Friday, October 27, 2017

Six Questions for Nancy Adimora, Founding Editor, AFREADA

AFREADA is an online literary magazine, featuring original short stories from emerging writers across the Continent. We live for the well-crafted narratives and effortless reads that speak to our daily realities as Africans at home and abroad. We publish short fiction and visual arts. Read the complete submission guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Nancy Adimora: AFREADA is an online literary magazine focused on African stories from across the continent and diaspora. I started the magazine because I was coming across exceptional asotries on people’s personal blogs and I thought that it would be great to have a central platform where avid readers could travel across the continent through beautifully crafted stories.


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

NA: We always look for originality The story (plot and characters) has to be believable, and we also look for some sort of intentionality, with sentences and words used to describe scenes.


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

NA: Multiple exclamation marks or letters to put emphasis on tone. e.g. Hurry UP!!!!!!! Or Hurryyyy Uppppp! < this is unacceptable, lol.


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

NA: We always try to give individual feedback where possible, but this all depends on the volume of submissions we’ve received.


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

NA: I’ve learnt that writing doesn’t need to follow any particular format. Our focus isn't on the technical ability to write. It's on the story. I’ve learnt that writers should have the freedom to write in whatever way comes naturally because we’ve seen the most beautiful and unforgettable stories emerge from the most simple sentences/dialogues.


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

NA: What does the name AFREADA mean? How did you come up with it? 

AFREADA is a fusion of the two words, ‘Africa’ and ‘Reader’. Not only does it reflect our focus on Africa, but also our ambition to include the ‘reader' into the literary space. There’s so many conversations about writers but not enough about the individuals who fund the publishing industry. So whilst we love writers and appreciate and honour their contribution to our platform, we’re on a mission to share their work with as many readers as possible.


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

Friday, October 20, 2017

Six Questions for Christopher Moriarty and Keri Moriarty, Co-founders/Editors, Bunbury Magazine

Bunbury Magazine publishes flash fiction to 250 words, short stories to 1,000 words, poems to 40 lines, articles to 1,500 words, reviews to 500 words, and artwork/photography. Read the complete guidelines here.


SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Christopher: We started this magazine as a way to showcase grass roots creativity and give meaningful feedback to writers. As writers ourselves, submitting to magazines for publication, we felt that the feedback we were offered about our writing was either not constructive - a lot of 'yes, we love it's or 'this piece is not quite for us's with no further explanations - or it was non-existent completely. The feedback is a crucial

Keri: What he said basically. We, as writers, were fed up to the back teeth of either one word responses from publishers or of being told that our work was very publishable but not quite what they were looking for. Like many things, for me it was born of frustration and passion.


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

Keri: Number one for me is the hook. If I'm not grabbed in the first three sentences, I find it difficult to invest in the rest of the piece.

Use of language, how the narrative is woven throughout the piece and if the storytelling is consistently strong with good pacing. All of those come under one banner for me because you can't really have one without either of the other two.

The third is, probably predictably, a good ending.

Christopher: I agree with everything Keri has just said completely, naturally! I like to see something different in a piece - a poem that subverts a concrete form of poetry, a short story that turns tropes of narrative on their heads.

I also like good characters in a piece. It is the people both behind and on the page that will carry a piece and help the reader invest. If the characters are not strong, the piece can fall apart completely.

I also like to see writers that can stick to the briefs outlined in our submissions guidelines. With all the work we do with writers, we are always trying to help them develop their work and how they go about it. If they can stick to briefs - word counts, piece counts - they will stand a better chance when it comes to competitions and trying to turn their passion into a profession.


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

Keri: Not following the guidelines which are accessible on the website (www.bunburymagazine.com) under the 'Submit to Us' page. It may sound harsh but they're there for a reason and it's a big thing for me if they aren't followed. Poor spelling and grammar is up there for me too. I'm dyslexic myself so I know the challenges written language has to offer but if I'm at the stage where I think a piece of mine is ready to go out into the world, I ask people to proofread (I know rather a few pedants, always handy!) because I know that I'll probably have mucked it up somewhere along the line. It's a difficult one but important.

One more thing that turns me off a submission is rude cover emails. This really is more of a pet peeve but writing is such a personal thing, so to get such impersonal emails with just the work attached or the words 'Consider this/these pieces', really isn't the way forward. I'm not saying I want a groveling email filled with platitudes or a bio as long as my arm but please and thanks are always welcome.

Christopher: To reiterate what Keri has just said, grammar and spelling are key in a successful submission. At the end of the day, we can edit a piece but we will not proofread. Sending a piece that is full of errors in spelling and grammar shows a lack of editing and the piece being unprepared for submissions.


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

Keri: We don't on out and out rejections, for instance, those not within guidelines but we do with pieces we do decide against. This way, the people who submit to us get constructive criticism and are able to improve their work.

Christopher: We do, yes. We want to help develop writers and what they do. We give feedback on everything we consider for each issue. That way, writers who have pieces accepted know what they are doing right and can continue to do so and writers who have pieces accepted know their own areas for development and can target their efforts to improve.


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

Keri: I tend to read a lot of books and poetry collections of various sizes from poets and authors as we also attend a lot of book launches and spoken word events as well as running our own and a writing group.

Christopher: I read a lot of graphic novels and comics. At the moment I am ploughing through both the Marvel stuff and The Walking Dead. In terms of lit mags, I prefer to read a cross-section of many different zines such as Blink Ink and The Misty Review.


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

Keri: I wish you'd asked how we came to name the magazine 'Bunbury'.

My answer would be that it is a reference to Oscar Wilde's work. It stands for escapism of all kinds.

Christopher: I wish you'd have asked why we do not just focus on one form of writing, such as poetry, and feature a wide variety of content.

My answer would be that we try and have something for everyone. We know that some people like poetry, some prefer short stories, some like looking at art and photography. There are a few out there who like it all! We try to cater for everyone and bring as many people into the Bunbury family as possible.

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

Six Questions for Mary Lynn Reed and Lesley C. Weston, Editors, MoonPark Review

MoonPark Review is an online literary journal devoted to publishing compelling, imaginative short prose that breaks our hearts, haunts us, makes us laugh, or gives us hope. We love flash fiction, prose poems, and hybrid forms. Submissions should be 750 words max. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

MLR & LCW: We started MoonPark Review because we couldn’t have a baby, and we really wanted to produce something creative together. (Okay, technically, it might have been possible for us to have a baby, but...at this point in our lives, we agreed we’d both rather be kept up at night by great literature versus a crying tiny human.)  LCW has served on an editorial board previously but MLR has not, yet always wanted to have the experience. For awhile it was a nice abstract idea -- starting a literary journal together -- but oh, so much work (!) we concurred as we considered all the existing demands on our time and attention.

So, we set the idea aside, until a shared vacation full of carefree days on the deck, writing, reading, and talking about fiction, when it became clear that while our individual tastes in prose were often different, when they converged on a particular story we often both felt that piece was the best of the day’s reading.

This realization truly was akin to the revelation of holding an infant and discovering in its beloved form and features the unique blending of both parents. So, we decided to give this journal thing a go. So far the experience has been fantastic. We’re putting the finishing touches on our Inaugural issue, which will debut this Fall.


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

MLR & LCW: The two of us have very different styles and literary aesthetics, and we’ve decided that we must agree on every single piece we publish in MoonPark Review. To get us both to champion a piece, it is likely that the following three ingredients will be present:

Clarity: While we love poetic imagery and the creative use of language, and we have patience as readers for authors to develop thoughts, ideas, setting and characters leading toward a defining movement, we expect clarity in the prose. We are primarily interested in literary stories and prose poems, so subtlety and nuance are encouraged, but we like to have a sense of being grounded, both at the sentence level and in the piece overall. Examples of writers who achieve the kind of clarity we crave include: Ernest Hemingway, Jonathan Lethem, Jeannette Winterson, Donna Tartt, and William Maxwell.

Logic: When a writer creates a beautiful word-picture of a setting, a gorgeous character description, then smacks them into a sentence, paragraph, or entire situation that otherwise makes no sense, it fills us with despair. No matter how strange a world, no matter how unusual the character, everything must have an undeniable sense of logic. Every bit of setting, character, observation, every word of narrative, must support the existence of that strangeness without defense or belabored explanation.

In life, the randomness of events is a daily slaughter to us all. People act without thought all the time and do weird, dumb, sometimes vicious and unjustifiable things. If a story is centered on that randomness, on illogical lizard-brain motivations, all well and good, but it still must have a certain logic on the page. Even during a random string of events, a person has to be on foot, not behind the wheel of a car, to WALK down a street.

In magical realism, speculative prose, logic is imperative. In a world made entirely of bananas, inhabited only by goats, if a three-legged, cane-wielding goat-protagonist brandishes said cane in self-defense against thieves, the item MUST be fashioned from banana-wood, or a goat-bone (or goat-hide cured-by-goat-piss and banana-paste hardened). Metal, oak, carved rock, plastic has no place in the world of this premise. Their careless appearance would destroy a reader’s willingness to be there. And unless there is an unexpected spaceship landing, the ruffians better be goats, or kids with stubby little horns. If the thieves are after something transformative, some amulet or tincture, the protagonist’s magic eyelash, there must be some prior hint  that magic resides somewhere in banana-world (whether in banana flesh, peel, bark, leaves, banana freckles, etc. or within or without the three-legged goat-protagonist) before the mugging occurs. Otherwise we readers will not be able to “buy it” when the stolen object allows the bad kids to open a magical portal to Disney World.

Resonance: Both of us crave prose that creates an impression that continues to resonate after our first reading has concluded. We want to be moved by what we read, and not just a miniscule sigh of oh, that was nice, but for hours, days, months, and even, bless us (!) years. Yes, both of us have read stories that still ripple our nervous systems years later, and send us scurrying to read them again. So, if a submission we receive is  placed in the “maybe” pile in the afternoon, and in the evening one of us asks, what was it about? what did we like about it? and neither of us can recall with any clarity, it’s likely to get moved to the “no” pile. If one of us remembers it quite well, it will be re-read.


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

MLR & LCW: Unearned endings, over-written endings, lack of literary shape or movement, political rants, personal essays, gratuitous violence, or lesbians tossed randomly into a story in a lame attempt to qualify the thing as gay-themed. While we don’t blame literature for serial killers, rapists, or animal abuse, we just don’t want to publish such fare. And while every publisher says this, no one seems to hear, we do appreciate submitters who read our guidelines. Yes, we know when writers haven’t bothered, especially when they send traditional poems or stories far longer than our maximum word count.


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

MLR & LCW: Occasionally. When we particularly liked a piece, spent a long time discussing it, and/or we think our observations may be useful to the writer, we will offer those comments.


SQF: If MoonPark Review had a theme song, what would it be and why?

MLR & LCW:  Mr. Blue Sky by Electric Light Orchestra (particularly from the Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix, Volume 2.)  Because LCW is Groot, MLR is Rocket Raccoon, and MoonPark Review is an expression of love, joy, and hope in a lunatic world.


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

Question: You ask for literary prose, then invite speculative fiction, magical realism and prose poems, what do you really want?

Answer: We want literary flash fiction, literary speculative fiction, literary prose poems, and literary hybrids. NOT verse poems with line breaks. NOT trade fantasy or trade sci-fi.

Make us think and make us feel and leave us with a powerful image. That’s the key to our hearts.

Thank you, Mary Lynn and Lesley. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Six Questions for Daniel Finkel, Editor-in-Chief, The Penn Review

“Founded in 1966, The Penn Review is the oldest literary magazine at the University of Pennsylvania." The editors accept all forms of creative writing, including poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, as well as visual arts. Read the complete guidelines here.


QF: What are the top three things the editors look for in a submission and why?

Daniel Finkel: We’re looking for the new.  We seek works that contain a fresh, powerful voice, use language in an evocative way, and provoke an emotional response.  By the time we’ve finished a piece, we want to feel something.  It doesn’t matter what the emotion is, as long as it’s genuine.  In poetry, we look for concrete, captivating images that house the poem inside of them, rather than the other way around, and in fiction, we’re in the market for complex characters that move around on the page and try to convince us to see the world their way.  


SQF: What most often turns the editors off to a submission?

DF: Vagueness. When we see characters that are only half-formed or poems that are lost in their own verbiage, we’re unlikely to accept a writer's work.  Also, we tend to be discouraged by pieces that clearly ignore our submission guidelines or that are riddled with typos.


SQF: You offer memberships to The Penn Review for all undergraduate, graduate, and professional students at UPenn. How does this work?

DF: One of our primary goals is to celebrate the literary and artistic output of the Penn community.  Because of this, we encourage all members of the university, from faculty members and PhD students to professional students and undergraduates, to take part in crafting the magazine.  In practical terms, our board is usually composed of 10-15 people, but we’re always open to new members, and based upon experience levels we offer positions in our design, copy-editing, social media management, editorial, and marketing branches.


SQF: Do you share the comments from the membership with authors, especially those who may have been close to an acceptance?

DF: We attempt to respond personally to each submission, and are currently ranked as one of the most personable fiction, nonfiction, and poetry markets on Duotrope, with over 90% of our responses containing personal feedback.


SQF: What advice can you provide authors interested in submitting to The Penn Review—or any journal, for that matter?

DF: I would advise them to read the magazines.  Very often, we see work that’s skillful and compelling, but that just doesn’t fit with the content we’re currently interested in publishing.  The best way to see if your work is right for us is to read the pieces we’ve chosen to publish.


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

DF: How quickly do we respond to submissions?  Right now, we’re averaging a day in our response time.  As writers ourselves, we understand the discomfort of waiting several months for a response, and we make our best effort to read, discuss, and vote on each piece in a timely manner, while also providing personalized feedback.

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