Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, founded in 2007, a decade after the handover, is the first Hong Kong-based English online literary journal; it is dedicated to publishing quality poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, reviews and photography & art from and about Asia. Pieces first published in the journal have been translated into Japanese, Swedish and French. Read the complete guidelines here.
SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
Tammy Ho Lai-Ming & Jeff Zroback: We started Cha in the summer of 2007 because we realized that Hong Kong did not have an English-language online literary journal. Such journals are very common in the West but are less widely available in Asia. From our observation, we also knew that there is a lot of great writing in English in Asia but that it often goes unnoticed. We therefore decided to found Cha, as a means of trying to support new writing from and about Asia. As one of us (Jeff) is an editor by trade and we both had had the experience of editing literary works, we felt that we were in a good position to start the journal.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
THL & JZ:
1) Good writing – Of course!
2) Perspective – We are drawn to submissions that provide a fresh or honest perspective on their subject matter. For prose, we usually look for pieces that offer a take on “the Asian experience” which feels particularly original or insightful. For poetry, we are less concerned that the work has a specifically Asian theme, but we are still looking for originality and honesty.
3) It varies – For every issue, we have a guest poetry editor and a guest prose editor, who are writers that have previously appeared in the journal. Because they all bring their own sensibilities and preferences to the submissions, what kinds of pieces we accept varies from issue to issue. We really appreciate the new perspectives the guest editors bring to the journal – they keep Cha feeling fresh and prevent us from rehashing the same themes and subjects.
SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?
THL & JZ: Poor writing, well-worn subject matter, trying too hard, doing too little.
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?
THL & JZ: Considering what we just said above, this might sound a tad hypocritical, but we don’t normally provide comments. Due to the number of submissions we receive, it would be impossible to provide personalised feedback on every one of them. The exception is if a piece was strong and just missed being published in Cha – then we might send some comments to the author explaining why he/she just missed the cut. More often than not, we provide comments when we *accept* a submission, especially if one of the editors is moved enough to write a few sentences explaining why he/she liked the piece.
SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?
THL & JZ: That it is really hard to write well, but that there are a surprising number of people who still manage to do it.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
THL & JZ: Which writer would you most like to publish in Cha? The new one, whose first publication is with us.
Thank you, Tammy and Jeff. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
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