Friday, September 27, 2013

Six Questions for Susan Anspach, Carlea Holl-Jensen and LiAnn Yim, Editors, The Golden Key

The Golden Key publishes fiction and poetry that is both literary and speculative. Issues are themed and celebrate the curiosity and enchantment of the Grimm's tale from which the journal name is taken. Read the complete guidelines here.

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

TGK: 
1) Language is hugely important. Language that is surprising, refreshing, refined—even when it is raw. We look for work where writers have obviously made deliberate stylistic choices. Work where it's clear this was the only possible way to tell this story. Stories and poems that did not get written accidentally the way they did. We love it when language is freshly applied to familiar images: "Winter in Montana is like a cold dark train rushing past, never reaching its stop. Near my house on the north side of Missoula you can hear the train cars crashing together magnetically at night." (Lily Bruzas, "Whiskey Bill," Issue 1); "my teeth could sink apple-quick into your shoulder" (Cat Richardson, "Let's Hurt," Issue 1); "It’s the reason why her eyes dart like mice across the floorboards" (Mary Elzabeth Lee, "My Son to His Therapist," Issue 1).

2) A compelling story, a story that knows itself and knows where it's going.

3) A story whose end is contained in its beginning. That is to say, once we have reached the end of a story, we like to be able to understand why it was written the way that it was, that its stylistic choices were intentional. We appreciate stories whose plots and characters are wedded to their style and form.


SQF: What are the top three reasons a submission is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to the above question and why?

TGK: 
1) Cutesy, pat stories. This is not to say we only like stories that are grim or sinister in nature—not at all! We like absurd, humorous stories, too. But stories that risk nothing often flatline for us. We've gotten a lot of stories that have great ideas or very imaginative "hooks," but that's all the story will have going for it—no complexity, no depth, just reliant on striking images that don’t have much operation behind them.

2) Obvious takes on the theme. For example, our first theme was "sharp"—we got a lot of knives/cutting stories. One piece we accepted that we loved instead dealt with sharpness in taste.

3) Troublesome language—either too much exposition through dialogue, or lovely but ultimately empty language—language that isn't shaping itself in service to a story.


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. 

TGK: Plot and character are equally important; one cannot function without the other. However, the stories we're most drawn to are driven by character. A story is its characters and unfolds because of their natures and choices and idiosyncrasies.


SQF: What advice can you offer new authors hoping to publish their first submission?

TGK: Do read our first issue, available for free in its entirety online, but also check out our Blog and Twitter: We often recommend stories and poems we love there, and it should give an indication of our tastes which are peculiar to our journal.


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

TGK: We often get cautioned on the need for a strong beginning that hooks readers, but the emphasis placed on that can overshadow the need for a good middle and end, too, especially in shorter poems and stories.

We have never accepted a submission that got the name of our journal wrong in the cover letter, and not because the writer got it wrong, but because that inattention is usually indicative of inattention in the writer's own work.


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

TGK: Why isn’t there a print version of the journal?

When we started the journal, we planned to produce a print version in the future. That was our primary goal. After the first issue though, we realized a couple things: First, we wanted to prioritize paying contributors for their work. Second, there is much we can do with digital formats (ePub, mobi, PDF, and web) to make them just as beautiful to read and experience as a print version.

We now offer issues through Gumroad, where readers are able to download issues for free, or pay what they choose.


Thank you, Susan, Carlea and LiAnn. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 10/1--Six Questions for Miranda Kopp Filek, Editor, Writing Tomorrow

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Six Questions for Madelyne Xiao, Editor-in-Chief, Vademecum Magazine

Vademecum Magazine publishes poetry, prose, and black-and-white photography. We're dedicated to promoting the work of talented high school writers and artists, with a penchant for poems in the style of the New York poets and the modernists (read William Carlos Williams and John Ashbery if you'd like an instance of stuff we really like). Generally, we like our prose the same way, though, as with all things VM, we offer a great deal of flexibility to our submitters. We like our photography like we like our news: black and white and relevant to a fault (see our website for examples). Read the complete submissions guidelines here. Happy submitting! 

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

MX: I'd been submitting poems to a few literary magazines as a high school sophomore--on a few occasions, I was able to find magazines that targeted a young audience of submitters. In most cases, however, I found myself competing against world class writers for a place in the publication. Even the best high school writers would be hard-pressed to out-verse a heavyweight who publishes regularly in the New Yorker, the Atlantic, etc. I'm not calling high school talent into question here. Exactly the opposite. High school writers and artists shouldn't need to feel self-conscious about their author bios when they're submitting. The work should speak for itself, and VM provides an open platform for this type of expression. VM's photography provides a gorgeous counterpoint to our written submissions (writing and visual arts really do go hand-in-hand). The frequency of publication and our rolling submissions system, additionally, encourage a continual inflow of creative talent. 


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

MX: If we had to choose, the editors would say:

  • something new. It's a terribly ironic cliche. Every editor looks for works that distinguish a particular journal from its peers. We've presented our submitters with an oft-wrought theme (transcendent in the commonplace), so our best submitters are able to present us with strikingly beautiful/grotesque/abstract interpretations of this premise. The same for our photography submissions. We're only too happy to recognize this kind of creative genius! 
  • attention to craft. Line breaks, word choice, voice, structure. Enjambment, space, meaning. We could go on and on. For a thing as concentrated and powerful as a poem, a misguided comma makes all the difference between the good and the great. The effort a writer puts into these kinds of decisions is palpable. If you've taken the time to consider the implications of each of these changes, we'll know. So, please. Do let us know. 
  • musicality. This may hold a note of personal bias. I think that in most cases, a well-written poem sounds as good in the air as it does on paper (obvious exceptions include poems that lean heavily on visual effect for a punch). And that doesn't necessarily imply euphony. If you're the Arnold Schoenberg of poets, we want to read your submission, too! We really, really want to read your submission. 


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

MX: 
  • obvious disregard for submissions guidelines. The editors took the time to build a guidelines page--it's all geared towards helping submitters get a better shot at publication. It's one of those rare things that we like to call win-win situations. Attention to guidelines lets the editors know that you've researched the lit mag, that you've carefully considered how your work will be received. That isn't lost on us! 
  • basic errors in grammar and syntax. We assume that you care a great deal about your work, enough so that you've given your submission a decent edit for mechanics. Perhaps even had another person critique your work. If you're putting yourself out there, you're entering a playing field where correct grammar is a minimum and great ideas are the ultimate objective. Don't drop out of the race before it's even begun. 


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

MX: In some cases, we do. We have a tiered system of responses. If we don't have time to address everything we'd like to, we oftentimes send a simple rej letter encouraging future submissions. If we feel that a few tweaks would set everything to rights, we mention these fixes. We're a small staff, as lit mags go, so we don't always respond with critique, though we'd love to. 


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

MX: Too much. Much too much. There's a universe of forms, styles, voices, techniques out there, of which I've only skimmed a far-flung solar system. Everyday, I'm stunned by the ingenuity of some of the submissions we receive. Understand--these are high school students. They've got too much to say and not enough space to say it in. 


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

MX: 
Q: Why aren't there more publications of VM's kind, and how can I support VM's mission? 

Quick answer: There should be. At the moment, a number of journals run by high schoolers like myself have taken the initiative in promoting high school/youth arts. To support us, subscribe, donate, submit, and the like. We love our submitters and subscribers and donors. Youth arts education should be encouraged to the utmost. 


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

NEXT POST: 9/27--Six Questions for Susan Anspach, Carlea Holl-Jensen and LiAnn Yim, Editors, The Golden Key

Friday, September 20, 2013

Six Questions for Michelle Augello-Page, Editor, Siren

Siren is a cross-genre biannual publication that accepts edgy and experimental poetry, prose, visual art, music, audio/visual and graphic media. Read the complete guidelines here.

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

MAP: We are looking for the work of unique artists who share a conceptual interest in what is new, edgy, and experimental in their chosen mediums. We want submissions by artists who are trying new things and approaching their creative pursuits in interesting and innovative ways.


SQF: What are the top three reasons a submission is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to the above question and why?

MAP: The hands-down worst part about editing Siren is rejecting submissions. However, it is an inevitable part of the process; we can only publish a fraction of the submissions we receive. Some submissions are well written, but do not fit the philosophical concept of what the zine is about. Some submissions fit the concept, but the work may need to be developed more. One of the reasons we send out form letters to reject and accept work is because it is never personal. The work stands by itself, and then it stands by the work of others, viewed in the contextual lens of what we're looking for, and informed by what we've received.


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. 

MAP: Ha, that seems a loaded question! Some people stand by the Aristotelian model that plot is central to a story, therefore more important. Others, especially those familiar with Lajos Egri, feel that well developed characters drive the story, making them the essential ingredient in moving the plot forward to a necessary and inevitable conclusion. I feel that it depends on the story; different stories need to be told in different ways.


SQF: What advice can you offer new authors hoping to publish their first submission?

MAP: Don't give up! When any author, new or otherwise, is trying to publish his or her work, it is never personal; it is always a question of fit. There is a lot of rejection, but never think of it as a rejection of you or the quality of your work. It just means that you didn't find the place your work will fit yet. Keep writing, refining, and developing your talents. Never forget that publishing is in many ways secondary to the life-long creative process of being a writer.


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

MAP: My experience as an editor has taught me that rejection sucks, no matter which side of the proverbial coin you are on! I've also learned that writers should always familiarize themselves with the journals they are sending their work to, and always follow submission guidelines. It may feel like you are sending your work into a void, but there are people on the other side who have the utmost respect for the creative process and are grateful to have the opportunity to view your work. As an editor, it is not only a labor of love; it is an honor and a responsibility to share and support the work of others. There are so many different voices, visions, and paths of expression and communication. It's a beautiful thing to see people putting their heart and soul into their art, and creating and sharing such diverse work.


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

MAP: Siren is not a typical literary zine because we are open to submissions from artists of all genres, including writers, audio/visual and graphic artists, photographers, film makers, musicians, comedians, performance and conceptual artists, etc. We are open to everyone and only limited by the submissions we receive. Because of the technology available, we are able to offer a cross-genre collaboration of edgy and experimental art that explores and expands the definition of how we collectively share and publish work online.


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

NEXT POST: 9/24--Six Questions for Madelyne Xiao, Editor-in-Chief, Vademecum Magazine

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Six Questions For Ronna Wineberg, Senior Fiction Editor/Founding Editor, The Bellevue Literary Review

The Bellevue Literary Review seeks high-caliber, unpublished prose and poetry, broadly and creatively related to our themes of health, healing, illness, the mind, and the body. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF. Why did you start this magazine?

RW: I’ve always felt the experience of illness is filled with universal truths, and I explore this in my own writing.  When the opportunity arose in 2000 to create a literary journal that focused on the intersection of literature and medicine, I was excited to be involved.  I began to work with Danielle Ofri and Jerry Lowenstein to develop the concept.  This was a creative venture, to build a literary journal from scratch.  We were propelled forward by our enthusiasm. We sat in a small, windowless conference room at Bellevue Hospital hammering out the details of the journal.  The Bellevue Literary Review was just the germ of an idea then, and we didn’t know it would become a recognized and credible literary journal.


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

RW: I look for: 1. Strong writing. This has grace, authority, sensitive use of language, and is a pleasure to read.  2. A distinctive voice, including well-developed characters. Voice and characters create a compelling story.  3. An original approach to a story’s themes.  I’m interested in a fresh, honest perspective, a story that draws me in and stays with me after I’ve read it. The style doesn’t matter. A story can be lush or minimalist, but the writing and plot need to pull the reader forward.


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

RW: Each story has its own set of problems that the writer has to resolve.  Clichés, stiff dialogue, one-dimensional characters, unearned or weak endings, and a lack of tension are common problems and affect how I view a story.  Some manuscripts have a lot of typos or errors in grammar and spelling, and this colors my view of the piece. Stories that don’t touch on our themes aren’t viable for the BLR. Stories that are longer than our word limit for prose won’t work for us either.  A writer needs to look at our guidelines for submission as well as the guidelines of any literary journal where he or she sends work.


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

RW: I provide comments as much as I can. I’m a writer, too, and I know rejection is discouraging.  But we receive so many submissions and, unfortunately, there’s just not enough time to comment on every story.  So I have to use form rejections. But I give comments if a story has promise or if I find the writing strong or if I was moved by the piece. I always comment if a story has made it to our “final pile” and also if I have specific suggestions for revision. And once we accept a story, we work closely with the author, editing and making suggestions for revision.  


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

RW: I’ve learned the importance of engaging a reader right away, on the first page. I’ve also learned about the need for clarity and honesty, for tying up loose ends, and shaping the story so the ending feels earned and inevitable. And I’ve learned that strong writing, well-developed characters, and fresh and revealing dialogue can make a story sing.  


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

RW: The question that wasn’t asked: why are stories rejected?  Stories are rejected for many reasons. Rejection doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality of a piece or a writer’s ability. I reject stories because they need shaping, development, and revision. Some pieces don’t explore our themes, and won’t work for the BLR. I have to reject excellent stories because we’ve recently published pieces on a similar theme. Or we may have too many stories written in first person or narrated by a child. We like to vary the point of view and subject matter of the pieces in an issue of the journal. A literary magazine has to feel cohesive, and the gestalt of the issue has to work.

Sometimes rejection is a matter of taste. Certain stories appeal to me more than others. Every editor has a preference for the kinds of stories he or she likes. And I’ve reluctantly rejected stories that have moved me but won’t work for a particular issue of the BLR. I still think about some of these stories and hope they’ve found a home.

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


NEXT POST: 9/20--Six Questions for Michelle Augello-Page, Editor, Siren

Friday, September 13, 2013

Six Questions for Jose Varghese, Chief Editor, Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts

Lakeview is a journal that features creative work by internationally acclaimed and emerging writers/artists.  It won the Runner Up spot in Saboteur Awards 2013, London, in the Best Magazine category, soon after its first issue was published. Learn more here @ http://www.issuu.com/lijla/docs/feb2013 and http://lijla.weebly.com/call-for-submissions.html 

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

JV: I appreciate it a lot when I receive a submission that follows all our guidelines. However, they also need to fulfill some other qualitative requirements to make it to an issue of our journal. I look for the following things generally:
  • Stories/poems that speak to me beyond the sum total of their words. I try to read the submissions first as a regular reader would and do the initial selections based on my gut feeling. Editorial interventions come later. Therefore, it matters a lot that you care for your readers. It’s not about pleasing every possible reader, but keeping any reader engaged. I know how difficult it is to hold the rapt attention of a reader for the entire length of your work. And that’s why I respect those writers who could succeed in that.
  • Works that don’t just stand out from the crowd but disturbs a reader. Happy endings are all right, but there should be enough conflicts somewhere that make one think beyond the perfect state of affairs. 
  • A good enough balance between the idea/content and the medium/form. I won’t settle for mesmerising colours or words at the expense of a worthy world view, or the other way round.

SQF: What are the top three reasons a submission is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to the above question and why?

JV: 
  • Faulty language. It doesn’t help to pretend that it’s all about the flavour of a place where English is not spoken as the first language. I look for the author’s voice, and won’t be impressed if that comes in a faulty language. I love clean sentences. Linguistic inventiveness is one thing (which I love), but a lack of respect towards language is unpardonable.
  • Clichés. It’s hard to define this, but I stay away from those works that keep repeating what is already said. Try to be unique and original, and that may impress me.
  • Being too judgmental or moralistic. Leave your work to speak for itself, and don’t try to force your views on your readers – at least not very directly.

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. 

JV: I would say that plot and character are equally important in a general way. But the quality of your story depends more on how it evolves and how convincing your narrative moves on. There is scope for character driven and plot driven stories as long as you know how to work it out. A very good plot may not require strong characters, and a couple of well delineated characters may pull together a story concept even when there is no plot as such.


SQF: What advice can you offer new authors hoping to publish their story in Lakeview?

JV: Read as much as you can. Don’t take writing short fiction too easy, as mere apprenticeship while you nurture your dreams for a novel that’s about to change the world.  You could learn from every possible model and genre, and you could put your heart and mind to the complex act of writing a story. Don’t compromise on the language, dialogue, plot, philosophy or narrative technique aspects of your story.


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

JV: I have learnt that there are no real restrictions when it comes to writing. One just has to explore the myriad experiences that are part of a lifetime. It’s not just about having the experiences, but interpreting them and defining them tangibly. And there is no end to linguistic and narrative inventiveness for a writer who needs to excel.


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

JV: The questions would be - “What is the greatest benefit you get out of your editing experiences?” and my answer would be – “It is that I get to read a lot of brilliant literary works among which some are sure to become the defining voices our time. It helps me learn a lot and reflect on my writing as well.”


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

NEXT POST: 9/17--Six Questions For Ronna Wineberg, Senior Fiction Editor/Founding Editor, The Bellevue Literary Review

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Six Questions for Robert Vaughan, Fiction and Poetry Editor, Lost in Thought

Lost in Thought is a print magazine designed to inspire your imagination. Filled with short stories, poetry, illustrations, and photography from people around the world, we combine text and art to create something entirely new.  Learn more here.

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

RV: Writing that moves me, or makes me take notice. An unusual theme or POV, or even setting or character details that inspire or engage me. And the willingness to take risks, with language, word choices, or overall: surprise me!


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

RV: Might be a generic title, or a lackluster opening line. Also a lack of risk, flat or predictable content, clichés, no surprises or plot twists. The use of just a visual sense, versus employing all five senses. Many submissions I read feel as if they’ve gone unedited; as if the first draft is the submission. Never trust the first draft! Read your work aloud. Get feedback before you submit. Edit EVERYTHING! Give your piece time to simmer. And then edit it again. 


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

RV: We do, mostly because Lost in Thought is a print journal only. There is a different reading audience for blogs, and for magazines. I do prefer original submissions, but if I read something that has only been published on a writer’s blog, and I feel it’s a great fit for the magazine, I might make exceptions.


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?

RV: At Lost in Thought, I work closely with my co-editor, publisher Kyle Schruder. Often Kyle will find the artists first and then we pair them with a writer. So, the art is used as a prompt for the writing it accompanies in the magazine. If I reject a piece, I never send a form rejection. I always feel it is important to address something that is working in the submission, and then point to suggestions for a re-write. I have no qualms about a writer following up with me. I don’t suggest an automatic re-submission with incorporated changes. Sometimes edits have to mature, and writers need to wait. Patience is key. Great writing, like any relationship, needs time to mature.


SQF: What magazines do you read most often?

RV: I am constantly reading so here is a short list: BOMB, The New Yorker, The Sun, Poets & Writers, Tin House, Poetry, Zoetrope, American Poet. Online I read The Rumpus, Smokelong Quarterly, JMWW, PANK, The Nervous Breakdown, Literary Orphans, Metazen, Connotation Press and many more.


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

RV: How did you acquire this position as fiction and poetry editor at Lost in Thought

I was published in Lost in Thought #2, when Kyle Schruder was doing it all. And shortly after I got the magazine (which was among my favorite publications to date) I’d heard through the “grapevine” that Kyle was not going to continue, felt overwhelmed, and it was simply too much to handle. We were both members at Fictionaut, an online writing community. Simultaneously, the first magazine for which I’d been the fiction editor, Thunderclap, was going on hiatus. So I sent Kyle a message- would he be interested in a fiction & poetry editor? And the rest, as they say, is history! We’ve published two issues (3 & 4) together, and are getting very close to the release of Lost in Thought, issue 5.

Thanks for this opportunity, Jim! I really appreciate it.


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

NEXT POST: 9/13--Six Questions for Jose Varghese, Chief Editor, Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts

Friday, September 6, 2013

Six Questions For Shanti Perez, Fiction Editor, Open Road Review

Open Road Review accepts previously unpublished short fiction up to 4000 words and flash fiction of 1000 words or fewer, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Read the complete guidelines here.

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

SP:
  1. Dialogue needs to do more than inform the reader or it is just taking up page space.
  2. Conflict, because it's interesting.
  3. Events in the past inform the present. It is much more interesting to know what happens after someone wins the lottery than the story of the event itself. As writer Sam Ligon once said in a workshop, "Readers are more interested in people who win the lottery and then blow their brains out."


SQF: What are the top three reasons a submission is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to the above question and why?

SP:
  1. The characters are one dimensional and lack depth.
  2. The story is entirely plot driven or uses action to show something simple.
  3. The story does not know itself well enough to answer the question, "Why is this happening now?"


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.

SP: There's always an exception, but if a story is entirely plot driven and characters lack depth, the story will fall short. If the story is a character study with rich interior there is more of a chance it will be published than if it has a one-dimensional character and lots of action.

So, my final answer is that on average character is more important than plot.


SQF: What advice can you offer new authors hoping to publish their first submission?

SP: New authors sometimes make the mistake of feeling overconfident that because they have completed a story it is ready to be published. While it's a great feeling to finish work, it is not always finished and may need multiple workshops or revisions. Setting the story aside for a couple months can be helpful in gaining perspective before final revisions. There are times when a story, when complete, may not resemble the first draft at all.

Perhaps, once in a while, there is a new writer who may take to telling an editor that he/she is an editor and not a real writer so won't understand what the writer is trying to accomplish with the story. It's best to be open and take an objective look at information, not close the mind and reject suggestions. Some advice may be beneficial, some not so much. The ability to determine the difference only happens once a writer has overcome an attachment to his/her work.


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

SP: Editing has taught me a lot about writing. It's an organic learning experience, really, because the knowledge is cumulative. Sometimes a light turns on and there's this AHA! moment. These are significant and I think it means I've reached a milestone, however small, when it comes to discerning a solid story from one that needs revision.


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

No response


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

NEXT POST: 9/10--Six Questions for Robert Vaughan, Fiction and Poetry Editor, Lost in Thought

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Six Questions for Mary Stone Dockery, Co-Editor, Stone Highway Review

Stone Highway Review is a new journal of short prose (750 words max) and poetry. Learn more here.

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

MSD: We look for uniqueness, above all else. We get so many poems that discuss nature, mammograms, cancer, and sex that we really look for subject matter that is either new or that has been tackled in entirely new ways. We also look for great care and attention to language. We want pieces that utilize the amazing verbs we know exist in our language – often writers send pieces that show little care for finding “the perfect word” and instead just try to tell the story as quickly as possible. We always look for the language to reveal more than content. Finally, we look for experiments. We want a submission to be trying something, and whether it fully succeeds or not, this will really make us enjoy the reading process even more. By experiment, we mean experimenting with form or language or rhythm, with content, and even within the confines of traditional form poetry.  When a writer tries something different, we get really excited. We don’t want to read piece after piece that simply plays it safe. 


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

MSD: Writers will often submit only one poem. Unfortunately, this isn’t a good idea. Think in terms of odds – the more poems you submit, perhaps the more likely it is one of our editors will find something in there that she likes. We also like getting to read multiple poems because it allows us to get a sense of the author’s voice and what he or she is trying to accomplish.

On the other hand, some people think that submitting all of their poems will ensure publication. This is also not the case. We want five poems or about ten pages max. We simply don’t have time to read 80 pages of poetry to find a gem. We prefer writers read our guidelines, read the journal, then submit the five poems they already have that they think we will love.

With prose, many writers will send in pieces that go far beyond our word count. Our word limit is not negotiable. We have this limit in place because we are looking for a specific kind of prose.

Finally, writers often send in work that is obviously not right for us for a number of reasons – the prose is traditional or does not rely on language, the content is violent toward women or children or minorities, or the content is overly religious. It’s not that we have anything against religious poetry, we just don’t personally like it and won’t publish it. 


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

MSD: Yes. We believe that republishing work is important for authors. Some poems deserve a new audience. We also publish pieces that have appeared in other journals, books, or anthologies. 


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?

MSD: We don’t often reply with specific comments for a number of reasons. Often, a piece receives a rejection simply because it’s not right for us at that time or it’s not right for our journal. We love all the work we read and do believe that authors have it tough finding homes for their work. We want our contributors to know that a rejection is never personal. Sometimes we have developed a theme for the next issue and we may have already accepted other pieces with similar themes or pieces with a similar style. We really work to have as much variety as possible, so if a piece is too similar to another, even if we love it, we will reject it. With three editors, we also have to all agree for a piece to make it to publication. This means we have to argue with one another sometimes. This also means that a piece one editor loves may get rejected because the other editors don’t love it.

We do not mind emails from contributors asking polite questions. We can’t always respond, however, to a writer’s question about why a piece was rejected. Unfortunately, it has not worked well in the past for a writer to hear “It just isn’t what we want.” Sometimes we cannot fully articulate why. When we can articulate those reasons, we do, and we try to be as positive as possible. There is no reason for negative communication between writers and editors. In fact, we want the process to be transparent. We want writers to know their work receives a lot of care and attention and that we do battle it out. 


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

MSD: Publishing someone for the first time. When a writer appears in our journal as their first ever publication, we are extremely honored and excited. We want to find these new writers and give them a platform for their work.

Second best part – finding those poems you can go back to and read over and over again. We truly get some inspiring work. 


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

MSD: What have you done with your journal to consider the VIDA Count?

 We work hard to publish women and other underrepresented voices. Our goal is to provide a place where writers who feel left out of literary circles for whatever reason can find a good home for their work.


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

NEXT POST: 9/6 -- Six Questions For Shanti Perez, Fiction Editor, Open Road Review

Sunday, September 1, 2013

September Schedule at Six Questions For. . .

9/03—Six Questions for Mary Stone Dockery, Co-Editor, Stone Highway Review
9/06—Six Questions For Shanti Perez, Fiction Editor, Open Road Review
9/10—Six Questions for Robert Vaughan, Fiction and Poetry Editor, Lost in Thought
9/13—Six Questions for Jose Varghese, Chief Editor, Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts
9/17—Six Questions For Ronna Wineberg, Senior Fiction Editor/Founding Editor, The Bellevue Literary Review
9/20—Six Questions for Michelle Augello-Page, Editor, Siren
9/24—Six Questions for Madelyne Xiao, Editor-in-Chief, Vademecum Magazine
9/27—Six Questions for Susan Anspach, Carlea Holl-Jensen and LiAnn Yim, Editors, The Golden Key