The Passed Note is a new literary magazine publishing works by adult writers for its target audience of young adults. The magazine accepts fiction under 5,000 words, stories under 10,000 words for serialization, poetry, creative nonfiction under 5,000 words, craft essays under 1,000 words, previously unpublished interviews with young adult authors, graphic short stories to five pages, and visual arts. Read the complete guidelines here.
SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
Stephanie Johnson: I started The Passed Note after reading a collection I found in my local bookstore titled Rags and Bones, edited by Marissa Marr and Tim Pratt. The collection of re-imagined fairy tales sparked a thought in my brain: why isn’t there more short fiction for a YA audience? Why aren’t there more magazines for short YA fiction? Or YA poetry? Or YA art? And not short fiction, poetry, and art by young adults; there are so many magazines for that. I meant for young adults, created by those of us who have been there and know exactly how much a simple note passed under a desk can change your whole day.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
SJ: Because of the nature of our magazine, we look for a lot in our submissions. Not only do they need to be YA, they need to fit the audience. Writing for YA is difficult, because you don't want to speak down to your audience. If anything, I feel teens get it more than adults do sometimes. The last thing I check in the first read of a work is whether or not it's compelling. If it doesn't make me want to keep reading, my audience won't either.
SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?
SJ: I think what turns me off most to a submission is when something is blatantly trying too hard to be cool or edgy. Teens are just as vulnerable to art as adults, they don't need writers trying to appeal to them on a "cool" scale. That's just patronizing. If it doesn't have heart, I can't publish it.
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?
SJ: Sometimes I do provide comments with rejections. If I come across a piece that I feel isn't YA, I'll say so. I don't want the author to think I'm rejecting them because it's bad work: it's just not for us.
SQF: Will you publish a work previously posted on an author’s website/blog?
SJ: We will publish previously published work if the author has the ability to take it off their blog. Otherwise, no.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
SJ: I wish you asked "what is YA?" because it's my favorite question to answer. YA is. . .
Girls dying. Boys dying. Girls living, boys living. Girls living as ghosts. People falling in and out of love. People who don't get in to college. People who do. YA is monsters and men. YA is ghouls and goblins. YA is poetry. YA is nonfiction. YA doesn't care about your genres or your genders. YA is literature and art meant for young adults. Period.
Thank you, Stephanie. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.