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Writing Tomorrow is an online and print magazine seeking previously unpublished fiction (up to 12,000 words), poetry, creative nonfiction, novel excerpts, and artwork.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?

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 

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