Vagabond City is a quarterly literary journal dedicated to publishing outsider literature. "We seek to publish poetry and short fiction that fits outside the mainstream literary scene, yet still of significant literary merit.” Read the complete guidelines here.
SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
Joe Marchia: I started this magazine specifically to help publish talented writers who otherwise might face difficulty in publishing their work because it’s too risqué. Several authors I have accepted in the journal have thanked me because they’ve had such difficulty with publishing certain pieces. I’ve made a point to say we are an “outsider” journal, because the publications really end up being a motley crew of talented writers, who perhaps have nothing in common except that they have written wonderful and unusual stories or poems.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
JM: I go through so many submissions, and so many of them are very good. For this reason, I usually have to rely on my “gut.” Certain pieces just stick with me, and those are the ones I usually end up publishing. Of course, they also have to be well written. I guess a third quality would be concision. If a story or poem seems to “drag on,” I fear losing a reader’s attention.
SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?
JM: Cliché’s, certainly. But more generally than that, anything that is banal or non-surprising. Especially with poetry, because they’re so brief they really need to catch my attention in a small time frame.
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?
JM: I don’t. I’m not sure how I feel about comments on my own work, sometimes. And I’m not sure what I would be directing them towards anyway. If I’m trying to help them publish it elsewhere, maybe they should just find a new journal to submit to. If I’m trying to help them write a better story, I really don’t feel it’s my position to do a mini-workshop with these people. Writing is so delicate, and I don’t think I could write any truly helpful or specific comments for every person that submits.
SQF: What magazines do you read?
JM: I am biased towards places I have been published, so I tend to read those magazines. But I will say Emerge Literary Journal does a wonderful job. Foliate Oak Literary Magazine is consistently wonderful. Citizens for Decent Literature is also a really interesting and unique place for writers. I think, of the major ones, Tin House might be the best literary magazine out there.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
JM: I guess for my specific circumstance: what is it like to be a publisher and a writer? Because in a sense I am playing both roles: an artist and a curator. Having been in both positions, it’s largely changed my perception of writing. Publishing, which might even be a primary goal for many writers, is really about distribution and building your byline. It’s not the be-all-end-all of writing. So, my message is that writers should put building their craft above building their resume. Don’t lose focus of art because of business. Literary magazines should serve writers, and not the other way around.
Thank you, Joe. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
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