District Lit publishes poetry, fiction, and visual art online and year-round. Read the complete guidelines here.
SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
Diana Smith Bolton: I started District Lit as a home for accessible and stunning literature and art. I live in Arlington, Virginia, just outside of DC, so District Lit is an appropriate name. However, there's also another reason. I find that sometimes people think of writing and art as specialized, discrete, and difficult, like inaccessibility is necessary for something to be really great. District Lit seeks to break down the separation of art (written and visual) from everything else, publishing work that is appealing on the first read, but continues to be interesting on repeat visits. I really don't believe that art and literature have to be difficult to be good. It's a similar concept to Billy Collins' Poetry 180 project.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
DSB: The pieces that we accept all share a uniqueness of voice and perspective; an eye on the details in terms of diction and format; and an openness to the new. District Lit's submissions are primarily read by myself and editor Diya Chaudhuri. Diya and I occasionally disagree on a submission, but we have great conversations about what we are looking for, and that drives us to publish stronger work in every update.
SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?
DSB: Unfortunately, poor editing. We want to know that this submission is your best, not a first draft.
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?
DSB: We often provide comments, especially if a story or poem is very close to what we are looking for. When we can't accept a piece for one reason or another, but it shows promise and has many strengths, we will encourage resubmission and provide feedback on what we liked and what could improve. I fondly remember the personalized rejections that I've received and how they have really helped me improve.
SQF: The three fiction pieces in your current issue fit the category of flash fiction. The poems are likewise brief. In general, do you favor shorter works?
DSB: In general, yes. We find that shorter pieces are suited to an online publication. I also personally really enjoy flash fiction like Katherine Stutzman's story Wood and Warped Glass, published in District Lit, because it showcases the author's ability to create a plot, mood, and character in such a tight space.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
DSB: I think a question about our art submission process would have been nice. We publish paintings, drawings, sculptures, and installations, all edited by District Lit's art director Jenny Mary Brown. Jenny is a wonderful interviewer, and she is always able to highlight our artists' many strengths. Her thoughtful questions really connect to my answer to the first question you asked... Art isn't, and shouldn't be, a separate thing from our daily lives. Art is everywhere, and Jenny is able to draw out what makes art great through her interviews. I think she makes it accessible and interesting for everyone, even those who think they don't really understand art.
Thank you for the opportunity to answer these questions!
Thank you, Diana. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 8/15--Six Questions for Kimberly Ann Southwick, Editor-in-chief, Gigantic Sequins