Friday, March 28, 2014

Six Questions for April Michelle Bratten, Editor, Up The Staircase Quarterly

Established in 2008, and currently running out of Minot, North Dakota, Up The Staircase Quarterly is an online journal that publishes intriguing poetry and art. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: You recently made some changes to UTSQ. What is different now?

April Michelle Bratten: The journal has become much more efficient and focused over the past few months. Since I edit the quarterly alone now, I wanted to make the journal as clear and rich as possible in both format and content. I feel that Up the Staircase Quarterly is a lot like me now, or at least a reflection of how I work. The spirit of the journal is now fully in place. It is exciting.

I decided to run with my heart and stop accepting submissions of fiction, short stories, essays, and plays. I love all of those genres, of course, but poetry has always been my passion. I wanted to focus on what makes sense for me as an editor, and make it the best it can be. 

This will also include art, another great passion of mine. I will begin taking submissions of art, any genre and any medium, this February [2014]. Up the Staircase Quarterly has always taken submissions of staircase photography for covers of each issue. This will continue, as I have gotten some wonderful submissions this way over the years, but I can't wait to expand on the art aspect of the journal, staircases optional! I will be seeking drawings, paintings, photography, sketches, comics, collages, sculptures, anything really. Anything creative that will genuinely surprise me, move me into a new direction. Any subject will be allowed, but I desire really personal work, work that the artist has cracked their heart over.   

Another change is response time. I respond to submissions a lot quicker than UTSQ used to in the past. I normally get back to submitters within a few days of the date they submitted their work.  

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


I search for a personal connection to the writer or artist. Many submissions will be beautifully illustrated and grammatically correct, but if I cannot find a personal connection to the work, then I will not publish it. This does not mean that I have to relate to the content, but I have to feel a human connection to the writer or artist that comes from their own emotional honesty. I want to see a piece of their spirit shine through the work.

I search for unique imagery. Imagery is the most exciting part of poetry and art for me. Imagery is what gives an artist their voice. I want to be transported by their work, through imagery, in a way that is new for me.

I search for submissions that respect and understand the journal they are submitting to. It is always apparent which submitters have read and enjoyed Up the Staircase Quarterly. It is even more apparent who has actually read the submission guidelines. Guidelines might be a nuisance for many, but they are set in place to help the submitter present their work in the most effective way possible. Every editor has their own preference for this process, and submissions that disrupt this process show disrespect for the editor's efforts. I look for submissions that support and understand the path Up the Staircase Quarterly is on.

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

AMB: I have read thousands of submissions over the years, and the ones that turn me off the most usually refer to me as "Sir," "Mister," or are attempting to address me by name, and get my name wrong. If these submitters had bothered to check out the journal at all, they would see that I am clearly female, and my correct name is on the site. I have also run into submissions that get the name of the journal wrong. Know who you are submitting your work to.   

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

AMB: This depends on the submission. If I feel that the work submitted comes close to the aesthetic of the journal, but somehow misses the mark by only a slim margin, then I will let the writer or artist know. If the work submitted isn't anywhere in the ballpark, I tend to send a formal rejection, but not always in this instance either. It simply depends on how much free time I have to respond.

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

AMB: As simple as this might sound, I have learned that the best work comes from your own voice. Finding and developing that voice is a life long challenge. When I was younger, I tried to force my voice in my writing, instead of allowing it its natural course. Editing Up the Staircase Quarterly has allowed me to see the difference. Adopting the voice of other writers will never improve your work. You have to be yourself and find your own path.

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

AMB: I suppose I wish you had asked "What is the best part about being the editor of Up the Staircase Quarterly?" Editing Up the Staircase Quarterly still remains one of the highlights and greatest parts of my day. I sincerely love what I do, and I hope that it comes across in the development of the journal. For the past six years I have read so much amazing work, developed friendships and relationships with many of the writers I have published, and get to be a part of sending their talented voices out into the world. The quarterly will continue to be an online venture, but I plan on expanding to print by publishing chapbooks, beginning in late 2014. There are still many things I want to achieve with Up the Staircase, and I will not be going away anytime soon. I love it too much.

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

NEXT POST: 4/1--Six Questions for Max Halper and Jordan DeBor, Founders, Noncanon Press

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