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.