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

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