Breath & Shadow publishes poetry, fiction, nonfiction, creative nonfiction,
and drama. "Breath & Shadow accepts work only from people with disabilities.
We use the term ‘disability' broadly to encompass anyone with a physical,
mental, emotional, cognitive, or sensory impairment that significantly
affects one or more major life functions.” Read the complete guidelines here.
SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
Chris Kuell: Sharon Wachsler and Norm Meldrum started Breath and Shadow twelve years ago to provide writers with disabilities a place to show their work and be paid for it. At that time much of the work was about life as experienced by people with disabilities--the stereotyping, the discrimination, the sorrows, and the humor. I took over in 2008, and while fresh material about disability culture is still welcomed and published, it's no longer the thrust of what we're looking for. These days we are looking for great work by writers who happen to be disabled, on whatever subject compels them.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
Creativity: This isn't easy to define, but we all know it when we read it. Essays, for example, can follow the tried and true format we all learned in high school. But, when we receive an essay that has a unique format; one that grabs our attention and keeps it; one that makes us go 'Wow!'--we love that feeling.
Perspective: This is related to creativity, yet different. Since we publish exclusively writers who are disabled, we see a lot of the same material over and over again but by different writers. Each week I read one or more pieces about how someone was hit hard by disability and overcame it. And, I'm not saying those pieces are bad, but we've published enough of them already to wallpaper a good sized house. If you want us to consider your personal story, you have to come at it from a unique perspective. You have to make us say—hey, I've never thought about it that way. And the same goes for work not related to disability. Make us see/feel/experience the world from an unfamiliar position, and we'll take notice.
Craft: By this I mean good writing. Anybody can write a poem/story/essay, but not just anybody can write a great poem/story/essay. We get hundreds of submissions, and we want to help our contributors to get noticed. Competition is stiff, so make sure your work is the best. Writing is a craft. It takes practice, and more practice. It takes critiquing and revision and going back to the drawing board sometimes.
SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?
CK: I have little patience for writers who completely ignore our guidelines. I can overlook not following them perfectly, but by completely ignoring them, you are wasting both of our time.
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?
CK: Sometimes. I don't have enough time to comment on every piece, so if a submission just isn't right for us, I'll send a simple rejection. However, part of our mission is to help and encourage writers, so if a piece has promise, but just isn't there yet, I'll try to give some helpful feedback. This is especially true for our younger submitters. Writing can be very discouraging, so I want to give our submitters, especially those who may have a unique voice and good creativity, but need more work on the craft, a positive nudge.
SQF: To be clear, you’re looking for works by people with disabilities but necessarily about disabilities. Correct?
See response to Question 1.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that Ididn't? And how would you answer it?
CK: No other questions are coming to mind, so I'll just say that Breath and Shadow was established to give writers who happen to be disabled a voice. Our writers are often overlooked by the mainstream media, although that is slowly changing. Our writers, like all writers, have unique views and perspective on the world. Read through our past issues and you'll get a better idea of the type of work we love.
Thank you, Chris. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.