Friday, December 30, 2016

Six Questions for Michelle Tudor, Editor, WILDNESS

WILDNESS is an online literary journal that seeks to promote contemporary fiction (to 2,500 words), poetry (to 80 lines) and non-fiction that evokes the unknown. Founded in 2015, each thoughtfully compiled issue strives to unearth the works of both established and up-and-coming writers. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Michelle Tudor: To put it simply, we wanted to create an environment that was open to anyone who wanted to be a part of it.

We are turning 1 this year (in December), and at first we were only publishing books through our indie press, Platypus Press. It was only after a few months of doing that that we decided that we’d really enjoy the day-to-day creation of a journal and the experience of finding and sharing work more instantly.

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

MT: Beauty of language is very important—the way a sentence flows upon the page.

Also, the way a piece makes me feel is crucial. If it leaves me feeling nothing, then I can’t choose it. So, a piece that might mean everything to the author might leave me cold, and I think that’s okay, because there will be another editor or another journal who it will resonate with.

The third thing is less to do with the work and more the actual submission. We want people who read the guidelines as it shows they’ve visited the site and made an effort to engage with what we’re about.

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

MT: Thematically anything with excessive violence or erotica. Also, it should go without saying, but anything racist, sexist, homophobic or ableist will automatically be rejected.

Again, related to the submission, things that turn us off: work that is pasted directly into the email, fonts that are hard to read, a submission with no introduction or bio and ultimately, submissions where it’s clear they haven’t even looked at the guidelines.

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

MT: Unfortunately, due to the amount of submissions (a common response I’m sure), real life work and running our press, we just don’t have the time to provide comments for people we’ve rejected.

SQF: I often read or hear authors say, “Gee, I wish I’d written that.” What stories or poems have evoked this thought from you?

MT: From our issues, I absolutely love the writing of Gen Del Raye and one of his pieces that was published in Wyvern Lit, That California Light, is beautifully written and I always admire authors that can really bring words off the page.

From the wider literary world, I love Joan Didion’s words.

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

MT: What’s next for WILDNESS?

A: Next year we are beginning a daily section called the Wilds in which five contributing editors will share pieces of work they have found and think are important. We are also hoping to do a print anthology at the end of our second year.

Thank you, Michelle. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Six Questions for Richard Thomas, Editor-in-Chief, Gamut Magazine

Gamut Magazine publishes neo-noir, speculative fiction (500-5,000 words) and poetry with a literary bent. Learn more here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Richard Thomas: I wanted to feature the kind of writing that I enjoy, the kind of stories I write, edit, publish, and teach. I did a Kickstarter last February, to gauge the interest, and we raised $55,000. So far, we've gotten a lot of interest, blowing out our 300 submission maximum each month in less than a day. I'm also eager to publish online, so that we can appeal to people all over the world, and publish a wide range of fiction. We have 800+ backers from dozens of cities and countries. Obviously the USA is the largest, but also UK, Canada, Australia, Spain, Italy, Japan, China, Germany, Belgium, Brazil, Ireland, etc. It's also important to us to be diverse—so whatever your sex, orientation, country of origin, language, current city, experience, age, etc.—we want to see your work.

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

1. Originality. The neo-noir (new-black) we mention hints at that—new, contemporary dark fiction, with a literary bent. Nothing formulaic, cliché, old school, classical, or expected.
2. Diversity. As mentioned, I'd love to see new mythologies, cultures, stories, histories, monsters, and protagonists.
3. Emotion. I need the story to make me feel something. If I don't care about the characters, if you don't hook me, and have a powerful impact at the end, then it's not going to work. Dig deep and really leave it all on the page.

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

RT: I don't like excessive, pointless gore. I will tolerate it if it works, if it's essential to the story, and is earned. I also don't like misogyny. We will not take stories that show hatred toward women (or anybody, based on sex, race, etc.). Way too many vengeance stories. And we really have a hard time with rape, molestation, and pedophiles—it will have to be an incredibly compelling story that includes justice, but that's going to be a really hard sell.

SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?

RT: That you can't just tell a story, move people around, follow the script. It has to be very personal, you have to dig deep, and it has to succeed on three levels—on the surface, with the plot and action, actually moving and doing things, entertaining; down below, emotionally, in the gut, making us feel something, with symbolism, metaphor, and imagery; and up above, intellectually, with thought, and insight, causing us to pause and think.

SQF: If you could have dinner with three authors, who would they be and why?

RT: I was lucky enough to hang out with Chuck Palahniuk and Irvine Welsh last summer, so those two are checked off. Stephen King, for sure, big fan of his, my entire life. Will Christopher Baer is a lesser-known author, but a neo-noir voice that really resonates with me. Mary Gaitskill—because what she does with sex, and sensuality, and the power inherent in these dynamics, and dysfunctions—it's so impressive.

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

RT: Okay, here's an easy one—the last three books you read, gave somebody, or encouraged somebody to read. For me, it was Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer; Bird Box by Josh Malerman; Perdido Street Station by China Mieville; and All the Beautiful Sinners by Stephen Graham Jones. (Okay, I listed four.)

Thank you, Richard. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Six Questions for Marcus Clayton and AJ Urquidi, Executive Editors, indicia

indicia publishes poetry (up to 6 poems) to 10 pages, flash fiction (up to 3 stories) to 750 words, and visual art up to 5 pieces. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Editors: We wanted to read more upcoming writers and artists from our generation who are into the same aesthetics we are, something we weren’t really seeing in bigger-name journals. We experimented with starting a previous magazine during grad school, but there were certain bugs that we wanted to fix. After moving away from that magazine, we set our sights on making a journal the way we felt it should be. We were sick of reading the same types of general-consumption work streamlined for writing conference book fairs and presentations, and we also noticed that a lot of journals and writing contests seemed to be publishing and praising the same few people consistently without many fresh names coming up, a mutual admiration society that we wanted to avoid in our own search for emerging artists.

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

Editors: First, for an unoriginal answer, we like inventiveness. We want the subject matter, the word choice, the form, and the way we feel after exposure to all stink of inventiveness. Our editors are picky when it comes to clichés, and they are not easily duped. If it’s already been written before or tackled better by someone else, then to quote Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Second, for an elitist answer, we like to see some demonstration of skill. We like poems that know what they’re trying to do because the submitter has been moved by great influences, tries to write with the best of those influences’ skills, and does it all in the submitter’s own distinct voice (though naturally uninfluenced, inherent skill is sure to present itself as well, and we’ll take that too). We like stories that understand the correct amount of nonrevelation or anticlimax that should go into a piece. We prefer visual art that shows the artist has an affinity for how color, lighting, technique, purpose, and all that good stuff works, rather than a basic MFA exercise or a half-assed doodle. To quote a man who once had his daughter temporarily taken, we want to see “a very particular set of skills; skills [you] have acquired over a very long [or blossoming] career. Skills that make [you] a [non]nightmare for people like [us].”

Third, for a touchy-feely answer, we really like to know the artist cares about what they sent. We can tell whether they put care into their submission or not. This could even be seen in the cover letter if they mention something they read about us, or some pieces they liked in a previous issue, or how they had found out about indicia through one of the editors’ other writings, or by following all the guidelines with care. It should seem like they care to know us, because we spend a lot of time with and become close with the work we put in the journal, and that’s going to feel like unrequited love if there’s no reciprocation. On that note, to quote Billy Corgan, “The world is a vampire…”

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

Editors: As other editors have said in these interviews or under their breath wading through slush piles, our guidelines mean the world to us. We sharpened them to the point where we felt they were covering pretty much everything important. Thus, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” to quote a wonderful Aretha. It pains us to see at least 40% of submissions not following the guidelines, which reeks of writers and artists feeling entitled to having their work looked at and not caring which journal is looking.

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

Editors: That idea sounds pretty cool—but nope. To quote ourselves quoting Sweet Brown, “to quote Sweet Brown, ‘Ain’t nobody got time for that.’” At this point, at least.

SQF: If you could have dinner with one author (living or dead), who would it be and what would be your first question?

Marcus: I would want to have dinner with Kurt Vonnegut and ask him everything about comedy. Meaning, what kind of stand-up does he listen to and what TV shows does he watch (or movies)? I admire the satire and wit in his writing so much and KNOW it can't all come solely from literature. I like there to be some ounce of fun in writing while still retaining a certain level of seriousness to balance it out. Good writing needs both, and influences don't always have to come from lateral sources. I've heard musicians say movies influence their music, so I'd ask Vonnegut, “Who makes you laugh the most?”

AJ: Tough choice, because meeting my idols has often resulted in deflating my view of their prowess, but I would dine alongside the magnificent late Russell Edson, preferably at the Maoz vegetarian falafel shop in NYC’s Union Square (goshdarnit, I miss their food so much). Every time I read one of his proses/poems I have a billion questions that I don’t really need the answer to, so I would just ask him with my head cocked like a confused puppy, “? ? ?”

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

Editors: “How do you pronounce indicia, and what does it mean?”

Well, we’re glad you asked. Often we hear people refer to us as INDICA, which is marijuana-related rather than journal production-related. Our name, to quote our site, is pronounced “in-DISH-ee-yuh” or sometimes just “in-DISH-yuh.” This term refers to surface-level matter in the beginning of a published work (like the copyright page stuff/publisher logos), also postal information on mail in lieu of a stamp, or just markings in general. We think the surface level is a great place to start looking for meaning, as the little forgettable aspects of daily life often slip past us, casting no impressions. We like to publish such things, especially when their weirdness is able to catch us off-guard.

Thank you, Marcus and AJ. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Six Questions for Ben Richards, et. al., Editor-in-Chief, Red Sun

NOTE: This magazine has ceased publication--7/6/17.

Red Sun publishes science-fiction, fantasy, and horror fiction of 3,000-5,000 words, but will consider works up to 17k words. The editors also will consider serializing longer works up to 80k. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Ben, Editor-in-Chief: Red Sun’s politics are moderate, slightly left of center. We are anti-political correctness as long as it doesn’t cross the line into racism, sexism, etc.

Our publisher is called No Sell Out Productions for a reason.

We don’t sell out. We don’t shy away from controversy because we’re worried about what some people will think. We don’t run to safe spaces nor believe in them, but we respect the people who do. We don’t blow our tops, then copout and blame our behavior on “triggers.” We don’t think flying the U.S. Flag on the back of a fire truck, or on your house, is terrorism. We don’t submit to the crazies on the left or the right. We don’t play favorites.

At the same time, we want the stories from the crazies on the left and the right. We want the stories from the social justice people. We want stories from all people everywhere in the world.

With one caveat... we are biased. I know, hard to believe, but it’s true! We’ll be the first to admit it! Our bias is for story-driven, action-packed science fiction, fantasy, and horror, as opposed to the think pieces about climate change, or about Christian preachers coming to terms with being gay.

An action-packed story about a gay Christian preacher, on the other hand, is right up our alley.

We’re also biased in favor of good, moral characters fighting injustice and promoting the greater good as opposed to morally ambiguous characters.

Which brings me to the final reason Red Sun exists, and perhaps the biggest of all. It started one day when I queried a pro science-fiction magazine that prided itself on “inclusivity.”

Like Red Sun, they were inclusive of all backgrounds, religions, creeds, and colors. Great, I thought, and I queried them about war-themed science fiction from war veterans (since I’m an Iraq War veteran). Their response was: “We don’t publish military science fiction--it’s just not what we do.”

So much for inclusivity.

They’re not the only ones that do this. It’s this level of hypocrisy why Red Sun exists. Unlike the people who claim inclusivity, but only publish what fits their narrow brand of politics, ideology, beliefs, etc., we promise we won’t do that. We won’t sell out. Everybody can have a voice with us as long as you give us story-driven, action-packed tales that don’t cross the line in their anti-PCness. We’ll publish the crazy left stories side-by-side with the crazies on the right.

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

Michael, Managing Editor: First, I would say the entries that followed the instructions in the guidelines.  If you failed to follow those instructions, the entry usually doesn’t get read.

Secondly, one of the most important things I look for in a submission is the first paragraph.  If the beginning doesn’t hook me in a way that keeps my interest, then I usually cannot stick around long enough to read the rest.  The beginning of a story is what should be capturing a new reader’s attention, not holding their hand and explaining every detail.  Leave something to my imagination so it can tickle my mind.  A story that begins something like, “There was screaming coming from the basement and I do not know why…” is pretty cliché and doesn’t leave much for me to wonder.  However, if you took that same first line and turned it into something that is intriguing, it will make wonders, such as: “The baby screamed from the basement in the middle of the night, but I knew no children lived in the house.”

Third, please remember the first two rules.

Karen, Fantasy Editor: Once I get beyond the question of “did the author follow the submission guidelines,” I look for:

Does the story drag? Personally, I dislike stories littered with flashbacks, that suffer from heavy use of passive voice, and drown in information dumps. Writing which may be grammatically correct may also be dreadfully boring.

Second is technical competence. Does the author hit my pet peeves, such as wandering apostrophes, arbitrary capitalization, malapropisms, etc.? Writing is first and foremost a craft. If the author can’t be bothered to master the craft, then I can’t be bothered to accept the story.

Third is whether I like the main character(s). The main character doesn’t have to be perfect--in fact, it’s better if he or she is flawed. Flaws humanize the characters. There’s a limit, however. A character that’s too flawed (e.g., the heroine who’s terminally stupid, the hero who’s an arrogant, womanizing boor) will kill a story. If I cannot at least empathize with the main character, then there’s no connection and, therefore, no reason to care what happens.

Phillip, Horror Editor: I have to agree with Michael for numbers one and two, because he's absolutely spot on.  Most people do read the guidelines and submit with the proper formatting and so forth, which we very much appreciate, but unfortunately seeing a good hook is still something of a rarity.  For my third thing, however, I would have to say I look for whether a story keeps me continuously engaged.  A great beginning gets my full attention, but then the writer has to hold onto it somehow--sometimes with an unrelenting tense or creepy scenario which has continuous forward momentum (the stories in our first issue provide terrific examples of this), sometimes with a unique and entertaining narrative voice, and sometimes with characters so well crafted I become completely invested in them.  A good hook won't work without a strong follow-through.  Give me a reason to keep caring.

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

Michael, Managing Editor: If you failed to follow the first two rules, generally your submission never makes it far.  Even those that abide by those rules, grammar and spelling is the next item that gets your submission denied.

Karen, Fantasy Editor: I’m a card-carrying member of the grammar police, so an author who fails to master the craft of writing makes my teeth itch. A great idea isn’t worth my time if the author cannot take care in writing it.

There’s little in the way of truly original story ideas, which doesn’t bother me if the author presents the formula in an engaging manner. Especially when reading romance, I know the end of the book; it’s the journey that makes the reading worthwhile.

Phillip, Horror Editor: I think one of the most frequent turn-offs encountered is lack of direction.  If a submission doesn't provide an idea of where the story is headed by page three at the latest, it's a submission my fellow editors and I probably will not finish; an absentee plot equals an absentee reader.

Problematic characterization is another huge one which keeps coming up over and over.  So often we get characters who are more a bundled collection of traits than an actual person, or characters whose motivations are paper-thin ("I am evil... BECAUSE I AM EVIL!").  Worse are the characters who a given story tries to pass off as likable or witty when they don't actually do anything likable or witty. Those bug the hell out of me.

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

Michael, Managing Editor: I review hundreds of submissions and reject most of them, mostly because they failed to follow the basic rules of writing or did not bother reading the very simple guidelines that are posted.  However, when I find a Keeper that just couldn’t quite make the cut, I will most certainly write a personal rejection note to the author.

Karen, Fantasy Editor: I seldom offer comments unless the story is terrific and simply does not meet our needs. For instance, Red Sun received a submission along the Alice in Wonderland line that was wonderfully written, but its target audience was for middle school readers. It just didn’t fit RSM.

Phillip, Horror Editor: I actively submit my own work to numerous venues, so I know what it's like to wait months for a response and then get a bland, noncommittal form rejection (I don't think Red Sun's form rejections fall into either of those categories, by the way).  For me, one of the most exciting aspects of acting as an editor is being able to be on the other side of that and let writers know what I actually think about their work.  I can't do this for nearly as many people as I would like, of course--the form rejection is a necessary evil for Red Sun just like it is anywhere else because of how many submissions we receive--but I definitely strive to provide as much feedback to as many submissions as I can.  And since I love talking about stories and craft, it tends to be rather on the extensive side more often than not.

SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?

Michael, Managing Editor: I have learned that authors should take their time with their stories, it’s not a race.  Once you allow yourself time to write, you should write for you.  If it excites you, then it  might excite the world.  If you get bored with it, then the world will weep bitter tears if they are forced to read it.  Writing should be fun, so have fun doing it.

Ben, Editor-in-Chief: Bitter tears.

Phillip, Horror Editor: Being exposed to such a variety of different pieces as the slush pile provides is endlessly illuminating.  I've seen stories which have blown me clean away with their command of plot and characterization, with their ability to make me think things are going one way only to pull the rug out from under my feet and show me that it's been headed in an entirely different direction all along.  Stories which just wring so much entertainment out of a simple premise.  I don't actively think about what makes these submissions so genius and how I might achieve similar effects in the context of my own work to the degree I should, but hopefully I'm picking up a few tricks through a sort of craft osmosis.

Thank you, Ben, Michael, Karen and Phillip. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Six Questions for Ken S., Founding Editor, SPANK the CARP

SPANK the CARP publishes flash fiction to 800 words, short stories to 5000 words, and poetry in most genres, including shape poetry. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine? 

Ken S: I surveyed hundreds of litmag sites and found so many seemed to be in it for the self-aggrandizement of the editors themselves, versus the writers or readers. Submission guidelines made it seem as if I as a writer were imposing on the editors. In addition, the work that got featured was so obscure, it made me feel stupid quite frankly. In others words, there appeared to be this little (well not so little) club of "literati" that I was excluded from. It made me feel stupid. I hate exclusion. Unless you're Albert Einstein himself, you're basically just another carp in the pond with the rest of us. And so I wanted a litmag site that put the writer first, not me as editor, and was inclusive not elitist. That's reflected in the website design as well as other aspects of StC.

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

Ken S: Let's be honest. Selection for publication in any venue is almost entirely subjective. I select what I want to read and hope enough readers will agree with my choices, period. Or in the case of the elitist litmags I referred to above, they accept stuff that will make themselves feel smart and exclusive. But in either case, it's subjective. Now of course that doesn't mean anything goes. It matters that an author took the time to work their work. Edits, revisions, few to no typos, etc. are important. But if the underlying idea being expressed is thought-provoking, or purely fun and humorous, or whatever floats ol' Ken's boat, then I can overlook mistakes. So the first thing I look for is something that I personally want to read. Second, for poetry, I apply my patented (he said with tongue in cheek) line-break test. If a poem reads the same with or without the line-breaks then in my personal opinion, and again this is totally subjective, the piece might as well not be a poem. Finally, I look for signs that the author actually cares about writing. If there are ten obvious typos in the first paragraph, that tells me the author is just slapping words on a page. In a poem, where length is usually far more limited, there should be no typos whatsoever. And I'm not talking about typing its instead of it's. I'm talking about itts of t's and and whatno. If you don't care, why should I. And why should you get published ahead of those who care enough to work at it.

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

Ken S: When it's obvious the submitter didn't bother to read the guidelines page. I only ask for a couple sentences describing the submission and some limits on the number of pieces and word count. That doesn't seem like a lot to ask for. Also, believe it or not, some submitters don't even include their name in the email other than in the email address or even a simple "Here's my submission" sentence. The best writers who have submitted material though never do that.

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

Ken S: A great majority of the feedback I receive from authors whose work I've rejected is how thankful they are for the feedback I provided. I try to tell it like it is, sometimes a little harshly if for example the piece obviously wasn't ready for prime-time. And honestly, many times those are the writers who come back and say, in effect, thanks for the slap in my literary face, I needed that. I want writers to get published, whether in StC or elsewhere. And when I accept a piece, I comment as well, and really do try to think of that person as part of the StC "family" - trite but true. Also, if I don't understand a piece, I'll contact the author and ask what it means. There's no shame in that.

SQF: If you could have dinner with any author (living or dead) who would it be, and what would be your first question? 

Ken S: Richard Bach. My question would be, is Illusions - Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah fiction or non-fiction. Just like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, it's such a unique, simple, beautifully written, compelling book that it made even a non-believer such as myself really consider the spiritual side of the world. Neither is a religious book at all. But the writing is such that, well let's just say after reading Illusions I recall having wonderful dreams that were so vivid I honestly got confused as to whether I was in fact dreaming or not. If that isn't the mark of great literature, I don't know what is.

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

Ken S: Where'd the name SPANK the CARP come from? Answer - like I said above. Unless you're Albert Einstein (and I'm talking about the real Albert Einstein who wrote extensively on non-scientific topics as well, not the cartoon character he's so often portrayed as) then you're just a carp in the pond of life like everyone else. And with a little nudge, or spank, on your literary tailfin you can occasionally rise above yourself and add a little beauty to the world. And that in turn helps make the pond a little better for everybody.

Thank you, Ken. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.