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 @ and 

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?

  • 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