Friday, April 28, 2017

Six Questions for Elizabeth Gibson, Editor, Foxglove Journal

Foxglove Journal publishes poems to 60 lines and fiction to 600 words. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Elizabeth Gibson: I began Foxglove in October 2016. It had been about five years since I started sending my own writing out to literary magazines, and in that time I had also been a section editor for a creative journal, Miracle Magazine. I wanted to use all that I had learnt about the publishing world to start my own platform for poetry and fiction. I chose the name Foxglove as it is a plant I find fascinating and because there is a folkloric feel to the word.

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

EG: Firstly, originality - much of the work I receive either deals with the same few ideas and cliches, or is clearly mimicking the style of a well-known writer. Every individual has their own worldview and I would like to see that, not one I've seen a hundred times. Secondly, honesty - the tales you tell don't have to be true but the sentiment should be real. If it isn't, it's very obvious. Finally, general respect, both in the writing itself and in the cover letter. Fortunately, Foxglove's submissions tend to be pretty respectful. It only takes a minute on the website, however, to find out what my name is and to read the guidelines as regards length of work, simsubs (I don't want them) and the number of pieces allowed.

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

EG: The glorification of smoking or drug abuse - I've had to turn away a couple of otherwise good submissions as a result of this. The promotion or glorification of animal cruelty. English that's poor to the point of being unreadable - if you're in the process of learning it as a second language, please try to get a native speaker to look over your work before sending it. Political ranting - by all means talk about important issues, but you should be able to tell the difference between a piece of creative writing and a personal rant. Finally, I can't believe I still have to say this but don't submit work that demeans women in awful ways. I can't get my head around the fact that someone would think any respectable journal, let alone one with a young, female editor, would publish some of the things I'm sent.

SQF: What magazines/zines do you read on a “regular” basis?

EG: As a linguist I am often on the move, hopping between the UK, France and Spain, and so being subscribed to physical magazines can be complicated. I therefore read a lot of online zines and journals - I love Sea Foam Mag, which combines words and images really well, and Sincerely Magazine, which has a gorgeous design. There's also Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Cadaverine, Severine, Myths of the Near Future, Picaroon Poetry... So many. There are also the Word Life sections of Now Then Sheffield and Now Then Manchester, the latter of which I am have recently begun to edit. They are a great way to discover new writing from the North of England and beyond.

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

EG: I've learnt a lot more than I had expected, even in just the four months that Foxglove has been going. I've noticed various mistakes that writers seem to make over and over and I've resolved to work on them in my own writing. For example, endings - I've received a number of poems that are powerful but fall flat in the last couple of lines, and it's made me realise how important nailing the ending is. I also feel that the whole Foxglove experience has helped me see my own work from a distance, and through a different lens - it's as if me the writer and me the editor are slightly different people, so if I read my work through my editing eyes, I can see how another person might interpret it.

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

EG: Perhaps what makes Foxglove different to other journals. At first, I didn't really know what it would be that would make my journal special or unique - I just followed my instincts and hoped that it would develop its own colour and flavour. Now, looking at it, I feel that what makes it a bit different is the photography element. I am a photographer as well as a writer and from the start it just seemed logical to me to accompany each poem or fiction piece with a relevant photo I had taken. However, as time has gone on, it seems this has become an integral part of Foxglove's identity, and many people have told me that they like it or that it's what attracted them to read or submit work to the journal. Sometimes the link between the writing and the image is apparent; sometimes it's more open to interpretation. I like to make people think more laterally or see things from a new angle.

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

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