Friday, March 18, 2016

Six Questions for Jessica Thompson, TJ Murray, and Colleen Kolba, Editors, weirderary

weirderary publishes flash to 498 words, fiction to 2976 words, nonfiction to 2333 words, poetry, comics, art and more. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Jessica Thompson: I'd wanted to start a magazine of some sort for years. I tried to get things moving a couple times, but never had people who were as into it as I was and who would follow through. Then I met TJ and Colleen, both powerhouses, and it just happened.

TJ Murray: Because Jessica told me to. Kidding. But it was totally Jessica's idea to start a magazine that featured weird stories and poems and other things. And I loved the idea; weird, experimental stories are my favorite.

Colleen Kolba: "Just happened" is a good way to put it. Jessica has an infectious drive to make projects happen, and I was interested in working on a magazine that was doing something different. As both a writer and editor, I'm frustrated, like many people, by the lack of diverse voices, styles, and content in many lit mags, and I think weirderary serves as one small way to help change the literary landscape.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?

JT: My favorite writing is almost always both meaningful and humorous. Humor is not a requirement for weirderary, but at least some subtle humor is my personal preference. Also, given our title, there better be something unusual going on.

TJ: I want to see if the story is the right kind of weird. Weird can mean a lot of things, and I think we've found that it's easier to say what we don't mean by weird than what we do mean by it. So, is the story weird in a way that doesn't rely on genre tropes or a strange plot twist? Is it weird in a way that expands the impact of the story? Is it weird in a darkly humorous way? Or, my favorite, is the story told in an unexpected or hybrid form?

CK: I tend to favor work that hits multiple tonal registers, which often makes it look like I prefer submissions with an element of humor. Humor tends to pair well with sadness, darkness, and deep insight, since that reflects the human experience in a very real way for the reader. But I like a lot of multi-tonal writing that's very un-funny, too. I also look for something weird in content or form, of course.

SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

JT: It's pretty irritating when it's clear people didn't read our guidelines. It's like they're doing carpet-bombing submissions, which I know, to an extent, is part of the game, but they aren't even personalizing their email or paying attention to what we asked for.

TJ: The biggest turn off for me is when the form of a submission is engaging, but it lacks story. I love to see questionnaires and bureaucratic forms, but these things need to imply an actual character or plot that's intriguing. Yes, we want stories told in weird ways, but that only works if the story is there.

CK: Self-indulgent writing--that it to say, the author is more interested in making sure the reader knows he's the funny, interesting one, rather than letting the narrator or characters be the funny, interesting ones. It's a really fine line, but a teacher pointed it out to me once and now I can't not notice when it happens. Also work with gratuitous sexism, racism, violence, which should go without saying, but we've gotten some submissions that have been unsettling in a bad way.

SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?

JT: The majority of our rejection emails are form letters just for the sake of time, but we do write something personal if the piece was close, but just not quite there, or if it was really good but just not fitting with our aesthetic.

SQF: If weirderary had a theme song, what would it be and why?

JT: Hmm. Either "I'm Different" by 2Chainz or the Twin Peaks theme song. The Twin Peaks theme song is the best theme song of all time, IMO.

TJ: My mom used to sing "The Hearse Song" as a lullaby. You can find a lot of different versions on Youtube. It's about not laughing at a hearse because you could be next and all the stuff that happens to your body after you die. It's understated, dark, and funny.

CK: We'd probably commission our postman Gary to write us a theme song. Most people don't know that he's a pretty gifted singer/songwriter in his spare time. And he's making good progress learning the harmonica. Of course, we'd probably end up with a song about choosing the right envelope size.

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

JT: Am I going to look like an asshole if I say I wish you hadn't asked this one? I feel like it doesn't really count as a question, kind of how you can't wish for more wishes. That said, I wish you'd asked me if our lit mag had a favorite food because then I could answer "steak" and wait and see how my vegetarian co-editors TJ and Colleen react.

TJ: Steak is murder, Jessica! Jk, steak is only the result of murder.

I'll imagine that you asked us for our weirdest memories. There was one time my cousin and I were running on a backroad, and we were approaching an overpass. A car with bicycles attached to its hood went across the overpass at just the right angle so that both my cousin and I saw two rider-less bikes moving at forty miles an hour. Without saying anything, we stopped running and questioned reality in a very serious way. Later, we realized what had happened, but there was a good fifteen minutes where we thought the rules that governed physics were broken or maybe never existed. It was a scary but fun time. I hope everyone gets to experience that at some point in their life, some fifteen minutes of not knowing if anything is real. Maybe that's what we're looking for in the submissions to weirderary, pieces that blur the accepted ways we tell stories or look at the world.

CK: Steak never. Pizza forever.

Thank you, Jessica, TJ, and Colleen. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

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