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.