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?

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?

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

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