Friday, December 22, 2017

Six Questions for Jason Bougger, Editor, Theme of Absence

Theme of Absence publishes speculative flash fiction to 1000 words and an occasional longer piece. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Jason Bougger: I had been blogging on my other site for a while and thought it might be fun to start doing contests or occasionally posting other writers' stories. One thought led to another, and I decided it would be better to make that a separate project. I had owned the domain Theme of Absence since 1997 and was planning to let it go, but then decided to keep it and make it the home for the new ezine project.


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

JB: If an author follows the guidelines to the letter, that is always a huge plus. I also like stories that get right to the point and don't waste a lot of time showing the "daily routine" of the main characters. Finally, the best submissions I receive are the ones that have an ending that makes me say "Oh, cool!”


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

JB: The biggest turn-off is a second-person narrative. That style just doesn't work for me at all. I also reject stories without reading if they are either previously published or fall outside of the word count limitations.


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

JB: Bards and Sages Quarterly, The Story Shack, and Electric Spec all provide quality short stories and flash fiction.


SQF: Many editors list erotica, or sex for sex sake, as hard sells. What are hard sells for your publication?

JB: Erotica isn't exactly my thing, but I'd consider it if it's well-written. I very rarely accept second-person narratives or slice-of-life pieces, and I generally won't consider stories that show sexual abuse of any kind.


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

JB: What makes your ezine different?

Quite a few features separate Theme of Absence from similar sites. I believe we've got a great, unique look, adding illustrations (sometimes original art) to each story. We also offer every author the opportunity to do an interview with the site, and also hold a semi-pro paying annual Halloween contest.

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

Friday, December 15, 2017

Six Questions for H. Andrew Lynch, Editor, Black Dandy

Black Dandy publishes literary fiction “that grips readers with vivid characters under unusual pressures. Bizarre, dreamy, unsettling.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

H. Andrew Lynch: As a long published author myself, I wanted to create a market for writers who tell stories on the fringes of genre. There are heaps of markets for labeled, traditional types of writing: mystery, horror, detective, etc. Many of them are great. Sometimes, a writer creates something that straddles genres, or belongs to no genre at all due to its outright uniqueness.First and foremost, we want to champion the beauty of magic realism—or dream realism, as it should be properly called. Stories that are rooted in a very familiar world or set of situations, but which are slightly...off. A great example is a story from our premiere issue called "Sandbar, Stop-Motion". On the surface it seems to be a slightly absurdist detective story in which a poodle is reported missing, but there are other things going on, all of which accumulate into an effect. It's not about the plot, per se, although there is a very clear one. It's about this well-defined sheriff, the colourful characters around him, a location that is unusual, and the mild but slightly disturbing introduction on the periphery of an unnatural set of circumstances. On top of this natural strangeness is an authoritative literary structure. What does this mean? It means that the characters' inner lives, the metaphorical and subtextual meaning of each action and its consequences binds the whole thing into, as I've stated before, an effect. This is not easy to do, and we are all about fiction that irritates the boundaries of easy to do.


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

HAL: That’s an easy one. Characters that pop. Can't put it more simply. Your character is not defined by his gender, height, weight, and day job. He or she is defined by their quirks, their habits, their perspective. I don't mean "She disliked kids". I mean "She smiled at kids as if smiling at the enemy." If we get to the end of an amazing plot and don't really care about the character's journey, we're going to pass on the story.

Second is authorial perspective you don't encounter much. I love a good Lovecraft pastiche, but we're not the market for that. There are dozens of markets for that. For traditional ghost stories, for dystopian futures, etc. If you're coming to the table with a ghost story, it has to be special. It has to be driven by a character, since ghost stories are about as mundane as they get. For example, in our premiere issue, one writer retells the moment when airplanes collided with the twin towers, but he's chosen a perspective that I've never seen before. Rooted in surrealism, in an impressionist accounting of those planes as well-organised flocks of birds. It's a terrifying use of beautiful objects in nature to embody the horrific manipulation of engineering to destroy human life. But he roots it all in three distinct characters with outrageous qualities, drawing them so convincingly that the entire experience is a bit like drinking too much. Dizzying.

Third is an aversion to safety. So much entertainment is safe, and we all take refuge in safe entertainment for very good reasons. It's escapist. It allows us to cling to things that make us feel cozy. We want fiction that is jarring and unsettling. I want to be clear here. Visceral horror is not jarring and unsettling. I can do my taxes while reading or watching visceral horror. It's safe and I'm inured to it. But if you make me doubt the motives of a character, or present the possibility that my expectations are not safely protected, then you've got my attention.


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

HAL: Not understanding what surrealism and magic realism are. Not understanding the difference between strange and horror/fantasy. Not reading our guidelines, which includes stopping to think about our reading list. Poorly formatted manuscripts—it's 2017, this hasn't been a mystery for many decades. First drafts, poor grammar. Vampires, werewolves, Lovecraft pastiches.


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

HAL: Bourbon Penn, Zyzzyva, McSweeney's.


SQF: Many editors list erotica, or sex for sex sake, as hard sells. What are hard sells for your publication?

HAL: Not taking that bait. We don't feel the need for a hard sell. Any quality reader is after a quality reading experience. That's our proposition. Whether we succeed or fail is up to them. All we can do is try.


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

HAL: ”Why would anyone focus on a literary sub-genre that nobody is screaming for (magic realism)?”

What a great question! Look, I've always been interested in poking holes in expectations, bending rules, seeking to find or breathe life into the neglected art, whatever form it takes. Magic—or dream—realism is everywhere. Sometimes it's hard to detect, surrounded as it is by more concrete, less magical structures. Because it's relatively soft compared to, say, outright fantasy, people tend to shove it into the fantasy hole. Sometimes, if that feels too reductive, it gets shoved into the literary hole, where it's free to be respectable. It's all a labeling problem. I want Black Dandy to openly celebrate dream realism. It's not a cute side effect of fiction. It's a form of expression.

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

Friday, December 8, 2017

Six Questions For Shannon Connor Winward, Founding Editor, Riddled With Arrows

Riddled with Arrows is an online literary journal dedicated to writing about writing. We seek (short) metafiction and metapoems, and writing that celebrates the process and product of writing as art. No restrictions on genre or form, so long as the work is about writing, straight up. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Shannon Connor Winward: I kept seeing guidelines for journals and lit mags that specifically discourage writing about writing.  It blows my mind that there's this taboo in the literary community against literature exploring itself.  I think that's ridiculous and unnecessarily limiting and in a way it devalues what poets and writers do.  Riddled with Arrows was created to fight against that, in some small way--we want to create a safe haven for metafiction and metapoems, and writing that celebrates the process and product of writing as art.


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

SCW: First, the submission must have some meta- or writing-related element, since that is our primary editorial interest.  If we are reading for a themed issue, the submission must also satisfy that theme.  Secondly, I look for a strong voice, evocative language and artistry, great storytelling, a clever twist, a killer line—something compelling and noteworthy.  Lastly, I look for work that is not exactly like what we've already published—I want a new approach to the genre, something I never thought of.  But it also has to snuggle in with the concepts I'm developing for a given issue.  I like to arrange poems and stories so that they take on new dimensions when considered with their surrounding work.  Each issue is meta-tastic.


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

SCW: Erotica for its own sake with little or no consideration of our editorial mission, particularly where women are merely objects in some guy's gore-fantasy.  I also get twitchy when it's clear a submitter didn't read our guidelines. 


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

SCW: It isn't always practical, but I try.  The submission process can be so demoralizing.  I want to let writers know they are valued and that a rejection isn't personal. 


SQF: If Riddled With Arrows had a theme song, what would it be and why?

SCW: "My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors" by Moxy Fruvous, for reasons I think are pretty clear.  (Great question!)


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

SCW: Are we a paying market? Damn right we are, because we value authors.  That said, most of our budget is funded by financially struggling authors, so we welcome contributions.  There's a "donate" button on our homepage.

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

Friday, December 1, 2017

Six Questions for Katie Winkler, Editor, Teach. Write.

Teach. Write. publishes flash fiction  under 1,000 words, short fiction of 1,000 to 5,000 words, poetry up to 100 lines, and creative nonfiction to 2,000 words written by authors who are, or have been, a writing instructor at a college, university, public school, or through continuing education programs. The first edition premiered to great success on September 1, 2017. Submissions for the Spring/Summer 2018 edition open on October 1, 2017, and close on March 1, 2018. Learn more here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Katie Winkler: I have taught English composition at the high school and college levels for almost 30 years and have been actively pursuing publication for over 20. During that time, I have noticed that as I improved and began having my work accepted, that my teaching began to be positively affected. My understanding of the revision and editing process has improved, but even more importantly, as the rejections have rolled in, I have gained empathy with my students that I didn't have before. Also, experiencing the joy of acceptance has inspired me as a teacher and a writer so much that I wanted to provide a venue for my fellow writing teachers to feel the same.


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

KW: The top three things I look for are craftsmanship, because it is one of the main things writing teachers are trying to teach; authenticity, because gimmicky writing or writing simply to be published often leads to a shallow piece; and love for language, because there is nothing more enjoyable for me to read than someone who is head over heels for the marvelous form of communication that is English. Other languages have their charms, especially German, my second language, but it is my native tongue that still makes my heart go flippity-flop.


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

KW: Poor craftsmanship. How can I publish a poorly crafted piece in a journal for teachers of writing? I mean much more than grammar and mechanics. Occasional errors will not necessarily cause me to reject a piece.  Weak sentence structure, poor word choice, lack of organization, a pattern of errors, or a general disregard for submission guidelines -- these types of things show a lack of respect for the craft, and for me as an editor, and are likely to prompt a rejection letter.


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

KW: New Yorker, Glimmer Train, Huffpost, The Flash Fiction Press, The Oxford American, The Pedestal, Bold Life (local magazine)


SQF: If Teach. Write. had a theme song, what would it be and why?

KW: "School's Out for Summer" by Alice Cooper because summer is when I do most of my writing and marketing. I am too busy working with other people's writing during the school year to have much time for my own.


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

KW: How do you feel about your writers? I have only published one edition of my journal so far, but the quality of submissions and the graciousness of the writers accepted for publication have awed and humbled me. I feel that my contributors and I have formed some sort of special bond similar to a cast and crew working together to produce a play. I didn't expect this feeling, but I like it.

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