Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Six Questions for Yasmin Belkhyr, Founder/Editor-in-Chief, Winter Tangerine Review

At Winter Tangerine Review, we want the electric. We like the inventive, the original, and the different. We want the pieces that you have emptied yourself into. We want the imagery that startles us. We want characters that stir something inside of us that we don't understand. So let the boundaries of the non-artistic world fall behind. Those won't be necessary here. Read the complete guidelines here.


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

YB: I think the top three are unique language, characters who do not read as characters but real people, and an experimental tone. Half our submissions use either the word 'ribcage' or the word 'wanderlust'. Words lose meaning when you repeat them over and over, and I'm able to see an image so much more vividly if the language used is something I wouldn't have thought to associate with it. Edward Albee once told me that the most important thing in any writing piece is having real people, not characters. I took the advice to heart and now, I aim to publish pieces with personalities, characters that could be your best friend, your 4th grade teacher, the lady ahead of you at the supermarket checkout line. WTR generally likes experimental pieces, because it's so easy to lose originality if there isn't something unique to the author/artist in their work. 


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

YB: We read every submission blindly and at this point, we automatically reject any piece that does not follow the first rule of our guidelines which is to keep any identifying information off the document one uploads to Submittable. Our staff has a joke that we'll send pictures of Nicolas Cage in compromising situations to those who don't follow that specific guideline. We haven't followed through yet, but honestly, with so many pieces coming in that blatantly disregard our first rule, it's a close thing.


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

YB: Yep! We actually were born out of my personal Tumblr blog, so a lot of our audience is on Tumblr, and therefore, many of our contributors are Tumblr artists and writers as well. As long as the contributor agrees to delete the piece upon publication, we are a-okay with personal blog/website posts.


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?

YB: We reject pieces that don't fit with our tone. One of the most important things for authors to remember is that sometimes literary journals have to turn down amazing pieces simply because they don't fit with our journal. I think sending back a thank you email is good etiquette, especially if you plan to resubmit, because then I'll remember you.Yep, we actually offer feedback on every piece we reject, so we definitely want everyone who's interested to ask for it! 


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

YB: Reading a really great piece for the first time. Also, getting emails from people saying they love WTR and everything we're doing. Also, clicking with an author on an in-house edit for a piece. There are way too many things that are amazing about being an editor, I don't think I can pick just one.


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

YB: What are the top five things to do when submitting to a journal? 

1. Always address your cover letter to the Editor-in-Chief and the Editors for whatever category you are submitting in. It's good etiquette.

2. Read the guidelines.

3. No, seriously, read the guidelines. This cannot be stressed enough. It is ridiculously easy to tell when a writer hasn't read the guidelines and most journals will immediately reject pieces that don't.

4. Find journals that publish what you write. Don't send a vampire romance horror story to a journal that publishes traditional African poetry. It saves you and the editors a lot of time.

5. Don't sweat a submission. Don't sweat a rejection. Don't sweat an acceptance. No matter what you've published, you'll never be the best and you'll never be the worst. The writing world is incredibly, incredibly subjective. Just write.

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

NEXT POST: 11/01--Six Questions For Garrett Dennert, Creative Nonfiction Editor, Squalorly

Friday, October 25, 2013

Six Questions for Mikaela Shea, Editor-in-Chief, 3elements Review

3Elements Review was founded to spark imagination, to provide a unique creative challenge, and at the very least, to allow writers and artists a bit of fun with our three element prompts. Each issue begins with the posting of three elements and ends with a journal filled with the imaginative ways in which each writer and artist transformed those elements. Stories must not exceed 3500 words and poetry must not exceed two pages. Read the complete guidelines here.


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

MS: We want to read pieces of writing that make us feel something, whether it be fear, sadness, loneliness, happiness, anger, etc. We like reading stories that offer insight into darkness and truth. Most of all, we want to read a story that we can’t put down, something that the writer obviously put their heart into. 


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

MS: 
  1. First, we do a search to make sure that the three elements are in the story or poem. If all three are not included, it is an automatic rejection. 
  2. Spelling and grammatical errors. I do copywriting and proofreading, and CJ (managing editor) is a high school English teacher, so spelling and grammar errors are blaringly obvious to us. As writers, we do all we can to make our submissions error-free. It shows the editors that you care about your piece and that you don’t want to waste anybody’s time. If submitters don’t care enough to edit their piece, why would an editor want to take the time to read it? Our very first submission had a common word misspelled in the title of their piece. It’s very hard to look past that.
  3. Clichés and unoriginal ideas. Describe things in ways that nobody ever has before.


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. 

MS: I feel that character is a bit more important than plot. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good plot, but if I don’t care about the character, I’m not going to care about what they are going through or desire. 

Think about it this way. You read about a person in the paper who was promoted to CEO of a paperweight company. Do you have an emotional reaction to that? Probably not. Now imagine your spouse is that new CEO. You’ll feel something. Especially when you get that vacation you’ve always dreamed about!   


SQF: What advice can you offer new authors hoping to publish their first submission in 3Elements Review?

MS: Read the guidelines, include the three elements, and write something that we can react to. Don’t use clichés—come up with a refreshing and creative way to express what you have to say. Be professional and edit your piece for errors. 


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

MS: I feel like I’m being repetitive, but being an editor has reinforced the importance of reading submission guidelines, so as not to waste the editors’ time. Most editors of literary journals are editors because they love words, but they also have other jobs, families, and probably spend a good deal of time doing writing of their own. 

It is also important to read what the journal has previously published so you know what the editors are looking for.  


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

MS: “What plans does 3Elements Review have for the future?” We’re considering doing a yearly anthology of the best work, contests, featuring writers from the current issue on our website, using Twitter to interact with our readers, and perhaps creating ways for writers to tell mini-stories on Twitter in between issues so we can stay connected. 

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


NEXT POST: 10/29--Six Questions for Yasmin Belkhyr, Founder/Editor-in-Chief, Winter Tangerine Review

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Six Questions for rob mclennan, editor/publisher, above/ground press

Ottawa-based poetry chapbook publisher above/ground press was founded in July, 1993, and has produced nearly seven hundred publications since, all of which have been selected, edited, folded and stapled by Ottawa writer rob mclennan. The press has long been known as a forum for both established and emerging writers, and has been fortunate enough to produce multiple publications by writers such as Rae Armantrout, George Bowering, Marilyn Irwin, Stephen Brockwell, David W. McFadden, Sarah Mangold, Cameron Anstee, Lea Graham, Monty Reid, Marcus McCann, Stephanie Bolster and many, many, many others. above/ground press celebrates twenty years with an event in August, as well as an anthology launch of ‘the best of the second decade’ in October, through the Ottawa International Writers Festival.

rob mclennan is also founding editor/publisher of the literary trade publisher Chaudiere Books (since 2006), the Ottawa poetry pdf annual journal ottawater (since 2005) and seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics. He is the author of more than twenty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, and spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at robmclennan.blogspot.com.

SWF: What does above/ground press offer authors that other presses don't?

rob mclennan: A worthy question. above/ground press is a poetry press that produces chapbooks, broadsides and occasional issues of our writing group journal, The Peter F Yacht Club (one of a number of journals the press has been involved with over the years). Chapbook authors are paid in a percentage of the print run, usually fifty copies or so (print runs are predominantly between 250 and 300 copies). After that, eighty to one hundred copies are distributed among subscribers and “friends of the press,” as well as a small handful to potential reviewers, so I’d say that distribution and visibility is something the press offers. I mean, even if I don’t sell a single individual copy, there are still over a hundred copies in interested hands.

I would also like to think that the press produces astounding writing by an array of Canadian and International writers that is both easily available and affordable. My print runs allow for most works to still be available a couple of years after initial publication.


SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a manuscript?

rm: I look for writing that excites me, pure and simple. I look for writing I can’t not produce so I can tell everyone about how amazing it is.


SQF: What mistakes do authors make when pitching their books?

rm: What I find enormously frustrating is when I receive an email submission from someone I haven’t heard of before, without any indication or information telling me exactly what it is a submission for. Is it a submission for Chaudiere? above/ground? ottawater? ottawater, for example, is a journal that only publishes current and former residents of the City of Ottawa, and Chaudiere Books doesn’t take submissions online. I don’t have time to go through the file and simply guess. It annoys me to the point that I’m always tempted simply to erase automatically. When I inquire as to what the submission is exactly for, the response “whatever you want” sends it straight to the junk folder. I mean, if you’re not going to take your submission seriously, why should I?

And yet, I am open to unsolicited submissions. But tell me what the submission is for so I can know how to respond, and which file to put such in.


SQF: Of the books your company publishes each year, how many are by previously unpublished authors?

rm: For above/ground press, I’d say about a third, with another third being authors I’ve published previously. This year alone, above/ground press produced first publications by Brecken Hancock (Ottawa), Jordan Abel (Vancouver), Abby Paige (Ottawa) and Amy Dennis (Toronto/England). This year also included chapbooks by writers I’ve produced works by previously, including Stephen Cain (Toronto), Helen Hajnoczky (Montreal), Gil McElroy (Colborne), Gary Barwin (Hamilton), Marcus McCann (Toronto), Jason Christie (Calgary), Jessica Smith (Birmingham) and Aaron Tucker (Toronto), as well as a number of previously-published authors that are new to the press: Jill Stengel, Wanda O’Connor, Rosmarie Waldrop, Joshua Marie Wilkinson and Marthe Reed.

I like going back to authors I’ve published for a second, third or fourth item. This month I’m producing new chapbooks by Ottawa poet Monty Reid and Toronto poet Marcus McCann, each publication being the fourth titles above/ground press has produced of theirs over the past decade. I consider that this not only builds a list and encourages the work of writers I’ve come to admire, but a community of writers around the press. 


SQF: What is your advice to new, unpublished authors looking for a publisher or agent?

rm: I can’t speak to agents (as neither myself as writer nor Chaudiere Books as a literary trade press have dealt with agents), but the best thing anyone can do is do their homework, and be patient. About a decade back, above/ground press received a submission of a two hundred page medical text, asking if I was interested in publishing such. More than a couple of times, I’ve received what could only be described as a “bag” of loose poetry submission, with a note telling me “I could take what I wanted” from it for publication. All of these were immediately returned unread. If you are going to attempt a submission to any publication or publisher, it is essential to first know whether or not what you are sending actually fits with the mandate of the publication. above/ground press is a publisher of poetry chapbooks up to twenty pages; how exactly is a two hundred page medical text going to actually make it through? While that does seem like a fairly blatant example of misunderstanding the process of submission and publication (and a lack of research), you also aren’t going to send your long poem to a journal that produces haiku. 

Above and beyond all of that, most books and chapbooks are still sold predominantly through and by the author, so authors have to be willing to put themselves out there to get works into journals, do readings and reading tours, and simply be visible. Books are hard enough to sell with authors who do such things, let alone attempting to sell books by invisible authors that no one has heard of. above/ground press at least has the advantage of subscribers who receive everything the press produces within a calendar year, but there are a number of titles by Chaudiere Books that haven’t moved much, in part due to author silence.


SQF: What question do you wish I’d asked that I didn’t? And how would you answer it?

rm: Given that the press is two decades old now, I guess some fairly obvious ones become “how do you sustain a press for twenty years?” or “where do you go now?” I’m not entirely sure myself, and don’t feel as though twenty years have actually passed. I simply keep doing what I do, attempting new things as they occur to me, while holding the foundation of producing poetry chapbooks that excite me. Years ago I told myself that I would stop doing any of this activity once it was no longer fun, but that seems as far away from me now as it did when I began. Does that make sense?

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

NEXT POST: 1/25--Six Questions for Mikaela Shea, Editor-in-Chief, 3elements Review



Friday, October 18, 2013

Six Questions for Makyla Curtis, Editor, Potroast

Potroast is a biannual literary magazine of original short-fiction, poetry, illustration, photography and art, with a focus on work which is exploratory and experimental. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

MC: Potroast was started by Ya-wen Ho. I don’t want to speak for her, but I expect it was because she wanted to create and develop a space for experimental and innovative work to find a readership.

This is certainly the reason why we continue to publish the magazine!


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

MC: 
  • Experimentation & innovation towards writing, image, markmaking and the interdisciplinary nature of creative work
  • An awareness of how the work appears on the page because of our focus on interdisciplinary crossover of genre and visual arts versus literature. Image based work also needs to consider itself as a literary work, and vice versa for text based work.
  • Adherence / acknowledgement of the theme.


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

MC: 
  • Ignoring the theme
  • Giving your work the same title as the theme. (i.e our last theme was Home, we received 25 submissions titled ‘Home’ and 5 titled ‘Home is where the heart is’) It gets really boring after a while.
  • Not taking into account the types of work we print (experimentation & innovation)


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

MC: We think rejection is hard enough to receive without having to receive a critique at the same time. However, we are more than happy to provide comments and critique if you’d like it, just ask.


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

MC: How hard it is to move away from cliché and create something new and innovative.


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

MC: This is a great bunch of questions!

Find out more about Potroast by visiting www.potroast.co.nz.


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

NEXT POST: 1022--Six Questions for rob mclennan, editor/publisher, above/ground press

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Six Questions for Ross McMeekin, Editor, Spartan

Spartan considers literary prose submissions of two thousand words or less. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine? 

RM: After a few enjoyable years reading and assistant editing at a larger journal, I desired to create a new venue.


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

RM: Control of language. Emotional depth. Control of metaphor.


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

RM: We get a lot of humor-based conversational pieces – which is fine – but many from that category in particular seem to lack deeper subtext, emotional resonance, and/or metaphorical meaning. 


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

RM: No. But most of our accepted pieces receive editorial attention.


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

RM: There’s no shortage of great story ideas landing in our inbox. What’s difficult is finding a story in which the quality of the writing lives up to the ideas presented.


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

RM: What we mean by minimalism. People hear minimalism and think Raymond Carver, and then assume dirty realism. We’re open to fabulism, absurdism, and surrealism.


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

NEXT POST: 10/18--Six Questions for Makyla Curtis, Editor, Potroast

Friday, October 11, 2013

Six Questions for Rick Taubold, Editor-in-Chief, Fabula Argentea

Fabula Argentea publishes genre and literary fiction, humor, the grit of life, happy endings, sad endings, and perhaps the occasional spicy story. "The most important aspect of anything we publish is good writing and a great story to accompany it." Read the complete guidelines here.

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

RT: We look for a fully developed story with a beginning, middle, and end. Even stories of a few hundred words can do that. We've published them. We don't  care much about length (up to 10,000 words) as long as the word count is appropriate for the story being told.

We want a story that pushes the reader to turn the page and one that we can't easily forget.

Uniqueness: stories that surprise, make us laugh, tug at the heart, or take us somewhere unexpected--or any combination of these. We want something we haven't seen before, and if it's something familiar, then it has to provide a fresh perspective. For example, we never thought we'd ever publish a zombie story, but we found one that's different from any we've read. Watch for our October 2013 issue. We also love humor in a piece. You'll often find at least a trace in many of our published stories.


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

RT: Honestly, all of our rejections pretty much fit into the answers above, but our three top ones apart from those would probably be, (1) voice isn't strong enough, (2) too much narration and little or no dialog (serious imbalance of the 5 narrative modes), (3) not enough significant happens in the story, or it's more trying to make a philosophical point than be a story.

We don't have a problem with quiet or literary pieces, or even the occasional non-story (we've published one or two), but pieces must have depth and significance and be memorable. Fabula Argentea stories are ones that we love so much that we can say with pride that we published them.

An error-laden piece will almost certainly be rejected, but frankly we rarely see ones with a lot of serious grammatical flaws. As long as the story meets our other criteria (and the overall writing isn't terrible), we'll deal with a few cleanups.


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.

RT: Plot and character are equally important. The greatest plot in the world is worthless if the characters are uninteresting. Likewise, the most fascinating characters are useless if they aren't involved in an interesting series of events. How about a Halloween, quasi-romance, serial-killer piece with a sociopathic protagonist and a psychopathic antagonist, neither of which is a likable character? That might sound like a sure recipe for a failed story. We published that one in our January 2013 issue.


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

RT: Surprise us. Think outside the box. Make us say, "Wow! I never would have thought of that idea for a story." On the other side, we receive a fair number of pieces about strained relationships, broken homes, and cheating spouses, as well as the occasional angst piece. Unless it treads new ground and has a compelling voice, it's probably not for us.


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

RT: Well, I'm a writer first. I've always loved to help other writers get published. One reason I became an editor was to be able to do that directly, in addition to finding and publishing outstanding stories. One thing I've learned as an editor is that the often-heard phrase that "all story plots have been written before" simply is not true. I've seen incredible new ideas that I wouldn't have believed story worthy turned into wonderful pieces of writing. Years ago, I heard a piece of advice about writing: take an idea, then twist it, then twist it again. I've also seen that proved over and over again in the stories I receive as submissions.


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

RT: In what ways do you think Fabula Argentea is different from some other magazines?

We're not just here to publish stories. We truly want to see writers succeed. We love to publish new writers, as well as established ones. Every submission gets my full attention. As the frontline reader, if I feel a story is a possibility, or if I can't decide, I pass the story to my wife, who works with me in this endeavor as co-editor and art director. If we're split, we discuss it and decide together. On occasion, we solicit outside opinions from other Silver Pen magazine editors.

As a writer, I hate form rejections. I want to know why my story was "not for us." For each rejected piece, I give at least some feedback to the author. Sometimes I'll give an extensive critique in an effort to help the writer improve. Occasionally we'll receive a brilliant story that we love, but which has one or two a weak spots. Rather than reject it, we'll work with the author to fix it. The authors have appreciated that we went the extra mile.

We don't maintain a slush pile. We try to read pieces right away. We've accepted pieces within a day or two of receipt. So far, the longest we've taken to respond is a month (because we had a very hard time deciding on that one). More often it's a week or two, and that long only because I do insist on giving feedback. I don't like to keep writers waiting, so they can move on with a piece as quickly as possible if we don't want it.

And when we publish a story we tell our readers WHY we liked it in the "Why We Chose to Publish" section after each piece. We feel that gives authors something else to brag about. We treat our authors and their work with respect, from meticulous editing to sending the edited piece to the author for pre-publication approval. Further, my wife and I design a picture to accompany each story, one we feel expresses the spirit of the piece and which possibly entices people to read it. We try to show off the authors' efforts as much as we can.

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

NEXT POST: 11/15--Six Questions for Ross McMeekin, Editor, Spartan



Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Six Questions for Matt & Kristi, Editors, GlassFire Magazine

GlassFire Magazine publishes fiction and non-fiction to 3000 words, poetry and artwork. We are a paying market—$5/poem or piece of art and $10/prose. Read the complete guidelines here.  

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

GFM: 
1. Well-written stories/poetry. This is pretty obvious, but it’s the most important thing.
2. Uniqueness. A story or poem that doesn't sound like something we've read 500,000 times. 
3. A well supported ending. If the story doesn't support the ending, it comes out of nowhere and doesn't provide a satisfactory conclusion. We shouldn't finish reading the story and say “where did that come from?”

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

GFM: 
  1. Spelling errors. Please use spell check. 
  2. Easily confused words—there/their/they're, where/were, etc. Proofread your story. Make sure the names of your characters and places are spelled the same way throughout the story (especially in fantasy/science fiction stories).
  3. Stories that change format halfway through—be consistent with font, size, spacing, etc. unless it's used to indicate a point-of-view shift, etc.
  4. Again, proofread and spell check your story before submitting it.

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

GFM: Yes—we accept previously published submissions.  We figure a large number of readers will never see a person's personal blog, so why not publish 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?

GFM: Please do not respond with a rude comment or try to persuade us to accept your piece. A lot of it comes down to personal taste—a piece may be amazing, but if it doesn't really click with us, we might pass on it. There’s no need to tell us how the rejected piece has been published in several other places and that we obviously have poor tastes. 

If we give you comments, it means your piece went through at least two rounds of consideration.  However, if we pass, please don't respond and ask how you can change the piece to get it accepted. Feel free to rework it and submit it later, but don't resubmit the piece as-is. If we passed on it once, we will pass on it again if it hasn’t been changed in any way. 

That said, if a writer wants to discuss the suggestions we’ve made, we’re certainly happy to do so. We do our best to comment on as many submissions as we can and hope our comments help the author.


SQF: What magazines do you read most often?

GFM: Cemetery Dance, Crazyhorse, Rattle, Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF) 


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

GFM: What are our turn-offs?
  1. Rhyming poetry. Occasionally there's a good one, but most of them are not.
  2. Stories with sudden death at the end, especially when it comes out of nowhere.
  3. Plagiarized stories.  Just don’t do it.
  4. Fan fiction.  


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

NEXT POST: 10/11--Six Questions for Rick Taubold, Editor-in-Chief, Fabula Argentea

Friday, October 4, 2013

Six Questions for John Murphy, Editor, The Lake

The Lake is a new poetry webzine dedicated to publishing all forms of poetry by new and established poets, highlighting the best of contemporary poetry. Read the complete guidelines here.

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

JM: I look for poems rooted in the everyday, in the observed reality that engenders how we feel about people and the things around us, with imagery we can all relate to. It would perhaps be easier for me to state what I don't like in a poem. I don't like surreal, abstract poems that wander on an on, e.g. "My soul floats in a black void of nothingness..." etc, etc. There's more implicit connective emotion in Williams' wheelbarrow than in lines and lines of abstract poetry. I'll also consider classical forms, e.g. sonnets, sestinas, etc as well as free verse and prose poems.  And if people are not sure whether to submit to The Lake, go to the site, read every poem there and you'll get a good idea of what I look for in a poem. Rather than be too prescriptive with masses of submission guidelines I think the poems in The Lake will give  poets a good idea whether to submit or not. 


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

JM: It could be argued that one person's mistakes are another's mode of poetic expression. For example, I've accepted poems with no punctuation at all and another example would be deliberate poor spelling in a poem about illiteracy. Generally I can recognize this aspect in a poem because they are part of the poem's meaning and I can see what the poet is trying to do. So poets should think about spelling, punctuation and not to wander off from the idea/emotion they are trying to illuminate, to think about concision and brevity if they can help get meaning across to the reader. When a poem is considered by the poet to be finished, put it aside for a few days and then go back to it and see if it really is finished. I've also seen potentially good poems spoiled by uninspiring metaphors and similes. But then again, what separates a good metaphor from a mediocre one is a subjective value judgement. Workshopping poems helps to sort out the good from the bad.


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

JM: It would depend on the poem. If I really liked it and it said something to me then I probably would accept a personal blog poem.


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? 

JM: I make my rejection emails short, sweet and polite, never rude or patronizing. I know rejection can be hugely disappointing but authors should never fire back an angry email demanding to know why they have been rejected. That's not going to get them anywhere.  I don't give feedback, in common with most magazines and journals, although if a poem needed one or two tweaks to make it a poem I would want to publish then I would suggest revision.  However, I just don't have the time to provide a lit. crit. service to rejected submissions. When I first started writing poetry and sending it out, one of the first things I had to accept was rejection. If you write poetry and send it out to be considered for publication you must accept that 90% of the time you are going to be rejected. The best way to get feedback is to join a poetry workshop. Online workshops are ok but face-to-face workshops are better as you get to build a rapport with fellow workshoppers.  I've been attending a monthly workshop for the last twenty five years and I get very helpful advice from the other poets. So accept rejection and move on. There are hundreds of magazines out there waiting for submissions. 


SQF: What magazines do you read most often?

JM: There's one I read regularly, Ink, Sweat and Tears, an English webzine. Every Day Poets is another one. I also skim around the web onto various poetry zines. It's a very vibrant scene.


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

JM: Why did you start The Lake?

For a long time I fell out of love with poetry due to personal reasons  - going on 10 years when I didn't write much. The last couple of years however the muse caught up with me and gave me a prod and I started to write again in earnest. And I also wanted to start a webzine to give the opportunity for poets, both established and never-before-published newbies, to get their work out there. (The August issue of The Lake features a young poet's first published poem.)  So there you go. Come on in, the water's fine!


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

10/08--Six Questions for Matt & Kristi, Editors, GlassFire Magazine

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Six Questions for Miranda Kopp-Filek, Editor, Writing Tomorrow

Writing Tomorrow is an online and print magazine seeking previously unpublished fiction (up to 12,000 words), poetry, creative nonfiction, novel excerpts, and artwork. While we consider most everything, we tend towards the literary mainstream. Writers do receive compensation. Read the complete guidelines here.

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

MKF: 
1: Language: how a writer uses it, how it suits the purpose of their work. I don't care if it's Carveresque, Steinbeckish, or Joyce-like...it just needs to work effortlessly. The rhythm should reflect the piece; simple and staccato or slow and meandering. Can I read a sentence out loud and not run out breath...hear the cadence? Do the metaphors feel contrived--a writer trying too hard, or do they roll seamlessly off the page and into an image?

2: Character. I look for stories that are driven by their characters, not by plot. I've read many genre stories where the plot is unique and fascinating, but the characters were simply stock. Characters make me feel, pull me in, leave me different than I had been before I met them. I do believe that with well-written characters, a plot will naturally unfold: characters are needy, their desires often come into conflict with their own beliefs or the wants and needs of others--hence, tension...plot.

3: A strong beginning and a stronger ending.Often I read the first paragraph and the last before I even attempt the rest of the piece. The first lines tell me how does a writer write? How do they use language, do they have that something that will keep me reading? The last lines show me, how does the writer tell a story? Can they keep up the language? Does their last image make me want to go back to the beginning and see how it all happened...how the characters came to that point? If the first paragraph and the last are unforgettable, chances are the journey between them will be as well. 


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

MKF: Most editors, myself included, will say disregarding submission guidelines and simple errors that a proofreading would clean up: spelling errors, consistency in punctuation, grammar usage, etc. In truth, though, I've rarely found myself turned off by a submission with a few of these (we're human and sometimes we can over-read our own work). Those few works that did turn me away used especially vulgar profanity or images in an attempt at blatant shock value. I find the 'shocks' that last are the subtle ones that creep upon you, masterly crafted into benign language. I'm also not too keen on short stories about writing short stories.


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

MKF: We have and probably will again. If our authors and artists have personal blogs, I do visit them from time to time on the lookout for that something special and to keep updated on their accolades. I also maintain a list of artists whose websites I visit while designing issues, looking for artwork to accompany our stories.


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?

MKF: Don't take anything too personally. What I reject is likely to please another publication. Sometimes a piece is rejected because we've just got so many on a similar theme, or it's more generic, or just came up in a crop of stories that had stiffer competition that reading cycle. When I tell writers that I'd like them to submit again...I really mean it. We've printed several writers now whose first submissions were turned down but sent in more.

I generally don't give feedback on rejections, so I understand if a writer emails back with questions. I'll try as much as I can to offer more personal feedback at that time, but we're still a small operation, and I would give preference to those writers whose work we intend to publish.


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

MKF: 1: Publishing newer writers. They're excited, eager, and their enthusiasm is contagious. I keep every email from these writers. 2: Reading. I love being constantly surrounded by words. I like to see how they work, how various combinations can elicit such variety in perception, how differently writers can describe a universal.Through your writings, I meet people I might never consider otherwise; I travel the world without packing; I've been privy to intimate conversations between drug dealers, the tug of war between lovers, the science experiments that fail (or worse, work); and I glean a further insight into humanity each time I open a submission.


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

Do we pay our contributors? YES! Thankfully, our publisher is able to offer $25 (for one page flash/poetry) up to $100 for longer works. (The average payment is $50.) The publisher is extremely dedicated to providing a  forum to writers and someday, we'll hopefully make enough revenue to pay our contributors (and staff) much more. (You can help by visiting our website, buying the magazine, and clicking on advertisers.) We also hold annual short story and poetry contests (our award issue is coming out in October), and will be offering a grant to college students this fall. Please visit our Rewarding Talent page or join us on twitter #tomorrowswords to keep up with these deadlines.

The best way to support all literary magazines is to read them! Each night, I pick a new magazine (so many offer some free online content) and read something from it. I encourage readers and writers to do the same. 

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


NEXT POST: 10/04 -- Six Questions for John Murphy, Editor, The Lake