Friday, July 7, 2017

Six Questions for Dana Mele, Editor-in-Chief, Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal

Kaaterskill Basin publishes short and flash fiction, poetry, word art, and artwork that can be considered “strange and beautiful.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Dana Mele: I was writing a lot of really weird stories about people turning into trees, seeing their dead selves in mirrors, and starting religions based on human taxidermy. At one point I noticed that not too many journals focus on strangeness as a selling point (though some do). I was a first reader for a speculative literary fiction magazine at the time, and I decided I wanted to start a journal for both art and literature that’s hard to categorize. Our second goal was to prioritize underrepresented voices in the publishing world, including marginalized writers, new writers, and students. Most of what we select isn’t quite speculative, but it walks the line. There’s almost always something just a little odd about it. Sometimes it is speculative. But there’s always a decided oddness about it, and it’s always literary.


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

DM: I don’t specifically look for anything in a submission. If I read it through and am drawn in enough not to note anything at all, it’s most likely to get my vote. I would say three of the most important things for all of us are a strong voice, a beginning that commands our attention, and an ending that logically concludes the story. For some reason recently we’ve seen a flood of vignettes with no real ending. The writing may well be beautiful, but we don’t generally consider vignettes, especially when they’re submitted as short stories. Clearly I’m just focusing on fiction. I’m much less involved with the poetry.


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

DM: Racism, sexism, ableism, any kind of hate speech embedded into the cover letter or story. We do not consider any of these. And again, stories that don’t really have endings. We really don’t care for erotica, but we don’t get it very often. Also: we really do not like when people don’t read the submission guidelines.


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

DM: When we’re able to. Sometimes it’s just impossible. We make every effort.


SQF: If Kaaterskill Basin had a theme song, what would it be and why?

DM: Maybe the Twin Peaks theme song. KBLJ is named after a waterfall in the great northern Catskills. There’s an aesthetic similarity to Twin Peaks, and they’re both a bit eerie.


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

DM: Maybe what do we wish we had more of? Submissions from women, people of color, LGBTQIA+, disabled, and neurodivergent writers! And more art submissions!

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

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