The Boiler publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction from new and emerging writers on a quarterly basis. Read the complete guidelines here.
SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
Sebastian Paramo: I started this magazine in 2011 with some friends in graduate school. I'd always wanted to start a literary journal and be part of the community of writing ever since I was in high school. When I actually became a part of a real community in graduate school, I pounced on the opportunity to share and contribute to the larger community. I think it's a wonderful part of being a writer: finding new literary journals/authors and curating and sharing those we love.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
SP: Is it new? Being in creative writing workshops, reading magazines and stories, and reading our own slush-pile we often encounter the same stories. Writers writing about being other writers, coping with someone dying, college/high school kid is apathetic finds love/does drugs and these aren't bad things to write about, but they have to be done in a really, really, really new way to grab us or a story has to be presented in a new way to really grab our attention. Make us sweat.
Purpose. This might sound stupid, but it's astonishing how many submissions we receive that seem to be written on a whim or feel aimless and meander towards the edge of a cliff. Sometimes it might even start off well and then have us plunge to the point where we're stuck in midair because the piece has no resolution or passion.
A good first sentence. There are many famous first lines and we're the kind of journal that craves finding the next good one. Sometimes we read something with a cliche title or cliche first sentence and it immediately turns us off. We want to be able to get past the first paragraph wanting more and not making weird faces because the sentences were not up to par.
SQF: What common mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a submission?
SP: Not reading the guidelines. All of the ones I'm going to list are mainly for prose and mostly have to do with reading the guidelines. Which is always the most important thing when sending anywhere period.
We sometimes get authors who send us work that goes over our word limit. We're not opposed to accepting stories over the limit, but our purpose in doing the word limit is because we specialize in short stories that feel snappy and anything over that limit is likely to not be the sort of snap we're looking for.
Ugly fonts. I hate to say it, but fonts do matter. Any old sans-serif like Georgia, Garamond, Times New Roman will do. But don't use comic sans or anything Arial. Also, no huge fonts.
Single-spaced stories. They are just hard to read.
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?
SP: Sometimes when we feel it came very close. But we get a lot of submissions in the queue and I wish we could say more with each rejection, especially the ones with potential, but it's not always possible.
SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?
SP: The first sentence/poem matters and you have to make it good. When you send your stuff out, make it your best stuff, don't save your "good" stuff for a "high tier" magazine. All writers should always be sending their best stuff and always revising to make sure it IS the best stuff.
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?
SP: I think its amazing that there's so much writing going on in the world, and I wouldn't want to discourage anyone from doing it if that's what they genuinely feel passionate about. (It's clear when someone is writing for the wrong reasons). Never stop writing and do more and get better. Whenever I receive my own rejections, I look back at what I sent and think about what I could do differently to make it better. And no, I don't mind answering questions about any comments an author receives.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
SP: Do you get paid for what you do?
NOPE. I do it for the love of discovering someone new, promoting people I love, and motivating myself to continue my own writing.
Thank you, Sebastian. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 2/21--Six Questions for Kim M. Baker, Editor, Word Soup