After the Pause is an experimental literary journal publishing poetry, visual poetry, flash fiction to 1000 words and art/typewriter art/mixed media. Read the complete guidelines here.
SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
Michael Prihoda: I started this magazine in order to give more voice to the kind of work I found most interesting and least represented in popular literary circles. I wanted to publish the weird stuff other people rejected out-of-hand, the kind of things big magazines dismissed as oddities or quirks.
I think experimental literature, visual/concrete poetry, and typewriter art have an important role to play in today’s world. And I wanted to bring poetry back to the common person because it still has relevance.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
- Emotion: I love when submissions connect me to the human experience and do so in ways that aren’t cliché or trite. I’m human, the author is presumably human, and I want to learn and be exposed to humanity in ways I haven’t yet or in ways that I need to be reminded of.
- Going Against Convention: Authors taking risks with form, genre, and style greatly appeal to me as an editor. I appreciate it when a writer tries something I’ve never seen before. Even if it doesn’t completely work, experimentation needs to be undertaken. When writers explore the bounds and limits of language and writing, often breaking rules and completely ignoring norms/conventions, I perk up and pay attention.
- Beauty: I’m a sucker for a good line, especially when it comes to poetry, since poetry is such a line-dependent form. Everything needs to pull its weight. But if a single line leaps out at me, astounds me, makes me look at things from a new vantage point, it can often save an otherwise okay piece and make me consider accepting it. Also, plain linguistic beauty matters. A lot. Word choice matters. Poems should resonate tonally, even if it’s not being read out loud.
SQF: What common mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a submission?
MP: Sloppy formatting, obvious grammar mistakes, and an unprofessional presentation in an email or in the submission itself. Authors just need to keep it simple, present the work cleanly, and do proofreading and self-editing. Work doesn’t need to be perfect to send it out, but it had better be quality, not just in the writing but also in how the document is formatted. Editors appreciate you making them do less work just to read your submission.
In the actual writing itself, clichés shut me off to a submission. If I’ve read your story a thousand times and your story doesn’t have anything to set it apart, I’m not interested. Obviously the subject matter people write about is probably going to be common, but that doesn’t mean the way a writer goes about tackling the subject can’t be vital, creative, original. Sloppy story construction and lame verbiage kill a piece straightaway.
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?
MP: Almost never. If something was close to fitting what we’re looking for, I may ask a writer to send us future submissions. But I don’t provide direct feedback on a piece unless specifically solicited by the author and even then only if I think I have something constructive and useful to say about it.
SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?
MP: Being an editor definitely has opened my eyes to the little mistakes writers make but aren’t even aware of. There are things I still struggle to catch in my own writing that are blatant when I am reading someone else. Also, being an editor has taught me not to be afraid of editors. They aren’t scary beings. They are humans trying to find great work that is worth sharing with a greater audience. That has helped me in my approach to making submissions to other magazines.
Also, it is a major windfall to be able to read so many submissions, both good and bad. They often serve as warning signs of what to avoid but also inspiration for new methods writers are attempting. People are astoundingly creative and being an editor further exposes me to that creativity, which I can then draw from to create my own work.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
MP: Do you need to read past issues before submitting?
Sometimes. Maybe. Not always. It can’t hurt, but it’s also time-consuming. Whether or not you bother to read issues of a magazine before submitting, what I think writers absolutely need to do is read the issue they get published in (or if it’s more of a blog format read some of the pieces published around the same time as you). There’s something wrong if writers don’t even bother reading part of a publication that they appear in. I’ve been guilty of this in the past and I know I’m not the only one.
Reading ought to be communal and not selfish. Read other magazines for the fun of it, not just as a mercenary way of figuring out where to send work. Another thing: when you find someone’s work that you love, let her know. Twitter is awesome for that.
Thank you, Michael. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.