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