SQF: How and why did Sequestrum get its start?
R. M. Cooper: Over the years of researching and writing for literary journals, I found myself returning to certain websites and subscriptions routinely, but I never felt a strong tie to one publication. It turned out my ideal journal (affordable/publishes established and emerging writers equally/pays contributors/has a sizable audience/incorporates a visual component/can be accessed anywhere, anytime digitally) either didn't exist or at best wasn't paired with the sort of literature I enjoy.
Pure and simple. Sequestrum is the sort of publication I want to interact with and publishes the sort of material I want to read. And as it turned out, I wasn’t the only one who wanted to read a publication like Sequestrum.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
RMC: There are thousands of literary journals today, and they’re all competing for a share of the market. Readers today have a lot of options and can afford to be impatient, so first impressions are vital. I want every reader to be invested as soon as possible in every story or poem we publish, so the top three qualities I look for are:
- A sense of immediacy which can manifest in language, style, plot, character, setting, etc.
- A clear passion for craft.
- Something unexpected. That’s probably a frustrating bit of advice, but discovering something new is the real joy of being an editor (and a reader too, I think).
SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?
RMC: Predictability. Nothing hinders a submission like the feeling you’ve read it a hundred times.
SQF: Is there a type of submission you’d like to see more of?
RMC: Submissions which take risks. Attention to craft and hard work can take you a long way, but when someone is willing to open themselves up, they bridge that gap between writing and honesty. And it’s my firm belief that honest writing is the best, simplest definition of literature.
SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?
RMC: The importance of a beginning. After a submission is initially read, the first paragraph in prose or those first few lines in a poem are what editors are going to return to again and again as they compare your submission with other finalists. Don’t bury your best, most imaginative bits of writing deep in a submission. The beginning is the most important thing—until you reach the ending.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
RMC: Given that your archives are open-access and subscribing is free, why do you suppose writers continue submitting without getting a sense of your editorial tastes?
A: I have no earthly idea.
Thank you, R. M. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 4/24—Six Questions for Nolan Liebert, Editor, Pidgeonholes