SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
Michelle Irby: I started this magazine for two reasons.
1. First, I'm blind and my partner is mostly deaf. I wanted to prove to others that individuals with physical disabilities can with some accommodation, do the same things as individuals with no physical disabilities.
2. I realized that there is quite a bit of misinformation about publishing out there. I wanted to create a friendly publishing atmosphere where writers could get some feedback on their writing, so they could understand why they may not be getting published. We give them some feedback on their writing and provide them free resources which will help educate them on how to polish their writing until it shines. We want to see writers published, even if it's not with us. Once we give feedback, if a writer gives an honest effort to revise their writing, we will give it a second chance at being published in our magazine.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
MI: I look for a story that has an intriguing plot. I like to see quality grammar usage, and phrasing. I look for well-developed characters with whom I can identify. I want someone to cheer on or cry with. I want to be pulled into that world and be immersed into its story and forget my life, if only for a few pages.
SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?
MI: I only get to pick one!?! Ouch!
Well, bad grammar makes a story very hard to read. I don't like stories that drag on in the beginning. I'm annoyed with subplots that distract from the main story. I can't stand a protagonist who is a complete jerk, unless its Thomas Covenant.
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?
MI: Oh yes. We want to help our writers understand why they are being rejected. How will they improve if they don't know what is wrong with their writing? I also tell writers what is working in their writing. Sometimes we reject well written pieces just because they are not our style or we just don't have room. I assure those writers that the fault is not with their writing.
SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?
MI: I learn every day from my writers. When I am compelled by a piece of writing, I take extra note of what it is I liked so much. I try to emulate that in my own writing. I also have learned to be patient. I understand the stress that editors are under to produce a quality product.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
Q: What is the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything?
Q: What is your favorite resource you wished more writers took advantage of?
A: I am a firm believer in peer editing. I feel no author is the best judge of their own work. Everyone should have someone read and critique their work. I believe in well-policed writing circles. I personally use www.scribophile.com. You read and critique the work of other writers. In return, they read and critique yours. There is as much to be learned by critiquing as being critiqued. Believe me when I tell you if someone says that something is wrong in your writing they are most likely right. But if three or more people point out the same flaw then there is definitely something wrong. Get over nerves, or swallow your pride and get peer review of your work. I recommend the above circle because it is free and well policed. But there are tons of great writing circles out there and many towns have writers’ groups that meet on a regular basis. You'll never be sorry you joined a writers circle. There is nothing to lose but bad writing habits.
Thank you, Michelle. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.