Synaesthetes get gritty with their writing. Imagine, for a second, if all letters had personalities, and that was normal to you. How differently would you write? We want you to think like that.


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

NEXT POST: 8/30--Six Questions for Alexander J. Smith and Adonis Leboho, Editors, Dead Beats

Friday, August 23, 2013

Six Questions for Darryl & Melissa Price, Editors, Olentangy Review

Olentangy Review publishes poetry, short fiction, prose, essays and visual arts like cartoons, photography, graphic design and video. Learn more here

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

Olentangy Review: A sense of engagement with the subject matter—a good sense of humor, beauty, intelligence.


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

OR: A sense of entitlement, a list of accomplishments, unfinished work. 


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

OR: Yes. 


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? 

OR: We thoughtfully consider every submission, discuss it thoroughly and only accept work we unanimously agree on. We would be willing to answer any questions regarding the work we reject.  


SQF: What is the best part of being an editor? 

OR: Seeing the creativity of the world. Creating a connection between the artist and our audience. 


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

OR: What constitutes good writing? Good writing is original, it does not mimic or name drop. Good writing is honest, it doesn't rely on tricks. It lets you feel, it doesn't force you to feel.


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

NEXT POST: 8/27--Six Questions for Annabelle Carvell and Carlotta Eden, Co-Founders/Editors, Synaesthesia Magazine

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Six Questions for Bernie Mojzes and A.C. Wise, Editors, Unlikely Story

Unlikely Story publishes three themed issues a year: The Journal of Unlikely Entomology, The Journal of Unlikely Cryptography, and The Journal of Whatever Tickles Our Fancy This Year. We reserve the right to put out an indeterminate number of further sub-themed mini-issues on an irregular basis, or not, depending on how we feel. See below for specific details regarding each issue. Read the complete guidelines here.

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

ACW: Well, you’re asking at an interesting time, as we’re in the process of restructuring our publication. The number one thing used to be: The story must contain bugs. Now that we’re switching focus from The Journal of Unlikely Entomology to Unlikely Story (which encompasses JUE) our focus is a little broader. Since we’re doing three themed issues per year now my number one item is: The story should relate to the issue’s theme. Beyond that, stories should be well-written, meaning the characters should have motives for their actions, there should be a plot with some point beyond being an amusing anecdote or an elaborate set-up for a “twist” ending, and the story should employ recognized rules of grammar and spelling. Beyond that, beautiful or unusual use of language and unexpected integration of our given theme are happy bonuses likely to win us over. 

BM: Oh, do the easy question first, right?

1) Ekaterina Sedia in one of her anthology guidelines said something like "send me a story that haunts my dreams." Yes, that. What is that thing that makes a story haunt an editor's dreams? Couldn't tell you. But if you send us something that has that, you've just beaten 99% of your competition. Even if there are some serious flaws with the story, not all is lost. Those are the ones we'll reject with an offer to look at a rewrite. 

2) I'm only going to do two, because I'm going on forever here...  There's always that story that seems perfectly fine, that doesn't do anything wrong, but there's just something missing. Good characters, tight plot, interesting concept, all the pieces look right. It's just... not quite where it needs to be. 

I used this metaphor in a panel at Balticon a few weeks back, and I think that, as a musician, this makes that indefinable "something's missing" easier for me to get a handle on. Hopefully it makes some sense to other folks. 

Your story needs to sing. Every person you meet has a song, a cadence in which they speak (rhythm & flow), a timbre of how they present themselves (not just the quality of the sound, but their body language, and how they play the rests). Each of your characters has to have a song that is uniquely theirs. One character's song can be influenced by another character's song, or by circumstances (being chased by the giant spiders, vs sitting by the fire recounting being chased by the giant spiders, for example), but they shouldn't be interchangeable. I should be able to make an educated guess from how the phrasing is constructed, which words are used, etc., which character is speaking. The narrator is NOT the author (with only a handful of exceptions); the narrator is a character in your story, and has both a song of his or her own, and has to provide the framing music that ties all the various pieces of music into one intricate tapestry: a cohesive and interesting narrative.

Stories that do that stand out from the vast majority of the slush pile.


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

BM:

1) Unreflective use of clichés and well-established tropes.
2) Stories that reflect the Isms (sexism, racism, etc.) of the author. Stories that take on these complex societal phenomena in naive ways.
3) Because it has to be said: excessive telling.
4) Stories that aren't stories (a piece that describes Author's Really Neat Idea in detail, but never gets around to having characters, or plot, or story arc, or much of anything else).
5) Stories in which the wrong word is used (authors should know their homophones and use the write won).
6) Cover letters that assume that only the male editor needs to be addressed.

ACW: If a story has nothing to do with the theme of a given issue, it makes it pretty clear the author couldn’t even be bothered to read the guidelines. While we won’t reject a submission out of hand for failing to follow our preferred formatting guidelines, it is a turn-off and shows a certain lack of professionalism. Ditto for a story where it appears the author has no interest in spelling or proper grammar. Everyone makes honest typos, but a manuscript riddled with mistakes will get tossed. While we’ve been lucky enough not to receive too many, stories displaying racism, sexism, homophobia, or any other prejudice have no place in our publication.


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

BM: We consider the story previously published, so it would be considered a reprint. Because we publish a maximum of one reprint per issue, the chances of it being accepted are lower, but not outside the realm of possibility. We strongly recommend that writers not put work they wish to sell elsewhere up anywhere on the public Internet—it will bite you in the ass (I speak from experience from when I first started submitting stories without understanding what "first rights" meant). We also recommend that if you do want to sell a previously posted story, you state in your cover letter where it has appeared, and when, and whether it is still viewable, because editors know how to use Google.


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?

ACW: As a general rule, authors shouldn’t respond to rejections. They should send the rejected story to a different publication that might be a better fit, and, if they’re so inclined, write a different story for us. Rejection isn’t personal, though it’s sometimes hard not to take it that way. A story that isn’t right for us may be perfect for another editor. If we like a story, but it isn’t quite right for us, we’ll try to give some kind of personalized feedback. If we say we’re looking forward to your next submission, we really mean it. 

If an author politely replies with questions, I’ll do my best to answer but unfortunately time doesn’t allow for personal comments on every story. An author in that situation would be better served finding a critique group or partner for feedback on what is and isn’t working.  If an author responds to a rejection with a rude/abusive email, they’re pretty much guaranteed never to publish a story with us. 

BM: Unless the rejection includes an invitation to respond or an offer to consider a rewrite, just start working on your cover letter for the next market you're going to submit it to. If the rejection includes feedback, pay attention to it. Even if you feel the feedback is completely wrong (even if it IS completely wrong), it may mean that there's a problem elsewhere in the story that's causing the reader to misinterpret something.

If an editor sends a rejection with an offer to look at a rewrite, that means you're really close. Jump on that opportunity. Even if the resulting story doesn't sell, you'll have a chance to exchange emails with the editor and receive detailed notes/critique about what's working for that editor and what isn't. People pay money for that kind of critique. You're being offered it for free. Take it and use it.


SQF: What is the best part of being an editor?

BM: Um. There's supposed to be a good part? This is a trick question, right?

ACW: Discovering wonderful stories by authors whose work I haven’t read before. Finding stories I absolutely fall in love with and can’t wait to share with readers. 

BM: Oh, yeah. Well, there is that.


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


ACW: The question: What would you like to see more of in your submission pile? The answer: More stories by authors from traditionally under-represented groups/more stories featuring traditionally under-represented characters. Basically, we want stories showing the full spectrum of human experience, which means more than stories by and about straight, white, able-bodied, neuro-typical males, living a North American lifestyle. Which doesn’t mean we never want to see stories featuring those characters, or written by those authors, but we don’t want that to be the only thing we publish.

Thank you, Bernie and A.C. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 8/23--Six Questions for Darryl & Melissa Price, Editors, Olentangy Review 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Six Questions for Jamez Chang, Flash Fiction Editor, Counterexample Poetics

Counterexample Poetics publishes poetry, flash fiction (to 1000 words), paintings, art and photography that incorporates some element of experimentation, counterexample or innovation. Read the complete guidelines here.


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

JC: Sticking with flash, I have a few things I rather enjoy: 1) Pure storytelling over beautiful writing; 2) A voice that engages readers rather than editors, one that creates a sense of anticipation in the reader's mind; 3) The most ineffable quality: literary innovation/experimentation. I want to get the sense that the writer has taken a risk; that our journal is her sandbox, and here stands her "think piece." So having grounded herself in a prose that's well-crafted and accessible, somewhere also in this flash, the author has made a deliberate attempt to elevate the art form. Cowboy Junkie, Hip Hop Scholar; Ivory Tower Assassins on low ground.


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

JC: A wise person once said, there is a difference between a good dead baby story and a bad dead baby story. Just do it right. I know how tough it is being a writer, no, a submitting writer; so other than the limitations set forth in CP's guidelines, I try to meet each piece with a "search-out-the-beauty" mentality. I ask Where is the limestone? In other words, mistakes don't bother me.


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

JC: YES, but he will need to remove the wonderful post upon notice of acceptance. Had to insert my legal background at some point.


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?

JC: Again, just talking flash, REMOVE REJECTED FROM YOUR VOCABULARY. I never use the euphemism "not the right fit," and you can curse out my youngest if you ever read the words "It's Not for Us," which is the pinnacle of editor snobbery and elitism. REPLACE that word in BOLD CAPS with RICOCHET, and know that your piece was more Star Wars than Star Trek, or we were looking for a reboot of Back to the Future, and you gave us H.G. Wells. It's an old cliche, but it really rings true: It's not you, it's us. As the Flash Fiction section of Counterexample evolves, we'll be looking more and more for "Flash Fiction that takes the well-crafted risk." That might mean an eclectic process, experimentation with form, Geoguesser, Google Maps, Ekphrasis, collaboration, dialogue with Steve Job's tracker ball. But do keep the dialogue going, and respectfully, and shoot me an email, why not, I'd be glad to comment on a particular piece. 


SQF: What is the best part of being an editor?

JC: Finding an artist behind the laptop screen. Whether in Tuscon or Auckland. That beyond publication credits or the drive to accomplishment—fervor results—I can so obviously see an artist engaging the right-brain clutch. 


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'm not the biggest believer in blind submissions. And I like a good cover letter. I enjoy how an author attempts to explain what they were trying to accomplish with a piece. I don't mind that at all. In fact, I respect it. I've been around a few blocks NOT to be taken into a blind alley and feel as if I've been fed a premonition or plot. If a writer wants to say in her cover letter that this flash was inspired by the Boston Marathon bombings, go right ahead. Art is intrinsically intertwined with REALITY, so preambles, I see as actually healthy, down-to-earth devices that in some cases, stop the author from clicking send to submit—having re-evaluated the intentions of her piece. I know I've done that. Finally, I'm a sucker for collaborative work, so any co-authored flash will always score points with me!


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

NEXT POST: 8/20--Six Questions for Bernie Mojzes and A.C. Wise, Editors, Unlikely Story

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Six Questions for Jack Hill and Ana Maria, Editors, Crossed Out Magazine

Crossed Out Magazine publishes short stories on a quarterly schedule. Learn more here

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

COM: Crossed Out Magazine is our effort to promote independent literature in an accessible, free of cost, and DIY, format.


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

COM:
1. We're snapped up by the story immediately. 
2. Social/political/environmental themes.
3. Shows more than tells us things, ideas, philosophies.


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

COM: We don't encounter "mistakes," maybe. We receive many stories that we'd like to publish, but our budget is too small. We publish possibly 1-3% of the submissions we receive. 


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

COM: We reply to as many submissions as possible with comments. Possibly 25%. It varies.


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

COM: There are more writers actively submitting short stories than I imagined.


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

COM: "How important is biographical information/do you require it?" Not important and no. Long biographies are generally skipped over. Possibly 90% of the time. 


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

NEXT POST: 8/16--Six Questions for Jamez Chang, Flash Fiction Editor, Counterexample Poetics

Friday, August 9, 2013

Six Questions for Bruce Bethke, Editor-in-Chief, Stupefying Stories

Stupefying Stories looks for great stories, period. The editor wants "a story that grabs my attention, takes me away to an interesting place populated by interesting characters, keeps me turning the pages to find out what happens next, and at the end leaves me feeling that the time I spent reading your story was time well-spent." Learn more here.

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

BRB: First off, we're not exactly one publication: we're a monthly magazine, Stupefying Stories; an aperiodic "theme" anthology series, Stupefying Stories Presents; and a free weekly webzine, Stupefying Stories SHOWCASE. The kinds of stories we buy for these three channels don't overlap precisely -- it's more like a three-set Venn diagram -- but for a very good start at discovering what we'd like to see, check out SHOWCASE at http://www.StupefyingStoriesSHOWCASE.com 

The most important thing I'd add to the above description is that Stupefying Stories magazine is focusing on science fiction and fantasy these days. We have bought and run other kinds of stories in the past, which confused the heck out of reviewers and readers ("What is this mystery story doing in my science fiction magazine?!"), and we'll continue to buy other kinds of stories for the Stupefying Stories Presents line, but at this time, we're primarily an SF/F market.


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

BRB: In your lead-in you posed a dangerous question: you asked me to "list, in excruciating detail," all that I wanted to see in submissions. So first off, you need to understand that I'm not just an editor; I'm an award-winning writer with a thirty-year publication history of my own. Ergo, if I knew exactly what I wanted to see in a submission, I'd save us both a lot of bother, write it myself, and sell it to someone else who would pay me for the rights to publish it.

I guess that's the first thing I look for in a submission, then: a story that makes me say, "Wow, I never even thought of that! I wish I'd written that!"

The second thing I'd say to potential contributors is that, while writing is as much or as little of an art as you choose to make it, publishing is a business, and specifically, we're in the entertainment business. So I look for stories that I think our readers will find entertaining.

Remember, entertainment comes in a lot of flavors: it can be funny or scary, thrilling or romantic. Make 'em laugh, make 'em cry; make 'em cheer, make 'em sigh. But your readers are giving you an incredibly precious thing -- their time -- so you owe it to them to make good use of their time, and to deliver an entertainment experience that leaves them feeling something at the end.

I mean, something beyond a sense of depression, revulsion, nausea, or a profound wish that they could get the time they spent reading your story back.

The third thing I look for in a story would probably be called a complete story arc, but that seems a bit dry and lifeless. I prefer to paraphrase Mickey Spillane: it may be the beginning of your story that hooks me into reading it, but it's the ending that convinces me to buy it -- and makes readers eager to read your next story. Too many writers put too much effort into the beginnings of their stories and then don't so much end the story as let it crap out. I look for stories by writers who seem to understand that while the beginning is important, it's the ending that sells the story.


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

BRB: Trying to pare this down to a shortlist: the single biggest mistake a prospective contributor can make is to fail to read our submission guidelines. We've put quite a lot of time into refining our guidelines -- especially the list of things we do NOT want to see (http://stupefyingstories.blogspot.com/p/what-we-are-not-buying-now.html) -- not because we're some kind of constipated prigs, but because there are things we simply do not publish, and it wastes both your and our time when you send us that kind of material.

I mean, would you send your hilarious parody of Fifty Shades of Grey that features a pedophile priest and an altar boy to Catholic Digest? Apparently some writers would.

The second biggest turn-off is just plain lousy writing skills. We see a lot of submissions from recent American college grads that could be classified as prima facie evidence that the author is either functionally illiterate or hopelessly aliterate. It's a big world out there; being an American no longer gives you an automatic advantage. I buy a lot of stories from writers in Europe and the Far East who, frankly, can express themselves in English a whole lot more fluently than a depressingly large number of recent American college grads seemingly can. Words, sentences, and paragraphs are the tools of this trade, folks. Learn to use them with precision.

The third biggest turn-off is just the opposite. We see a lot of stories from recent college grads -- especially recent Creative Writing MFA program grads -- that seem to be attempts by the author to stuff everything they've learned in six years of college into one story. The prose is overwritten, over-thought, and overwrought to the point of being incomprehensible.

It's okay. We know you just spent a lot of time in school and you're eager to show the world everything you know. Relax. Take a deep breath. You don't have to get it all out in one gush. You've got time.

And while I'm thinking about it, there's a fourth turn-off: kind of petty, but effective just the same. The name of our imprint is Stupefying Stories, and it's kind of a vocabulary test. "To stupefy" means "to stun or astonish." "To stupify" means "to make stupid." Address your submission to Stupifying Stories and it's dead on arrival.


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

BRB: Yes. We don't make a regular practice of doing so but we have done it.


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?

BRB: First off, it's nothing personal. Our submission-to-publication ratio has been running at about 30:1, so the vast majority of stories submitted are going to be rejected -- and worse, they're going to get form rejections. It's simple numbers. We don't have the space to publish every story we'd like to publish, much less every story that deserves to be published. We have to make choices, and sometimes we even reject terrific stories that just don't fit into what we're planning to publish in the foreseeable future.

As for follow-up questions: when we reject a story, we generally say everything we have to say about it at that time. While we'd love to give each and every author an individual critique of his or her story, our time is limited, and we're in the business of publishing fiction, not coaching writers. While it's my nature to say, "No, I don't mind," the truth is that I really don't have the time to do so. Any time spent on answering follow-up questions is time taken away from my primary business: reading new submissions and editing stories we're preparing to publish.

Beyond that, there's also the matter of the sheer volume of submissions we receive. To keep the place from getting cluttered up, once a story is rejected, it and all correspondence associated with it goes straight down the memory hole. So to even begin to answer a follow-up question about a story I rejected, the first thing I have to do is send my secretary off to find the story and whatever correspondence may be associated with it. And again, any time she spends doing this is time taken away from doing what I hired her to do.

Er, I do hope your readers understand that the Absolutely Worst Possible Thing To Do is to write back and argue with an editor who has rejected your story. This is the one guaranteed way to get your name on the editor's "Known Jerks/Reject on Sight" list -- which all editors keep, although not all will admit to doing so.


SQF: What is the best part of being an editor?

BRB: The thrill of discovery. I've often compared it to panning for gold. You have to sift through a lot of gravel, but every once in a while, you find a story that's pure gold.

And then you get the added fun of telling everyone else about it!


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

BRB: Sorry, can't think of one at the moment. Feel free to ask if you come up with one.

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

NEXT POST: 8/13--Six Questions for Jack Hill and Ana Maria, Editors, Crossed Out Magazine



Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Six Questions for Joy Crelin, Editor and Publisher, Betwixt

Betwixt publishes speculative fiction of all sorts—fantasy, science fiction, horror, slipstream, weird fiction, punk, you name it. We particularly like stories that smash genre boundaries to smithereens, but we also love fresh takes on established genres and in-depth explorations of ultraspecific niches. Read the complete guidelines here.

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

JC: Quality writing, first of all. Of course, quality is an inherently subjective term. To me, a well-written story is one that grabs the reader’s attention at the beginning and holds on to it throughout, has a full and well-developed narrative with no missing or superfluous chunks, flows well, and acknowledges the rules of grammar and punctuation before trying to break them. Second, I look for stories that are thought provoking without being preachy. I don’t need a philosophical treatise, but I do need some sense of emotional or psychological or spiritual or ethical depth. Third, stories must be entertaining. If a story is a slog to get through, I’ll keep reading, because that’s my job. But the magazine’s readers won’t—if you lose them, they’re gone.


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

JC: Sending us a sloppy cover letter is the quickest way to make a negative impression. We ask only for the writer’s name and the story’s title and word count, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want complete, properly capitalized and punctuated sentences. While we always appreciate when an email begins with a formal salutation, we encourage writers to double check the gender of the editor before choosing “Dear Sirs” or “Dear Mr. Crelin.” Sloppiness is also a common mistake in the stories themselves. If there are multiple typos in the first paragraph of a story, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the piece. 


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


JC: No—we buy first rights and are not currently seeking reprints of any kind, no matter the form of distribution.


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?


JC: Please remember that it isn’t personal—we reject stories, not people. Writers are always welcome to submit further stories after having a story rejected, and I’ve found that oftentimes, second or third submissions end up being closer to what we want. Unfortunately, time constraints make it impossible for us to provide a personal critique for every rejected story, but if a writer emails us with polite questions, we do try to respond as best we can.


SQF: What is the best part of being an editor?

JC: Ooh, that’s a tough one—there are so many great parts! I’d say the best part is introducing readers to new writers (or writers they simply haven’t heard of yet).


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

JC: Since we’re a new magazine rather than an established one, I wish you’d asked about our publication schedule. Issue 1 of Betwixt will (barring some sort of catastrophe) be published on October 1, and issues will appear quarterly thereafter. All issues will be free to read online, and ebook and print-on-demand issues will also be available for purchase.

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

NEXT POST: 8/9--Six Questions for Bruce Bethke, Editor-in-Chief, Stupefying Stories



Friday, August 2, 2013

Six Questions for Jeremiah Walton, Editor, Walking Is Still Honest

Walking Is Still Honest focuses on promoting grass-roots poetry, poems about here and now, the day to day mundane.  Poetry with honesty and the strength to rely on itself for support rather than the work of previous poets is wanted. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

JW: One of my main goals with Nostrovia! Poetry was to promote the poetic community as a whole.  I wanted to promote poetry to those who mis-labeled it, especially my peers in high school.  

I founded Walking Is Honest Press in order to promote accessible, non-pretentious poetry.  The goal is to show poetry that is as honest as walking.  


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

JW: Honesty is the first thing I look for.  Is the poem heartfelt?  Are you writing what you know?

Accessibility, as mentioned above, is next.  Can someone who is not into poetry stumble upon this poem, and confide in it? 

Relate-ability is key.  Not everyone can relate to a poem, but I'm seeking poetry that the majority can.  

All 3 of these traits are important to W.I.S.H..  They're pillars the press was founded on.  


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

JW: Rudeness.  Many people think they have the right to publication.  When someone submits as if it's a privilege to be publishing them (even if it is), it's obnoxious.  


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

JW: Not every time due to the volume of submissions between W.I.S.H., Nostrovia! Poetry, and The Kitchen Poet that I have to read over, but I do try to.  Most people deserve the time of receiving personal feedback and constructive criticism.  Sadly, time doesn't always permit.  


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

JW: That there is a beautiful diversity in writing.  Now that we can all connect through the internet, we can see the writing of poets that may have never seen daylight otherwise. It's wonderful to read a poem that knocks the wind out of you in the submission piles that clutter my emails.  


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

JW: Where do you want to see the publishing industry go?  

I want to see it fall into the hands of the average person, the community.  Running a successful press is about putting forth the right amount of effort.  Being successful in anything is about putting forth the right amount of effort.  

I love how the internet has opened up the ability for anyone to cheaply run a publishing press, zine, or blog.  I want to see this community continue to grow with quality publishers that sprout up simply because someone loved writing enough to help others put their work out there.  

I have a lot of respect for the DIY method, creativity, and taking situations and opportunity into one's own hands. 

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

NEXT POST: 8/6 -- Six Questions for Joy Crelin, Editor and Publisher, Betwixt