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

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