Friday, November 29, 2013

Six Questions for Elizabeth MacDuffie, Editor, Meat for Tea: The Valley Review

Meat for Tea publishes poetry, essays, flash and micro-fiction, art, and short fiction to 2500 words. Read the complete guidelines here.

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

Elizabeth McDuffie: The top three things I look for in a submission are a complete absence of errors or typos, fresh, insightful engaging work, and wit. I should want to curl upon my couch with the piece and read it. I should not want to stop reading. I should be compelled by the power of the work.


SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

EM: I'm turned off when I receive a submission addressed to "Dear Editor" because this shows me the author hasn't taken the time to visit the website or learn anything about my magazine. I'm also turned off when there are glaring errors and typos in the submission. Tortured, gothy poetry of what I call "the torn fishnet and black lipstick" variety never appeals to me. Neither does genre writing, like vampire stories, for instance.


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

EM: I would publish a submission that an author has posted on their blog.


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?

EM: I want authors whose work I've rejected to make sure they thoroughly edit and proofread their work and to visit the website and learn to whom they should send their submission. I also want them to know that, although I was an English professor, I am now an editor and I am not going to give them writing instruction when I reject their work. Writing classes are not free and I don't provide them for free. Mainly, I want them to know they should keep trying. One fellow had his work rejected by Meat for Tea four times, but he kept improving his writing and his fifth submission was accepted. I want authors of rejected work to know that most Meat for Tea contributors hold terminal degrees and many are English professors or edit their own journals. The competition is stiff.


SQF: What magazines do your read most often?

EM: I read "The Believer," " The Paris Review," "The Massachusetts Review," Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet," and "Cabinet" to list a few.


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

EM: The question I could have used, though I worked it into an answer is "What are the typical credentials held by your contributors?" Many of mine hold terminal degrees and have won or been nominate for prestigious literary awards like the Pushcart Prize.

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

NEXT POST: 12/3--Six Questions for Mikael Covey, Editor Lit Up Magazine

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Six Questions for Amanda Nicole Corbin, Editor in Chief, Pure Coincidence Magazine

Pure Coincidence publishes flash fiction to 1000 words, prose poems to 1000 words, and 2D art. 6-word story and 4-word poem contests are held monthly, and the winners have a chance to be published in an issue. Read the complete guidelines here

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

Amanda Nicole Corbin: Concision. Why say something in two paragraphs when you can express it in one sentence? With such a limited word count, every word needs to carry some weight and communicate with the reader as much as it can. You’ve all heard “show; don’t tell” and flash fiction is the prime genre to implement this idea and move us through the story quickly, but with all the necessary details important to the character, plot, setting, mood, etc.

Deliberateness. We want you to play and experiment, toy with us, make puns, and surprise us. However, it needs to be clear that these things are deliberate, and what the implemented devices are trying to do. Sometimes we’ll get a story that has an opportunity to do something great, and it’s missed, or a piece with something that’s clever, but on accident. And even though the author might have a purpose in mind, the reader needs to feel it, too.

Cleverness. As stated, we like surprises and experimentation. Taking expectations and twisting them into something completely different is very satisfying to us as readers, especially when it’s well done. We love clever alternative and traditional literature.


SQF: What is most likely to turn you off to a submission?

ANC: Flowery, clichéd language. There’s a lot of stuff out there that might sound good at face value, but when we take a closer look and the language is hollow, it is very unsatisfying. Clichés take us right out of the piece, and it’s not always easy to dive back in.

And follow the guidelines! We get pieces that are over 1000 words and poems that aren’t prose. That’s great and all, but not what we publish.


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. 

ANC: Ah, one of the age-old questions. I’m going to be bold here and say character is more important than plot, because a good character informs the plot. Really, it’s more of a chicken-or-the-egg question, and character should (usually) come first. However, that’s not to say a well-constructed, interesting plot isn’t vital to a piece at all; we’ve accepted some stuff where you could say the plot is the character.


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

ANC: Revise. Make sure your piece is free of errors and offers something new to your readers. When in doubt, have someone you trust read it, give honest feedback, and summarize the piece. Is the summary what you want someone to take away?

Submit! And if you get rejected, submit again! We do something a lot of magazines don’t—we offer feedback. While we’re just a few opinions, we’re happy to offer what we can to help better your writing, whether you plan to resubmit or take it elsewhere.


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

ANC: There are many flavors of writing. Really, the spectrum of genres and styles that are out there is broad, and we like a lot of them. The most important thing is, if a story is well constructed, we will enjoy it. This has helped me better my own writing by playing with forms and styles that are outside my “usual” method. Finally, it reminds me that even though a piece is good, it might not fit a certain magazine, so that being discouraged by rejections is just silly.


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

ANC: What made you want to start Pure Coincidence Magazine?

I believe flash fiction is increasing in popularity with the internet and current generation, and I found few magazines that specialize in short pieces only. Both flash fiction and prose poetry create a space where concise, deliberate language is encouraged and I wanted to spotlight these genres in the writing community. Moreover, we have an all-star staff that brings a wide array of perspectives, which helps create a unique tone for the magazine. Lastly, I want to help emerging writers get their voices heard.


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

NEXT POST: 11/29--Six Questions for Elizabeth MacDuffie, Editor, Meat for Tea: The Valley Review

Friday, November 22, 2013

Six Questions for Jeremiah Walton, Editor, Underground Books

SQF: Tell is a little about Underground Books (http://www.undergroundbooks.org/). Why did you start it and what do you hope to accomplish?

Jeremiah Walton: I didn't start it. James Keppling founded it when he was a teenager in 1997. He's been publishing "street books" (DIY chapbooks) since then.

I joined aboard this past summer as an editor and help manage the general press. We collectively work and decide upon the poems / books published through UB's various outlets.

The goal: give poetry a kick in the balls.

We're going to be a fully registered and functioning nonprofit organization by the end of 2013.


SQF: What do you look for in a submission? Put another way, what will set a submission apart from the rest?

JW:
1. They read the submission guidelines.

2. The voice is clearly the author's own. We want to hear the murmurs of inspiration you draw from your environment in your writing. Influence from other writers is fine, but we do want to see something progressive to the poetic community as a whole.

3. We appreciate youth poetry that rumbles our bellies into knots. Make us squirm.

SQF: What most likely will turn you off to a submission?

JW: Rhyming poetry, though that's just me personally.


SQF: Underground Books is a new publisher. Why would an author choose UB over a more established company?

JW: It's not too new. It's been around for a while but recently started gaining momentum and obtaining notice.

We care about poetry to the point we're all mad men. Your writing will be homed well here. We want to share your work. We're just going to do what we love to do and make sure our poets' voices are amplified.


SQF: What is your advice to new, unpublished authors looking to be published?

JW: Read the submission guidelines. Please.


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

JW: How do you distribute your books?

Besides through the website and social medias, we hand make street books and sell them by busking, taking them personally to book stores, distributing them at festivals, and through open mics/slams. We will work hard for you.


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

NEXT POST: 11/26--Six Questions for Amanda Nicole Corbin, Editor in Chief, Pure Coincidence Magazine

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Six Questions for Alexandre Mandarino, Editor, Hyperpulp

Hyperpulp is a bi-annual online magazine publishing fantasy, science fiction, magical realism, horror, mystery, war and westerns. Read the complete guidelines here.

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

Alexandre Mandarino: I look for interesting stories and sceneries in the first place. The literary aspect is also very important. I guess I even do prefer a well written so-so story than a badly written good story. The third point would be the conformity with our guidelines: formats, file extensions, etc. Lots of people appear to think this has no importance, but it exists for a reason. It facilitates our work, for instance.


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

AM: Vampires, zombies and high fantasy are red signs. They were done to death and it would need a very, very good story (in terms of both plot and style) to make it through. Messages and allegories are also big no-nos. I hate being talked down to. Messages should be reserved to non-fiction, mostly. As for the third reason, I’d go with the wrong sense of humor. Authors who want to write comedy stories or black humor pieces should always check and re-check if they are, well, funny persons.


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.

AM: Plot and character are equally important. A good plot is a character, in the sense that it may open new ways to show the psychology of the characters. The characters can also be plot: it’s important to listen to the characters, get their voices right, let them guide the story to its natural ends, psychologically speaking. If I’d be forced to choose one, I’d go with character. Plot driven tales with shallow people on them sound more annoying than the opposite, since a “mere” character study can be very interesting.


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

AM: Read a lot. Read the best authors in the genre you want to write, but also read the best authors in the genres you don’t like - or think you don’t like. Read the classics. Read all kinds of stuff. Try to grasp what impresses, pleases and surprises you in your favorite writers.


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

AM: I learned that it is harder than people think it is, but also simpler than they think it is. This simplicity is hard to achieve.


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

AM: “Who are your favorite writers in any genre?” OK, this may be cheating, because it’s a fairly easy answer. But I guess it can be useful. Some of these authors are the best in what they do. Reading them all makes it easier to grasp plot, psychology, descriptions, dialogue and the single most important element of fiction: rhythm. The ebb and flow of the narrative. Rhythm is all.

My darlings are Jorge Luís Borges, Edgar Allan Poe, Oscar Wilde, Hemingway, Elmore Leonard, Georges Simenon, Grant Morrison, William Burroughs, Clive Barker, Patricia Highsmith, Chesterton, Paul Auster, Neal Stephenson, Umberto Eco.


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

NEXT POST: 11/22--Six Questions for Jeremiah Walton, Editor, Underground Books

Friday, November 15, 2013

Six Questions for Christopher Rhatigan, Editor, All Due Respect

All Due Respect is a quarterly, digital and hard copy magazine that publishes crime fiction of 3000 words and up.  Read the complete guidelines here.


SQF: All Due Respect recently changed format from an online publication to a digital/hard copy magazine. In addition, authors are paid a professional rate. What was the thinking that went into these changes.

Chris Rhatigan: Our anthology, which everyone in the world should read (or at least buy, so that we can get rich), did quite well, so we decided to expand our modest operation. With the following we've established, we thought we'd be justified in leaving the blog format behind. And paying writers is something that I've always wanted to do. Lastly, our staff has tripled from just me to editor Mike Monson and publisher CJ Edwards, with Full Dark City Press--so now we have the capacity to eat the world. (Or something.)


SQF: What do you look for in a story? Another way to ask this is, What is it about a story that gives the author an edge over the competition?

CR: Write about crime from a criminal's perspective. That's still at the core of what we do. Spend a lot of time working over your prose. There's a misguided notion that language is less important in genre fiction. I think that's what makes golden-era noir and detective fiction (Chandler, Cain, Highsmith) so good is that the writing is superior. Sure, the plots work, but if you read a paragraph from any of those writers it's immediately noticeable how capable they are with language. Also, make sure to have a wealth of atmosphere (preferably of the grimy, bar floor variety) and a lot of attitude. And, oh yeah, format the thing according to our guidelines.


SQF: What's likely to turn your off to a submission? 

CR: Someone who clearly hasn't read the magazine and sends us a standard police procedural. Unless your name is Lawrence Block, you shouldn't be writing about a hit man. Serial killer stories have also been done enough. Also, proofread the damn thing until your eyes hurt.


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. 

CR: Character is more important than plot. Every plot has been done. It's those doing the doing (uh, characters) who make it interesting. Although, actually, I think style is more important than either. Style can take a lackluster plot and an average main character and make them unique.


SQF: What magazines, hard copy or online, do you read most often?

CR: Shotgun Honey, Beat to a Pulp, Needle, Thuglit, Crime Factory, Pulp Modern.


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

CR: What else are you changing at All Due Respect?

We'll be including a featured author section each issue. This spot will be reserved for an elite, established crime fiction author. This author will contribute a short story and an interview. We may include other items, such as a review of the author's latest book, or a retrospective on the author's career, or a piece by the author about a crime fiction legend. Our hope is that bringing in these featured writers will expand our readership beyond the usual and highlight the best short fiction in the genre.

We'll also be including reviews, editors' choices for new and classic books, and other non-fiction.

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

NEXT POST: 11/19--Six Questions for Alexandre Mandarino, Editor, Hyperpulp

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Six Questions for Mike Cluff, Editor-in-Chief, and Dan Hope, Managing Editor, Fiction Vortex

Mike Cluff and Dan Hope co-founded Fiction Vortex as a place for great science fiction and fantasy short stories. Mike serves as Editor-in-Chief and Chief Annoyance Officer (meaning there are too many chefs in this kitchen already), and Dan is the Managing Editor and Voice of Reason (meaning he frowns a lot and points out the obvious). Fiction Vortex publishes speculative fiction up to 7500 words. Stories of 5000 words or fewer are preferred. Read the complete guidelines here.

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

Mike: I want good characters. That doesn’t reference the morality of the character, it means I want well rounded, developed characters that keep the reader in the story.

Dan: Wait, you’re just going to throw one out there and leave the other two for me? Fine. I want great ideas and compelling conflict. The whole point of speculative fiction is to present new and interesting ideas, even if they aren’t the focus of the story. But no amount of great ideas will save a story if there’s not a good enough conflict to drive the narrative. It’s surprising how many stories we get that include an instruction manual about a strange new technology or a geological survey of a magical land, but then absolutely nothing happens.


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

Dan: Did I mention how many people forget to include a good conflict? I did? Oh. Well, that happens too often. Here’s another one that’s really getting out of hand: The Twist Ending. Everyone thinks that a twist ending is super clever. It’s not. Especially when the twist is the whole reason for the story to exist. Far too many authors write stories that are really just elaborate setups for mediocre twists, and no one is impressed. You can’t pull the rug out from under readers and expect them to love it. In order to make a good twist work, you must carefully foreshadow the event and make it relevant to the theme and conflict. And even then, it might not be worth it. Usually, it only makes the story appear amateurish. So, to all you out there with a story idea that can be summarized as, “Dude, what if these space marines were fighting these bad aliens, and we have lots of cool fight scenes, but then at the end we learn that in reality the humans are the bad guys?!?!?! Wooaaahhh!,” stop it. Just don’t.

Mike: Why don’t you go lie down for a minute, Dan. You’re starting to foam at the mouth. As for me, a big no-no is sending us a submission that is addressed to another publication. We aren’t vain enough yet to think we are receiving exclusive submissions. But getting our name wrong? We do have some pride. I don’t know if ignoring our submission guidelines counts as a mistake, but that really turns me off of a story. I am fairly certain Dan feels the same way.

Dan: You can’t see this right now, but my left eye is twitching at the mere mention of someone ignoring the submission guidelines. Right, sorry, I’ll go lie down.


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

Mike: Unfortunately, no. We recognize that some authors use their blogs as means of sharing their work with family, friends, and writing groups, but our terms and conditions require first electronic rights and that, honestly, is to protect Fiction Vortex from any claims of plagiarism.


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? 

Mike: We claim to practice the ‘Golden Rule’ and reject others as we would like to be rejected. Wait, I don’t like the way that sounds. Dan is our rejection expert, I think I’ll let him handle this one. What? Yes, that means you can get up.

Dan: Thanks. I want authors to know that we really just don’t have time to say much about a rejected story, good or bad. I always try to include a line about one or more of the major faults that influenced our decision, but sometimes that just boils down to the editorial equivalent of “We just weren’t feeling it, sorry.” If you’re polite, we don’t mind if you respond to a rejection, but odds are we aren’t going to read it (see previous references to the utter lack of time for anything other than eating, sleeping, and marathoning episodes of Star Trek in the background). We likely won’t respond to questions, and there’s nothing you can say to change our minds short of “I’ll pay you a million dollars to publish my short story.”

Mike: Maybe we shouldn’t say that. It undermines our integrity as editors. Plus, I have nothing to do with your Star Trek: The Next Generation marathons. And no this isn’t an appropriate time to get into our unending debate of Kirk vs. Picard.

Dan: Fine, unless you offer us a billion dollars, no deal. And Picard. Only Picard. Kirk was a clown.

Mike: Told you, not going there. And yeah, I’d be fine with a billion dollars.


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

Mike: Lots of original stories showing up in my email each day. For free. I don’t buy as many books now because I am busy reading submissions. In fact, I feel guilty if I read something else while the submission pile grows. I still haven’t decided if I like that though.

Dan: I love reading, so this is a great gig, but the really mind-blowing joy comes when I stumble upon that one incredible story in the submission pile. The one that makes me sit up and say, “Whoa, I wish I had thought of that.” It happens a few times per month, and it’s a real pleasure. It gives me an immense amount of pride to see those stories on our site.


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

Mike: That is a sneaky question, one that could get us all in trouble. But like I said before, our vanity isn’t that big yet, so I’ll forgo any information on how Dan and I are extremely intelligent and attractive gifts to the speculative fiction world. We can save that for the next time. But I will ask this question, and maybe Dan could answer: What makes Fiction Vortex different from any other speculative fiction publication?

Dan: We’re cheeky. And people sure love the cheek. We have a cool logo, too.

Mike: I was thinking you would respond about the quality and frequency of our stories.

Dan: Sure, that too. Can we get back to the question about questions? I was hoping someone would ask us about who would win in a fight between Captain Mal Reynolds and Captain Han Solo. Now that is a question that needs answering. I mean, first of all we have to define the parameters of the conflict because there is a significant difference in outcomes when considering a land battle versus a space battle, resulting from--

Mike: Don’t forget that no one actually asked you the question.

Dan: I know, but the fact remains that--

Mike: Enough with the battle of the Captains. Kirk rules. That’s all for us, folks. Come see our great stories posted twice a week at FictionVortex.com.

--Follow Fiction Vortex on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter!

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

NEXT POST: 11/15--Six Questions for Christopher Rhatigan, Editor, All Due Respect

Friday, November 8, 2013

Six Questions for Colin James Sturdevant, Co-Founder/Managing Editor, Houston & Nomadic Voices Magazine

Houston & Nomadic Voices Magazine publishes fiction to 3000 words, flash fiction (300-800 words), poetry, and creative nonfiction/nonfiction. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

CJS: There are many factors to how Houston & Nomadic Voices Magazine began, and I will try and make it as brief as possible. I brought the magazine up as a project to my writers group, Writers’ ReVision, who are all emerging writers, and that have a lot of great insight and talent as well as potential. One of the aims of the writing group we created was to “provide a forum for writers to share their voice and work” and a magazine seemed like a way we could encompass that desire and mission. Even before we were a group I had taken a Fiction Creative Writing Projects with one of my favorite professors, Aaron Reynolds, and in the course we looked at publications (magazines, journals, and reviews) that were online and analog/ print format. We learned about submitting work, query letters, submission protocol, and more about the publication outlets. I then became interested in how one becomes a part of the growing market or publication world. As a student and a new or starting writer, I had this imagination and mindset of the publishing world as one giant focused on the “up and coming and famous” and had no idea if new writers breaking into the world of publication had any representation. That notion or narrow view of the world of publication may have started a slight desire to start a magazine. Let’s say that that is one of the beginning factors to the reason why I wanted to start a magazine - which is to broaden the marketplace and create room for new writers to have their work out there that deserve it. 

The second reason came from my volunteer work as an associate editor for Glass Mountain, the Undergraduate Literary Journal of the University of Houston, for the fiction section of the publication. I felt that associate editors were taken and hung out on the fence as just a filtration system for the genre editors, but my emotions and perceptions at the time were misguided by what I’d call “young adult angst”. To me it felt that there was a gap, and that all associate editors were given just a vote and little say. But that was because it seemed that learning the ropes of what else goes on in the magazine seemed off limits. Meetings that discussed other important factors for the publication that the rest of the staff handled where we weren’t invited to created a barrier to me, and it made me feel as an associate editor that I was more of an asset when needed rather than part of a team. The whole project felt disconnected, and so I left but desired to be a part of the publication process. I left Glass Mountain because in reality I failed to express my concerns and interests in the magazine which created a shift and created an attitude that made the institutional publication seem cold, and it wasn’t something I wanted. This distorted view that cropped up from the events of working there and misinterpreting reality broke me away from the publication that the university ran, but a part of me still wanted inclusion somehow. I wanted to create a magazine not tied to an institution of higher learning. I wanted to pioneer a project, and wanted the inclusion of academic writers and non academic writers to share the same page. The magazine project then became an “independent” operation or grass roots approach.

Thirdly, was the first mentioned bit. Writers’ ReVision had a goal, and there had to be a way to enhance our activity and a magazine seemed appropriate, and the first two desires reignited and I decided to put the project on the table as something for us to do to promote writers.

Aside from these steps, the magazine’s original intent had evolved due to technology - social media. After the meeting, a few of my friends stepped up to take on the roles as editors, and they were nervous as to editing the work of others and modifying another’s work if need be. We thought we’d publish academic writers (those who study creative writing at an institution) and non academic writers (self taught or writers not tied to learning from an institution). We wanted Houston writers since our city is so huge. But getting the word out in your own city isn’t easy, and being a new magazine may have made writers unsure of submitting to a new publication. We thought our first issue would be a five page pamphlet that wouldn’t be up to our expectations, but we ended up soliciting from writers we knew. So, now we’d have a fifteen to twenty something page magazine. It still didn’t seem enough to me. I wanted more. I wanted to do more, and I felt that it misrepresented the community of Houston writers as a whole. “What could we do to garner more submissions?” worried us until I stumbled upon a page on Facebook that was for posting calls for submissions. We ended up utilizing the social media and received work from outside our state and outside the country that we liked. This changed the course and direction of where the project would go. Instead of calling the magazine “Houston”, “Houstonite”, or something of the like - I panned out the name “Houston & Nomadic Voices”. We wanted writers from home and afar to tell their stories whether it be prose or poetry, to move us and our readers. “Social media” changed the direction and took effect on the growth and development of the magazine.

The fourth reason to why I started a magazine was from a discussion with my friend John Pluecker. I asked him questions on licensing, publishing, how to publish, copyright and more and he broadened the horizon of what a publication is. He told me that Copyright was a capitalist method, and he also brought up Copyleft and Creative Commons. We discussed how publication used to be a movement, and how now it is a grounded structure and model due to expectations. Publications and presses were less of a business and more of tools to express ideas - political, and moving as a continuous experiment, and how literature is becoming more hardened as entertainment and less about it’s cultural value that map the transformation of who we are as a whole. I decided to publish for the sake of culture and to preserve the records of human habits and understanding that are inherent in literature. It became a right of passage, almost ceremonial to be an editor and to publish new work.


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

CJS: That’s a difficult question to me because a submission in a sense is a package, what the writer puts on the table before us. I think of the submission as a unit of different parts that work together. First, and foremost, is a cover letter. A little formality and respect goes a long way, in my opinion. And this is speaking on my behalf as an editor, and a writer, set aside from the rest of my staff & editors. I look for a brief cover letter addressed to the magazine or “Editors”, and a bit that allows a conversation to begin between publisher and writer or plausible contributor. I think most submission systems and literary projects have automatic responses, but for now we type and respond by hand. When an author sends me a cover letter - it feels personal, that this person has tried to build a conversation with me for whether or not their work is ready made or belongs in our project, the magazine. The fact that a writer takes time to address us, and let us know what they are sending, and that they are open to allow our magazine to house their work is special, and we are very grateful for writers who want to trust us as a magazine. It makes me hold respect. If I am just sent an attachment and a Thanks, followed by a name or just a bio: it feels as if the writer may not care if we publish them, that we’re just another target in the market to take up a chance with, and that their publication matters more than the binding of work, collecting an aesthetic, and agreeing that this, their, literature is worth to be part of a literary discussion. This, to me, is also inherent in publishing: a discussion that happens between literature. The discussion is also in line with the cover letter itself. As an example of a compelling cover letter, here’s an excerpt from a writer that’s being published in issue 2. The formality and care, and interest initiated us as editors to take more time and interest with their work:

Hello H&NV,
Have heard of your mag., it comes by way of many a great local writer and you have recently published some favorites of mine. I respectfully submit a few poems for your consideration, along with the requisite short bio.  

Now, not everyone will have access to a copy of the magazine, but the fact that this person has read the publication and has identified some pieces with potential they could grant us, it goes a long way. We read every submissions with care. As a side note, when we release the Call for Submissions for issue 3, there’ll be a few past published pieces online for people to see to get a feel of our aesthetic. We find it unfair to tell people we’re sorry we couldn’t publish their work, but you should buy a copy to see what we are about. If they do not write material we look for, then they just may feel they have gotten gypped for buying an issue of something unrelated to what they write or enjoy as a reader.

Second, I look to see what may set this person apart from the rest. It may be demographic or nationality or identity, and maybe all at the same time. I try to focus on almost fifty percent of our authors being from Houston, and outside even if from another country - to broaden the discussion of literature. Houston, Texas, is one of the largest cities and extremely diverse. I want a discussion in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry to occur between (n)th generation of America and someone still in the culture of that opposite author’s roots. If that’s possible.

Third, I look at the work as a whole, and how it may work together with the first pieces of literature we accept. I look for ready-made work that needs little to no edits, and work that has something “working” or can be developed with a writer to be included in the magazine.


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

CJS: As mentioned before: not sending a cover letter. It says this person doesn’t care, but I could be wrong. They may be submitting for the first time and do not know the cultural and respectful ways to submit work. I’d also say receiving work addressed to an entirely different magazine is depressing, but not a turn off, which has happened.


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

CJS: Generally, we do send feedback or a marked up/commented on document if we felt it was close to the cusp of publication. Not every piece is approachable when it comes to feedback. Some pieces may be so underdeveloped that there’s no real way to address the piece - and that’s usually work that’s a rough draft. If someone does request feedback, we will if time is accessible. Our team of editors and staff have private lives to tend to, and as much as we love what we do, we can only designate so much time to the magazine - and that time has to be spent wisely on the project so the process of publication goes smoothly. I highly recommend looking at a piece with over twenty rejections, and the rejection letter tiers of what a magazine has said or thinks, and ask yourself what’s wrong with the piece and revise. Best to form a group that can give constructive feedback. Don’t give up on writing. Develop tough skin for rejection. It happens to everyone.


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

CJS: I’ve learned that writing and drafting a ready made piece for publication is a long process. Some pieces of mine have taken two years max and a minimum of one year to get into the shape that people are looking for. I’ve realized that pieces we accept have been worked on hard over and over again. It shows me that revising your work is extremely beneficial. It also allowed me to give better feedback to people I do workshops with outside of working on H&NVM. It has even helped me to edit my own work more harshly, and to create new questions on how to shape a piece in the process.


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

CJS: This is a hard question. I think maybe an interview on publication itself rather than focusing on accepting and rejecting work would be pretty interesting. Let me see if there are a few questions that you could ask, and then I will list questions that would pertain to the culture and means of publication that would be an interesting dialogue.
Questions Not Asked:

1.) Why are certain pieces rejected?

Answer: Some pieces may not fit what we look for or may just be a second or third draft that is unclear or not compelling. We’ve had people send irrationally written and creepy narrations on rape as if the mood and idea were acceptable and okay - as if rape was a happy go lucky thing to do. If you send us a piece that lists the scenes of something horrific and culturally taboo as if a sociopath wrote it - we won’t look at it any further. A submission that seems off like the previously mentioned is a rare case. If someone has sent something, and we find it online on a blog or on a Facebook note, then we must decline the piece. Once you post it, it has been published for the public’s viewing - and some online formats like that have terms that claim ownership of whatever someone might post.

2.) What are some of your favorite authors that may be examples of work you look for?

This question would have to be applied for each genre editor. I have certain tastes and things I look for, but when it comes down to it - my editors deserve a say in what works. They aren’t puppets for me to use as trump cards to build something, and after all this is a collective activity that’s democratic. When we get submissions, I’ll pitch an opinion and see what they say on the pros and cons of each piece and where they stand. If there’s something I like and REALLY would like to see in an issue - I will try and talk to the editors if a piece can be worked with to get it up to par.

As for my tastes: Tim O’Brien, Yusef Komunyaaka, Amy Tan, Elizabeth Wong, Richard Lange, Claire Kageyama, Richard Siken, Hasting Hensel, James Dickey and a big number of other writers.  

3.) How many times do you go over a submission, and how much time do you spend looking at them on an individual basis?

Fiction and Nonfiction: The beginning, for me, needs to hook me from the get go - and if it doesn’t captivate me within the first few paragraphs, I’ll probably just pass. Poetry: I’ve gotten to liking fictitious poetry and abstract, recently; but if a poem’s language is too loose and doesn’t form coherent images to rely on, I have to pass. For prose, I will go over a piece a few times if I make it past the first few pages, which means there is something “working” and has potential, which we will work with over time with a writer and continue to review the piece. As for poetry, if I keep reading all the way through and I don’t get confused from transitions - it’s a sure fire way that it will be thought heavier on. My editors may or may not need time to brew on pieces, but it always depends on what state and condition the work submitted is in.

4.) What’s your response time and when would it be suitable to send a query on the status of a submission?

Our submission period is from September to August, and we usually hope to respond within three to four months, but sometimes it may take longer depending on the academic calendar since we are all in school. Usually in the spring and summer we respond faster. Right now, since we are such a small publication, we need to look at submissions at the soonest convenience and to get back to writers as soon as possible. Our first issue, we received about 20 to 30 pieces total, and then our second call for issue 2 gained about 130 to 140 pieces total. If it’s been more than four months, it’s safe to see about the status of your submission through a query letter - but I advise writers to do this kindly.

5.) What is the goal of your magazine?

What I’d like to do is create a dialogue between literature WITHIN the magazine itself. Publications seem, to me, to be a single unit collective as a voice that enters discussion among other publications about literature and its representation. I think that this magazine is a dialogue on its own that can go into the world of publications as a two-toned collective that expresses American literature and International literature and where it falls in line locally.

Aside from the questions that weren’t asked, I think a discussion that analyzes the idea of a publication would be beneficial for writers themselves to understand the new ways and traditional ways publications are evolving. Such as ; What is a magazine, or a journal? A review?; What traits make these concepts what they are?; What is the purpose of Copyright?; Are online formats really magazines?; Do lit publications need an actual ISSN?; What does it mean when something is “published”?; etc.

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

NEXT POST: 11/12--Six Questions for Mike Cluff, Editor-in-Chief, and Dan Hope, Managing Editor, Fiction Vortex














Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Six Questions For Pete Stevens, Fiction Editor, Squalorly

Squalorly is a quarterly journal that publishes fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, illustration and photography. Read the complete guidelines here.

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

PS: First off, I’m looking for stories with sentences, strong sentences. If I’m not satisfied with the sentence work, I’m not able to accept the narrative or any other aspect of the piece. After I’m pulled by the sentences, then, secondly, it becomes a matter of aesthetics. What excites me as a reader is work that pushes beyond conventional realism, pieces that might be classified as postmodern, fabulist, surreal, whatever. So, as editor, I’m looking to find these stories and bring them to the Squalorly audience. Lastly, I’m making sure that a piece feels complete. I think it’s natural for a writer to be excited about a new story and send it out. Maybe take some extra time with a piece, bake it a little longer, the extra time spent polishing shows through. 


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

PS: Some obvious mistakes would be the grammatical errors, the misspelling, and the litany of little detail mistakes, that, again, may seem obvious to avoid, but I see them again and again. Also, editors are reading a large volume of submissions. The timeless advice about having a strong first line, second line, is true. There has to be a compelling aspect of the first line to push me to the second line, to the third line... If a first sentence is loaded with adjectives, adverbs, or thought verbs, I’m already disengaging. 


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

PS: Not as of now. Haven’t had to deal with this much, but I want to be able to bring a story to Squalorly’s audience for the first time. 


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?

PS: As stated before, I’m not looking for traditional realism, and that’s only one example of an aesthetic that I’m not looking for. So authors should know that even the most amazing story can be rejected if the editor is not heading in that direction for the issue. And each issue may take on a different approach. So don’t beat yourself up and have a good idea of what the journal is looking for. As for authors asking questions about their rejection, I’m not for it. Unless I’ve initiated a specific dialogue about a piece, I don’t want to hear back from a writer about a rejected story. It’s not a matter of being cold, it’s just that there’s a trust between author and editor that the piece was handled with respect and care and that it was rejected for a reason. I’ve been able to respond to questions if there’s time, but again, the amount of submissions can be overwhelming.


SQF: What magazines do you read most often?

PS: I like to read NANO Fiction, PANK, SmokeLong, Gigantic Sequins, Monkeybicycle, Sundog Lit, Ghost Town, Cardinal Sins, McSweeney’s, and I love the interviews in The Paris Review. I read WhiskeyPaper, Passages North, Counterexample Poetics, Tin House, Caketrain, Mixed Fruit, Hobart, BULL, The Collagist, damn, there’s too many. There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not reading something from a journal, whether it’s print or online. 


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

PS: From my experience writers – submitters – they stress about cover letters. Don’t. I’ve already read your piece and formed my opinion before I read your cover letter. Don’t bother giving me the 500 word explanation of your piece. Keep the cover letter simple and let your story make the statement. 

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

NEXT POST: 11/08--Six Questions for Colin James Sturdevant, Co-Founder/Managing Editor, Houston & Nomadic Voices Magazine

Friday, November 1, 2013

Six Questions For Garrett Dennert, Creative Nonfiction Editor, Squalorly

Squalorly is a quarterly journal that publishes fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, illustration and photography. Read the complete guidelines here.

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

GD: 1) Complexity 2) Narration and 3) Experimentation

I want complexity because I want to see that the narrator is attempting to understand something—there needs to be a forward-driving idea for the essay to work as a narrative and the narrator must open up.  For example, an “I made the winning shot” essay is not what I’m looking for.  However, if the narrator endures struggle in the locker room, at home, on the bench, etc., and then makes the winning shot, well, it changes things.

I say narration because, with the writer assumedly dealing with complex subject matter, it becomes increasingly important that the prose itself be centered around the simplistic.  That doesn’t necessarily mean one-hundred one-clause sentences in a row.  Just don't try to wow me with your vocabulary.  Instead, tell the damn story.    

To clarify experimentation, I want to say that I don’t hold anything against submissions that do not play with form.  However, I do like to read them and I think it’s because I equate experimentation with the writer playing on the page--footnotes, images, spacing, white space, etc.  While it’s a risk/reward thing, I feel the reward is much higher if executed properly.


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

GD: I’m sure many other editors can relate when I say line editing. Often, I receive submissions that haven’t been proofread and it can be frustrating, to say the least, as it registers with me as unprofessional and revealing a lack of concern for the work.

Another common mistake I see is in character description.  While eyes most definitely can be important, each character’s eye color (usually) does not deserve sentence after sentence of description.  I like to see writers stray from the norm here (again, risk/experimentation).  For example, describe the eyelashes instead of the eye itself.  Or look to their body or voice for something that is a truly defining characteristic.  Readers will remember the 'abnormal' more than they will eye color.  


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

GD: I feel like it would depend on the submission.  But typically, no, as we seek previously unpublished material.


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?

GD: I’d like them to know that just because the submission was rejected doesn’t mean that we didn’t see any potential in the piece of writing.  That said, as a writer, I’ve been on the receiving end of the “potential” claim and know that it can be painful to hear time and time again.

If they feel the urge to reply with a question, concern or comment, I would strongly encourage them to do so.  But I’d also like them to understand that we may not respond immediately, as we’re on a quarterly deadline and forced to prioritize in order to meet said deadline.

Lastly, and along the same lines, I’d want them to know that we most likely will not be able to provide in-depth suggestions as to how they can improve the piece of writing.  Such a thing would require several more in-depth readings of the material.  Such a thing would require much more time and, as mentioned, that’s hard to come by under deadline.  


SQF: What magazines do you read most often?

GD: While I browse McSweeney’s and Tin House quite often, I’ve been really impressed with WhiskeyPaper, Split Lip, Pithead Chapel and Five Quarterly.  I tend to enjoy lit mags that push boundaries in either content or design, or both.


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

GD: Do you take past achievements into consideration when evaluating a submission? I ask this because, before I became an editor for Squalorly, I tended to think there was some literary bourgeoisie that wanted nothing to do with me.  I was wrong and, truthfully, no, we don’t apply favoritism to a cover letter packed with past publications and current fellowships.  In fact, we’ve actually turned down quite a few “accomplished” writers, and for one reason: the piece just wasn’t doing it for us.  It's important for all parties to remember that the submitted piece of writing will continue to carry the most weight.

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

NEXT POST: 11/05--Six Questions For Pete Stevens, Fiction Editor, Squalorly