SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
Lindsay Ahl: Strangely, I started Shadowgraph because of my annoyance at the presidential debates. No one seemed to me to be really discussing the actual issues, they were promoting their point of view by banging away at simple points that were intended to represent their political position. Perhaps I’m terribly naïve, but I’d love to have people in office who could actually discuss what the real issues are and come up with real solutions. So I started thinking about interviews and conversations and debates and where that depth I was looking for was in America. It does exist, and it’s wonderful to see. I’m not creating a political magazine at all, so any depth that exists in the interviews is more about the creative process or how to live with creative grace in this crazy world. So it started with a search for livable ideas and has branched out to include the best poetry, fiction, cross-genre work, art and images I can find.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
LA: There are a lot of different kinds of writing. A lot of different kinds of minds and ways to make something (a story, a poem, an image) work. This kind of question is maybe one of the markings of how people think today. “Top ten tips for …” whatever. Usually, this kind of thinking doesn’t really interest me. It’s practical, yes. Practical can be good. But I’m looking for writing that will take me on a kind-of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. And I don’t mean the edge-of-your-seat-ride, like the new TV shows which have to sustain themselves forever so use every plot twist imaginable. I mean, show me your soul. Each mind is radically unique if given the time and space to find that. Henry Miller says every page should start a fire. Dickenson says that a poem should take the top of her head off. Janis says she’s feeling it all, right there, on stage. There’s a place for that. And there is a place for Michael Cunningham’s quiet grace. I’m not doing a very good job of answering your question. Three top things … it’s really only one thing I look for: tell me something only you can tell me.
SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?
LA: I sit around at night and make jokes about this kind of thing. These aren’t true, but they are, if you know what I mean.
- horrible fonts
- unintelligent writing
- forgot to use punctuation
That said, if Shadowgraph Magazine rejects your work, it may have nothing to do with the quality of the work. I try to publish a wide variety of high-quality fiction, poetry, and cross-genre work and have no conscious prevailing aesthetic. We publish established and emerging writers (several of our authors have never been published before) – but I have rejected lovely pieces by good writers that I actually quite like, for the simple reason that they don’t fit into what I’m trying to represent. So in that instance, it has nothing to do with the work.
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?
LA: I personally, occasionally provide comments, yes. But not usually. If I want to see a piece again, I’ll tell the author my thoughts and see if they’d like to do a re-write. My fiction editor will provide extensive notes if he really thinks the piece has potential. As a general sort of rule, however, we can’t possibly respond personally to most pieces.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
LA: I don’t wish for any particular question unless it’s unanswerable. And in the searching I’ll find something else unanswerable. You, however, seemed to want a particular answer in which editors “list, in excruciating detail, all that each editor desires in his/her stories." This is, of course, impossible and takes the fun out finding something unique and radical, (by definition indescribable), something that works and yet walks a razor’s edge of beauty, freedom, and daring.
Thank you, Lindsay. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.