Friday, March 30, 2018

Six Questions for C.E. Lukather and Paul Garson., Editors, The Writing Disorder

The Writing Disorder: a literary journal publishes new fiction, nonfiction, poetry and artwork. “We have no specific guidelines regarding subject matter. Please send us your best work, whether it’s traditional, experimental or something else entirely. We enjoy reading all kinds of work.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

The Writing Disorder: We started this journal so we could publish more work by new writers, or writers having a difficult time getting published.


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

TWD: The first few pages of a story; its title; is the submission sent in the correct format.


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

TWD: When a writer tells us what his/her story is about in the cover letter (we don't require a cover letter).


SQF: What do you look for in the opening paragraph/stanza of a submission?

TWD: An authentic voice.


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

TWD: If it’s good writing, we’ll publish it.


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

TWD: What is the most surprising/inspiring part of your job?

A: Every new submission we receive is an opportunity to discover new thoughts and ideas.


Thank you, C.E. and Paul. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

SQF revisited - Clever Magazine

Begun in August of 1998, Clever Magazine prides itself as being a publication for the "neglected demographic." The magazine features essays, short stories, humor, recipes, travel, photo essays and more.

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

DK: Writing that fits the tone of our ezine: quality counts. We prefer careful writing—the writer has taken the time to spell check the piece, has thought about the composition, and has something interesting to say. We love stories with a subtle sense of humor or irony, no matter whether it's fiction or travel essay, dark humor is great, be sarcastic if you are good at it. We'll eat it up. Why, you ask? Why not, we're not on the Internet for the money or fame; we do this because we love the idea of publishing quality work. The longer we are around, the pickier we can be. Hopefully, writers who appear on our pages will appreciate the fact that being on Clever is worth bragging about.

Read the complete interview here.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Six Questions for Camille Griep, Editor, Easy Street

Easy Street publishes flash fiction, fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, reviews, interviews, editorial columns, news, and opinion pieces.

We're looking for literature that blends the borders of genre and classification. If you've ever been asked:
"Is this poetry or flash?"
"Is this essay or fiction?"
Or even, "What makes you think you can just make your own genre rules?"
Then try us.

Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Camille Griep: Easy Street is the younger sibling of The Lascaux Review, a gorgeous, traditional literary magazine. Over time, its aesthetic has coalesced into something quiet and stately, and though that's nothing to be ashamed of, we found ourselves as editors wishing to welcome all the work we loved that wasn't quite as tacit, polished, or classifiable. We started Easy Street to embrace literature between the margins, including opinions, reviews, columns, and satire.


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

CG: Voice. Nonfiction without voice is journalism, something I value highly but am not looking for at Easy. Fiction without voice is bland, and I'm not looking for that either. This is not to say I don't appreciate a distant 3rd person (think fairy tale) narrative, just not one that is generic. A lot of folks ask, "What is voice?" and while that question would take longer than this forum might welcome, I'll say simply that voice has to do with the quality of the way the writer presents their words, a cadence, a personality, a stamp that says only that writer could have put those words together in this way. While it's easy to overanalyze, voice can be as simple as writing the way you write and think, not the way you think someone else might want to read.

Organization. I want to follow what you're writing, in any genre, be it segmented poetry or braided essays. Sometimes, so much of a story is present, but information comes at the wrong time or not at all. Often this is not a story problem, but one of organization. It's also frequently a problem of over-editing and trying to integrate too many critiques into a piece. In nonfiction, I find this is a problem when we write passionately and quickly. I have submitted a fair number of pieces from my heart that had no business near an editor until I'd found a clear narrative line for my thoughts. I want writers to write while the fire is there and organize as the embers cool. I'll wait for your timely piece as long as it's polished. We all have that friend who can write perfect first drafts and have them published the next day, however, it's worth your own piece of mind to not have to cringe over your crimes of literary passion six months down the road.

Fresh Metaphors. Because we humans share so many common experiences -- even though we experience them as individuals -- editors tend to see similar themes arise over and over again. We lose our parents, find ourselves alone, and grow older. While common word pairings, clichés, etc. are not necessarily out of place in longer work when we need to keep a reader at pace, in short formats I'm looking for new ways of seeing and feeling. If the writer tells me "this heartache cut like a knife" - I've already connected to that metaphor countless times, but if you give me a new metaphor, one I haven't been able to put in words yet, (for example, "this heartache was the breath I could not take") then I can say, as a reader, "Yes! That's it!" The reader knows you know exactly how they feel, and will trust you to guide them. If they don't share that experience with you, fresh metaphors give them a roadmap to follow - a gift beyond the story at hand, a way to orient themselves.


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

CG: I don't often stop reading submissions. I generally will read a story through even if I don't think it starts strong. However, when I do stop reading, it's generally due to some glaring male gaze. If the first quality a writer lists about a woman is the quality of her breasts, I typically know what sort of story it will be and it's not one that is for us at Easy. I don't mind being told about breasts if they are important to the story, however, males apprising females in paragraph one isn't going to do much to pique my interest. 

I want to be clear, here: male gaze is not the same as male perspective. I'm not saying I don't want stories from men. The problem with male gaze is not that a male is appreciating the features of a woman; it's the objectification of women solely as objects of male desire. As a reader, I'm ideally supposed to sit down beside the author and appraise the world through their eyes. I do not and cannot assess women - or humans in general - with a male gaze, and, for me, it becomes difficult not to allow my distaste for the protagonist to color my opinion of the author, particularly when the language is egregious and/or abusive. There are a thousand other ways to tell me your characters are beautiful (or less so), so use them. I want to hear stories from men; I have zero interest in critiquing the features and flaws of an imaginary character.

All that said, there was one particular story at Easy last year where the author used male gaze as a way to redeem his character. I liked the idea of protagonist awakening to and having an epiphany around the concept, and the tale worked on several levels (satirical and otherwise) due to its inclusion.


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

CG: I'm so often spying on new magazines, too, because I want to see how the world is changing. I love visiting AWP every year to see how the literary landscape continues to change. But my favorites tend to be:

Black Warrior Review
Fairy Tale Review
Fireside
The Rumpus
Eckleburg
Split Lip
Cahoodaloodaling
Paris Review
Los Angeles Review
Spartan


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

CG: Stories from the point of view of children are tough for us. Children's voices rarely bring the resolution necessary to the kinds of stories we're looking for, and as survivors of varied childhood traumas ourselves, it's difficult to not bring a lot of baggage to the table as readers. We find childhood narratives frequently underinvested or overwrought, and it's always a challenge to get into an authentic childhood headspace.

Gotcha! stories and twist endings, unless done really well, aren't what we're looking for, either. This is not to say there aren't markets for stories that are neat, tidy, and cute. Or are the traditional shaggy dog tales, but I don't know that we're necessarily that market.

Finally, we also seem to garner quite a bit of writing geared toward jilted love in our slush pile. I feel these pieces so deeply because I wrote a lot of them myself in my younger years. The problem with these - not always, but most of the time - is that they are unsparingly personal. When your poem is so filled with anger and heartache and vitriol, it's hard for a reader to come try and share that space without getting burned. There has to be space for the readers to see themselves and connect. Despite often containing powerful and brilliant metaphors, hermetic, confessional fiction and poetry doesn't lend well to connection. I wish these writers would pick the brilliant pieces from these intensely personal narratives and craft something even more beautiful around them.


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

CG: How do you feel about cover letters?

I'm glad you asked! I don't read cover letters until I've finished deciding on a piece. Submittable's system has a marvelous tool where an editor can hide the cover letter from themselves. I do this because every editor seems to have a different idea of a nice cover letter, and it's hard to keep straight these days. Some editors ask for everything from a summary of the story to tests of whether or not a writer read the sub guidelines.

 I prefer a cover letter to say my name or the magazine's name or even a cursory attempt at our entity (we get a lot of cover letters addressed to other magazines, contests, editors) and something like "Thank you for your time considering my 1000-word short story." And that's it. I don't mind if the writer includes something they liked about the magazine or how they found it.

What I do mind is an explanation of the story or a declaration of what they've done with the work. I have to make that discovery as a reader and I often feel that if the work cannot stand for itself, then it is probably not finished. Go ahead and tell me why you love whales so much that you wrote a sonnet for them, but don't tell me how the poem is the single greatest piece of whale literature since Moby Dick. It might well be, but you have to let the editor say that. Otherwise we get our little, red-pen editor feelings out of sorts. 

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





Friday, March 16, 2018

Six Questions Tacoma Tomilson, Managing Editor, Apparition Lit

Apparition Lit publishes short fiction, poetry and artwork in the speculative fiction genres. In addition, the editors hold a monthly flash fiction contest. Issues are themed. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Tacoma Tomilso: After talking for ages about starting our own magazine, we decided that 2017 was the time to commit to the challenge. We wanted to pay people for their hard work and to celebrate creators. We also wanted to carve out our own little corner of the Internet, where we could celebrate works that we enjoy.


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

TT: Since our issues are themed, we first look for submissions that match that theme. Secondly, we keep our eyes open for submissions that do something new or unexpected with the theme. We like to be surprised. And lastly, we like our fiction to move us in some way. For example, our first issue featured stories that gave us goosebumps or made our eyes water.


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

TT: Submissions that do not follow our guidelines. It’s easy to identify when writers ignored our guidelines, as they often miss the fact that each issue has a theme. We also don’t accept simultaneous submissions, since our submission windows are small, and we typically respond in under a week with a rejection or a hold notice.


SQF: What do you look for in the opening paragraph/stanza of a submission?

TT: We look for an element that immediately catches our attention, some central question that we want answered. We recognize that this can be difficult to do, but we want to be immediately hooked. Often times, a story starts with information that the writer needed, rather than the reader.


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

TT: Our hard sells are listed in our submission guidelines. Hard sells include: gratuitous and graphic violence or rape, along with extreme, purposeless violence toward animals. We do not publish erotica or thinly-veiled fan fiction.


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

TT: I think a good question to ask is “What stories do you see again and again in the slush pile?” We often receive stories where the main character is misogynistic and/or hateful toward women and other people, yet we are meant to feel sorry for them. At Apparition Lit, we want to empathize with the main character.

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

Friday, March 9, 2018

Six Questions for Eddie Generous, Editor, Unnerving Magazine

Unnerving Magazine is a quarterly release and accepts short story submissions of horror, dark science fiction (light), dark fantasy, crime, thriller, and suspense. On the website, I run weekly reviews and podcast interviews. Unnerving also publishes standalone titles of novels, novellas, novelettes, and collections, as well as anthologies. Content generally leans toward horror over other genres. Read the guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Eddie Generous: I had some time to spare and there were so many publications starting and withering away before their first anniversary that I saw it as a bit of a challenge. Mostly though, I knew I could make it work and do a decent job ascetically. The rest of it built from there, the reviews, interviews, and doing the standalone stuff. Publishing gets to be addictive, working with and talking to other authors even more so.


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

EG: First off, a clear grasp of English. This takes practice. I can turn down half the submissions coming my way within two paragraphs.

Second is interesting subject matter and style. I read a lot (as should any writer, like as much as they watch TV, at least) and see a ton of regurgitation of other authors’ stories. Be clearly you in a story. Also, that there’s no gross or boring stuff: sexism, racism, bigotry, or junkies sitting around tripping, rape as a tool to make a hero want revenge, religious messages… nothing lazier than a god parachute/answer. Have variety in structure, don’t start every sentence with the same words or phrase length.

Third would be an ending. Don’t be a coward, end your story. Make a choice, don’t leave a reader standing at the airport with a blank ticket to wherever they want to imagine. Vagueness is fine: Is it A or B? Maybe even A or B or C? More than three or four choices and you haven’t finished your story.


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

EG: Bad writing. A gross message. A lack of nuance. Repetitive writing. Clearly has never read Unnerving and has sent something absurdly unbefitting (space opera is the most common). Trying to game me with lies in a cover letter, I’m petty, I look that shit up. NOT FOLLOWING THE GUIDELINES (Single-spaced? Take a hike, ya hoser).


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

EG: None regularly. The big monthly releases in dark speculative stuff have no interest for me anymore. If story isn’t first, count me out. Sure, there are good stories there, but you have to wade through a sea of wilting flowers and un-stories to find them. I have a subscription to Cemetery Dance. Last year I read four issues of Lamplight. I read about a dozen indie mags a year (alongside about 100 books, many indie). I pick up them up on Amazon when I want to know what kind stuff to send them myself as a writer. The way one does. Should.

When I first started Unnerving, I used Cemetery Dance as a model, but have outgrown chasing being someone else’s magazine.


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

EG: Similar. Heavy gore and torture. This has to come with more story than gore and that’s rarely the case. Exploitation is boring, so if torture or gore go there, I’m out. Also, Lovecraft fan fiction. R’yeh-koo-wgah-cha-snoooooooze.

I listed things above that I don’t touch, they aren’t hard sells, but no sells. Obviously if a subject isn’t listed in the stuff published, don’t send it to me. Read the magazine, don’t be lazy.


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

EG: What’s the easiest way to give a good first impression?

Firstly, don’t address me as editors, it’s not a killer, but it suggests you pay zero attention to Unnerving Magazine. Simple.

Secondly, follow the recommended formatting on the Unnerving site. It’s not weird stuff like getting rid of curly quotes or adding a bunch of spaces, it’s simple, normal stuff.

Thirdly, don’t tell me a bunch of pointless crap in the cover letter. Be you, but keep it to a couple sentences. Don’t tell me who influences you (unless it is imperative to the story you’re submitting). Don’t tell me which way you swing. Don’t tell me your skin tone. Don’t tell me your religion. This stuff comes out in a bio enough, don’t try to use it as a platform.

Lastly, (I know already said this) don’t lie. During my first open window someone sent a sub stating that they’d read every issue and hope to see Unnerving for many years to come. Also, if you’re going to butter me up, make sure it’s sensible.

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

Friday, March 2, 2018

Six Questions for Katrina Archer, Editor, Little Blue Marble

Little Blue Marble publishes speculative fiction (original to 2,000 words, reprints to 5,000 words) “that examines humanity’s possible futures living with anthropogenic climate change," and non-fiction articles on climate change. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Katrina Archer: I was feeling frustrated by the amount of climate change denialism in the world, but especially in North America given the current political climate in the United States. I was looking for a way to blend my own interests in science, engineering, and science fiction with a way to raise more awareness. There are plenty of other media outlets doing great journalism on this topic, but what’s sometimes lacking is a way to bring the issue home to people in ways they can relate to. Fiction can do that exceedingly well. So I started Little Blue Marble as a way to bridge that gap.


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

KA: First, climate change on Earth should be a central element of the story. I may consider stories set off-world, but as they tend to not concern themselves with how to fix our situation here, I am less likely to accept them, unless they offer interesting allegory or their lessons clearly apply to Earth as well.

I’m also looking for stories that offer some kind of dramatic tension or character development. A story that has a great “A-ha!” moment for the reader is a plus. Climate change can be a depressing topic that leaves people feeling helpless so I also appreciate stories with some levity or humor, even if it is ironic. It’s a hard thing to quantify, but each story should have a heart—an emotional touchstone that stays with the reader after they’ve finished it.

I also like stories that make me think. That explore the unpredictable and unintended consequences of technology that might get pushed as a quick fix. Technology is great, but it’s meant to serve people, not the other way around.


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

KA: Stories where the planet is saved by a semi-benevolent alien invasion/god-like being are not what I’m looking for. We made our bed, we’ve got to lie in it, and the responsibility’s ours to fix it.

Stories where we escape to another world strike me as mostly wishful thinking. It’s all well and good in theory, and certainly, exploring other worlds is a lofty goal that enthuses me as a tech geek and science fiction fan, but I just don’t see it as a workable answer to climate change for the majority of the people already living and breathing on this planet. At least not in the next few decades.

I’m really not a horror/splatter/gore fan. Some violence in service to the story can be acceptable, but gratuitous violence is a no-go. I tend to reject stories that are just scenes or vignettes, without a narrative through line or some form of character growth, however small. Also, stories that are too obviously preachy, or that overtly lecture to the reader. Climate change is a serious topic, but as a reader of fiction, I still want to be entertained, and I think Little Blue Marble's readers do too.


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

KA: Actually, I’m mostly a novel reader. I don’t read too many magazines. I tend to stick to year-end “Best of” anthologies or other e-book anthologies for short fiction.


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

KA: While security issues will be problematic due to climate change, military science fiction is a harder sell for us, although depending on its focus and execution, not an automatic no. Erotica just isn’t our niche. Neither is space opera.


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

KA: What kind of stories are you not seeing enough of in your slush pile?

I’ve been getting a lot of dystopic submissions, of how people live after the world has more or less fallen apart, which is natural given the topic matter, but I’d love to get more stories that highlight positive change or interesting solutions to climate change. That show visions of what our societies could be like for the better. That explore sustainable alternatives to unfettered-growth capitalism. I’d like to see stories that show us how we can get to the kind of world where we live in balance with the environment, technology, and ourselves.

I’d also like to publish stories from more varied and underrepresented voices from around the world, especially from indigenous cultures and developing nations. These are the people who will be most affected by what’s going to happen to our biosphere over the next few decades.

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