Friday, July 20, 2018

Six Questions for Caleb James, Editor-in-Chief, Drunken Pen Writing

Drunken Pen Writing publishes flash fiction. short stories, essays, serialized fiction and more. “Our aim is to find and share work from unknown writers and artist; giving them a platform in which they can showcase their work to the world.” Learn more here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Caleb James: The initial reason for starting DPW was because we wanted a place where up-and-coming writers could showcase their work without having to pay. Many literary publications tend to focus on writers who have an already established audience or make them pay submission fees to read their work. This leads to a lot of rejections and some very talented writers getting swept under the rug. When it comes down to it, we wanted to create a place where anyone with a passion for writing could be heard.

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


  • Originality: Anyone can tell a rehashed Stephen King story with a rudimentary plot. What we look for are original takes on themes and ideas that touch the heart. Whether your story is about aliens, vampires, or a divorced couple rekindling their once extinguished flame of love, the important thing is that it holds a truth to it that the reader can feel.
  • A unique writing style: When you're in the publishing business you might read hundreds (if not thousands) of stories in a year that barely differ style wise. If your story reads just like 50 other people's, why should we select it? You don't need to become an experimental fiction writer to stand out from the crowd, but you do need to find your unique author's voice. When someone reads your work, they should be able to tell who wrote it without seeing a name.
  • Passion: One of the most depressing things about reading submissions is when you speak to a jaded writer who is so disenfranchised from previous rejections that they almost no longer care whether their work gets accepted or not. No matter how skilled a writer you are, if you lack passion in your work, it will show.  

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

CJ: NOT FOLLOWING THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES! This drives ALL editors crazy. The submission guidelines aren't put in place to be cute or make us seem more professional. They're put in place to make our lives, as well as that of the writers, easier. We read a lot of submissions, and our time is valuable just like yours. If you don't follow the submission guidelines, the only thing you'll succeed at is wasting both of our time. If you don't follow the guidelines your work won't get read; it'll be an automatic rejection.

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

CJ: We don't accept erotica or things with excessive gore. This doesn't have anything to do with censorship, we just don't cater to that type of audience. Our focus is more on the literary side of fiction, so even the horror or fantasy stories we share have a touch of literary fiction to them.

SQF: If Drunken Pen Writing had a theme song, what would it be and why?

CJ: Now that's a tough one! I'd have to say Tubthumping by Chumbawamba, While a free-flowing Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk jazz mashup might fit our overall aesthetic, at the end of the day we're usually too drunk to do anything but piss the night away haha.

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

CJ: That would be the question we're most often asked. What's DPW's favorite alcohol of choice? The simple answer is whisk(e)y. The long answer is, two shots of Pike Creek Canadian whisky, a half shot of sweet vermouth, a half shot of dry vermouth, and 2 dashed of Angostura bitters. This would be the DPW house Manhattan. Few things go together as well as a good book and a stiff drink.

Seriously, though, the one question would have to be, why do we continue to do this? Why do we put all the effort into putting out weekly content? For most, the answer is money. The thing is, we're nonprofit. We don't have ads on our website (even though they try like hell to buy the space), we don't charge submission fees, and we don't sell anything. When it comes down to it, we keep going because of passion. We have a strong passion for the craft of writing. If it wasn't for writing and interacting with our awesome fans, we'd probably just be a couple of drunks pissing the night away.

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

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