Friday, June 1, 2018

Six Questions for Toom Bucksaw, Editor, Soft Cartel Magazine

Soft Cartel publishes fiction, analysis/reviews, nonfiction, poetry and art. “we like experimental, rule breaking, and we like plain english too, but most importantly, we like well written stories that leave an impression. give us something worth remembering." Read the complete guidelines here.

Why did you start this magazine?

Toom Bucksaw: there were other founders i can't speak for who aren't with the site anymore, but for me, what i wanted to create with Soft Cartel was a laidback space where as few people as possible would be afraid to send their material. too many times i personally find the guidelines of other sites confusing, willfully nonsensical, and uptight. mandated cover letters, page numbers, header formatting, and weird restrictions on what types of things they'll consider (no rhyming poetry, for example), so that what they're looking for is an extremely narrow sliver of content that's a pain in the ass to prepare for them in the way they want to read it. Soft Cartel is a place where you drop a .docx file in an email, say hi (or not), press send, and have a very decent chance of getting a lot of eyes on your work. this results in a smorgasbord of stuff on our site that keeps our output fairly unpredictable.

What are the top three things you look for in a submission?


1. i love reading writing from someone who knows the english language intimately and can really sculpt with it, not just writing a story down on a page the way it would be spoken to someone. written word has a lot more potential than being a transcription of a campfire story.

2. bold, ballsy lines. i always go back to one of my favorite poems we've published, "spraycans or barbarism" by based mountain (who is currently an editor on the site, chosen mostly because whoever writes a poem like this really understands us), which begins with the line "so i had a few mongols around". how exactly does one "have a few mongols around"? what does that mean? it means the narrator has a bunch of mongols around him. i give it an A+.

3. i like to feel that what i'm receiving is something only you could have made. deeply idiosyncratic stuff is one of the chief things i look for. this doesn't mean everything we publish is one-of-a-kind, but our most prized publications really are one-of-a-kind.

What most often turns you off to a submission?

TB: the death of a story in our inbox is most usually because the person, to my eyes, doesn't have a very strong grasp of what makes a sentence pleasurable to read. this is entirely subjective, and i'm not an expert in good sentences either, but you don't have to be in order to know that you've read a bad one. good prose is almost musical. the same goes for poetry. poetry that's clumsy to read, even if it isn't metered, isn't going to last long in our inbox. referring to the 1st thing i look for in a submission, i like writers who know how to turn a phrase.

What do you look for in opening paragraph/stanzas of a submission?

TB: readers need to be hooked, and this goes doubly for editors who are going through an inbox that hasn't been curated by other editors. if reading your story is a chore from the beginning, typically it's going to remain a chore through the middle and the end. this doesn't mean that slow burners aren't welcome, but if your story starts with somebody waking up and making a cup of coffee, you're going to have a hard time getting a grip on me.

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

TB: besides erotica, political works are a very hard sell. we aim to keep an apolitical zone. we don't research our authors to find out what they've said, but if they send us something that is more political tract than it is art, or if a political message is the overriding theme, regardless of alignment, its chances are virtually nil.

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

TB: what does a reply from Soft Cartel look like?

we say on our site that we don't send form emails, which is true, and means that we don't have a set of acceptance and rejection emails that we copy and paste to people. we type each email out and include comments about the piece, especially if it was rejected. the other editor, based mountain, is definitely a lot better at personal correspondence than i am, but overall we try to include comments about the piece, suggestions, and if it was declined, usually an invitation to revise it and try it again.

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

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