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