Maelstrom is a print journal publishing edgy poetry, short fiction (to 5,000 words) art, photography and book reviews. Read the complete guidelines here.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
C. L. Blacke: I want to see the elements of a story—characters, conflict, crisis, and resolution. I don’t want to read a character sketch about a static moment in time when nothing happens.
I want to know who the main character is, and I want to care about him/her. If I can’t figure that out, if I’m not emotionally invested, then I feel cheated as a reader.
I am the grammar police. Mistakes in punctuation, capitalization, spelling, etc. irritate me because they are so blatant when reading someone else’s work. Before submitting somewhere, I suggest having another person (preferably one who knows the rules of proper grammar) read your manuscript and point out any errors you may have missed. Like typing “ever” instead of “every.” That’s the type of thing spellcheck won’t pick up on.
SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?
CLB: Being “too” anything. Too creative, too edgy, too innovative. If a story seems contrived or feels fake, I won’t keep reading it. It’s great to experiment and break out of your comfort zone, but the writing should flow and feel natural (despite the 90,000 revisions you made). I also don’t want to spend massive amounts of effort to understand it. I expect that with poetry, but not with fiction. (Don’t tell Christine [Sostarich] I said that. She’s a poet; she’ll kill me.)
SQF: Will you publish a submission an author posted on a personal blog?
CLB: Absolutely. Personal blogs are great forums for receiving feedback on your writing. It forces you to read your own work with a critical, detached eye (well, not that your eyeball is sitting in your hand or anything), because knowing “people out there” will be reading your stuff makes you pay way more attention to things you might have otherwise let slide. I’ve “published” my own writing on my personal blog, so I know what that feels like—like you’re lying naked on an exam table under mega-watt fluorescent lights with a theater of masked plastic surgeons just waiting to tell you what’s wrong with your body.
SQF: What advice can you offer new authors hoping to publish their first submission (in Maelstrom, or in general)?
CLB: Read everything. Write recklessly. Know what the editors are looking for. Believe in yourself and your dream. Oh, and make sure to proofread.
SQF: What magazines do you read regularly?
CLB: At the moment, only English Journal. I’m the worst editor ever.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
CLB: Who I am not as an editor but as a person. I am a writer first and foremost. I am not an authority on writing, and my opinion doesn’t mean much to anyone besides myself. All I can do is say what I like, what I am confused about, and offer suggestions to improve based on what I know about writing. Each time I read a submission, I envision the authors’ excitement when they get an acceptance letter. They post the news to Facebook and all their family and friends congratulate them. That has to be the best feeling ever. I want everyone to experience that. I want to experience that. I am rooting for everyone who submits. I don’t want to reject people and I don’t want to be rejected.
Thank you, C. L. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 2/18--Six Questions for Sebastian H. Paramo, Founding Editor, The Boiler