Friday, May 20, 2022

Six Questions for Stephen FitzGerald, Publisher/Editor, Alphabet Box

Alphabet Box publishes fiction, essays, and poetry to 900 words. “Alphabet Box is an international quarterly journal dedicated to featuring the best poetry, flash fiction, personal essays and short creative prose from emerging and seasoned writers. All voices are heard. Hate is not.” Read the complete guidelines here.


SQF: Why did you start this magazine?


Stephen FitzGerald: Initially, for a somewhat selfish reason. I wanted to read original writing in shorter formats than book-length manuscripts. To explain, I butter my bread as a writing coach, reader and editor to aspiring and established book authors. After issue one—four will be next—I realized I was providing a service by publishing and promoting deserving writers who are featured on AlphabetBox.com. At the same time, I'm getting a near-daily dose of reading creative pieces from writers from around the world, of all ages and backgrounds.



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


SF: I would have to say that being able to tell a good story comes first, whether in a poem or short fiction or nonfiction piece.


There's a tie for the close second:  Writing has to be reasonably accessible reading. I appreciate experiential and mood pieces, but not if they're too abstract to confidently interpret. The other half is credibility, whether a fantasy poem or reflective essay.


My third criteria is original creativity. I appreciate writers and poets who turn a phrase, which can be excellent if done well. I more admire writers who are confident enough to coin or invent a relatable phrase!



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


SF: Not much. I try to be as open-minded as possible when judging submissions. I do have three pet peeves, but they're not deal-breakers. Two of them exist because I've been a word nerd since I was nine.


The word "nor" is one. It's often framed in a way that equals a double-negative meaning to a sentence or verse, thus the opposite of what writers intend. I also steer away from abbreviating "until" to "till" for at least three reasons. Again, they're not deal-breakers, but beware I may edit your writing if it's selected to feature.


The third can be a deal breaker... ignoring the submission guidelines on the website. 



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


SF: Nothing in particular. If I'm a hungry fish, you can hook me with any number of baits, except for something gimmicky, clichéd or overused. When opening a submission, I'm open to familiarity, discovery or whatever. 



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


SF: I haven't received any such submission yet. Again, I'm open-minded. I wouldn't publish anything that promotes hate or non-consensual sex. I can see myself publishing other erotica if it falls within the three criteria, the top three things I mentioned earlier.



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


SF: Yes: Why is FitzGerald spelled with a capital G?


Fitz is a surname prefix that derives from "son of" in Latin. So, son of Gerald. It was used in honor of a parent or ancestor, similar to Der, Mac, Mc and Van to name a few. You see it commonly in FitzHarris, FitzRoy and FitzPatrick. Fitz is debated to mean the illegitimate son of royalty or nobility by some etymologists. I can assure you I am of neither royalty OR nobility.


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


Friday, May 13, 2022

Six Questions for Anthony R. Salandy, Editor-in-Chief, Fahmidan Journal

Fahmidan Journal publishes poetry of no more than two pages, flash fiction to 750 words, and politics, sociology, economics and history essays to 1,500 words. “Send us your thought provoking existentialism, your phobias, your darkest moments.  Entrance us with your whimsical fantasy. Move us to tears with your truth in a world of suffering. Captivate and intrigue us with your hopes and dreams.” Issues may be themed. Read the complete guidelines here - https://www.fahmidan.net/submissions


SQF: Why did you start this magazine? 


Anthony Salandy: Ranna Kisswani and I started Fahmidan to create a space for creatives like us. As a majority female team that is completely POC it was important for us to start a journal that reflected not only our backgrounds, but our belief in showcasing different voices. Where many journals perpetuate the same gatekeeping mindset, we wanted to elevate emerging, established and unknown writers.


We wanted to give Fahmidan a name that linked back to our Persian-Arab heritage hence, Fahmidan means 'To Understand' in Farsi. In essence, we wanted to give the world the chance to understand different writers and different styles. 



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


AS: Originality, honesty and ingenuity. We believe that good writing should make the reader think about their own lives, their own desires, their own fears. Although, we have a preference for the social, political and economic. 



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


AS: Erratic structures that detract from the clarity of the writing. As well as a lack of strong, robust language and diction. A powerful lexicon is arguably a strong priority for us at Fahmidan!



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


AS: An intro that forces the mind of the reader to be solely focused on the writing. Poetry in particular needs to strike the embers of intrigue from the very start to engage us. 



SQF: Is there a genre/type of work you’d like to receive more of in your submissions? 


AS: Yes! More essays and non-fiction would be fantastic! Although we cherish all the poetry we've published and continued to receive. 



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


AS: One question that would be interesting is how we have grown as an entirely Gen-Z and POC led journal. 


Honestly, it has been a challenge but we've grown immensely by sticking to our roots and focusing on the majesty of fantastic literature. We've also prioritised publishing pieces that reflect varied experiences and seldom discussed truths beyond the gaze of restricting dominant ideologies.


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


Friday, May 6, 2022

Six Questions for Sean Clancy, Editor-in-Chief, Planet Scumm

Planet Scumm publishes speculative fiction—with an emphasis on science fiction—stories (or collections of flash fiction) of 2,000-6,000 words. “We cherish the genre as an open forum for philosophy, anxieties, and thought experiments.” Read the complete guidelines here.


SQF: Why did you start this magazine?


Sean Clancy: Tyler Berd, Eric Loucks and I started Planet Scumm because we all had a passion for short fiction and science fiction, especially. Eric had written a few columns for Tyler's site about sci-fi zines of old called "Attention Scum," and we took that scrappy zine mindset for our own and used it as the inspiration for the Scumm project. We even adopted the column's accompanying art—this slimy little dude with a megaphone—as our namesake and mascot, Scummy. 


Part of the appeal of the magazine, and what makes it fun for me, is that we try to fuse a certain devil-may-care old school sensibility with contemporary writers. We want every issue of Planet Scumm to be a bit of a mystery, like those sci-fi mags of the 50s and 60s. You'd see this wild cover art—some Buck Rogers-type wearing a fishbowl helmet and a tank top, on the moon—only to find that the associated cover story is about, like, a time-traveling insurance salesman. A little provocative, a little unpredictable, sometimes even a little gross—that's us, but without all the rank sexism, racism, xenophobia, classism, and other nonsense that could infest those heavy-hitter mags back in the day. 


That attitude extends to our visual approach as well, and the work done by our excellent in-house artists (including Alyssa Alarcón Santo, Sam Rheaume, and Maura McGonagle) and our growing team of guest illustrators. Giving each story in an issue a spot illustration with our (sometimes wild!) take on a character or location isn't just about looking good, but about treating each story with maximum love and respect. 



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


SC: I don't think we're unique in looking for a strong opening which gets to the heart of the story quickly, and an ending which brings the story to a fitting (if not necessarily "satisfying" or "neat") conclusion. I think if you have those two things the middle often takes care of itself. 



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


SC: Too much setup or exposition at the start. Don't waste the reader's time. We often get stories where the ideal starting point is buried on page four or five of a twelve-page submission. (And keep in mind that our handful of slush readers might be going through, say, 570+ submissions for a given call.) Writers—short fiction writers even more so than others—need to start as close to the action (or "the point" or "the drama" or whatever) as they can, and make those first few pages count. 



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


SC: A reason to keep reading. It's ironic that I keep harping on brevity, but still: cut your story close to the bone. After the first few paragraphs, the reader should be guessing as to what the story's about. (They don't need to be *good* guesses, mind you. In fact, it's probably better if they're not!)



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


SC: These days we try not to include too many forbidden categories/topics when we open submissions. We used to have several "Do Not Submits," but we removed them because we worried authors would self-reject stories that we'd actually want! There are certainly sci-fi genres and tropes that are hard to do well, but I'd rather not say what I think those are, in part because... I'd like to be proven wrong? So instead of listing our hard sells, I'd like to challenge anyone reading this to make me eat crow.


We've had an in-house joke from the beginning, where one member of the team advocates for a bizarre or risqué story, and someone else counters with "WE SAID NO EROTICA." While we don't necessarily seek them out, sexually explicit stories aren't at a disadvantage at Planet Scumm, so long as that material suits the overall direction of the piece. Writing intended solely to arouse isn't really our thing, though.



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


SC: "What's the best way to gauge if my story will fit at a given publication?" Read the publication. We put excerpts and full stories up on our blog for a reason—we want folks to read them! And we're especially keen on potential contributors using those examples to tailor their submission for a Planet Scumm submission call.


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

Friday, April 29, 2022

Six Questions for Colin Will, Editor, Postbox Magazine

PostboxMagazine: Scotland’s International Short Story Magazine, to give it its full title,  publishes fiction of 1,000-3,000 words (Most are in the 1,000-2,000 range). It’s a print-only publication. Read the complete guidelines here.


SQF: Why did you start this magazine?


Colin Will: I had been an independent publisher (Calder Wood Press: poetry, fiction) for many years, after a career in scientific librarianship, but I wanted to concentrate on my own writing in my later years. I wound up the business in 2017, and, at a meeting with my own publisher, Sheila Wakefield of Red Squirrel Press, I told her I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my spare time. She asked me to become her fiction editor, running the editorial side of her literary fiction imprint, Postbox Press. She had already published a ‘taster’ pamphlet of my short stories in 2016, and she knew how committed I am to the form. She had always had an ambition to publish a short story magazine, and the first issue of Postbox Magazine was published in 2019. I’ve also had the pleasure of editing several novels and collections of short stories.



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


CW: I like stories which give me a freshness of approach, stories which surprise me with their themes, characters, plots and language. 


I like stories which are different from those I’ve read before, which maybe challenge my thoughts about the people an author creates, through their words alone. I may not like these invented people, but it’s good if they make me look at my established ideas and question them. 


I like stories which maintain a narrative flow through a beginning, a middle and an end, however obliquely the author deals with questions of structure, or appears to ignore the conventions of short story writing. Ezra Pound said, in a different context, “Make it new!” and I can’t argue with that as a precept.



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


CW: 

  • Writers who haven’t read the submission guidelines.

  • Clichés. Like an academic researcher discovering a long-lost manuscript by a famous author. Really? And why should anyone, other than a fellow academic, care? 

  • Bad continuity (like characters who change their name halfway through).

  • Mystical twaddle, the supernatural, stuff like that.

  • Bad spelling or grammar.

  • Too many adverbs. They make the writing flabby. And excessive adjectives make it bloated.



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


CW: The first sentence should be a hook; the second tightens the line. After that, you’re away.


‘So one day he made a list. The things nobody told him about growing old.’



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


CW: We’ve never had an erotic story submitted. If we did, I’d read it, of course. I don’t have an editorial agenda, and my publisher doesn’t have a publishing agenda. We publish work by established authors and new authors, and it’s never about the name of the author or the type of fiction; just how well the story works. We sell the magazine on the quality of work of our authors. There are no hard sells. Postbox Magazine is trusted by a loyal and expanding readership to deliver fifteen original, exciting and readable stories, twice a year.



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


CW: Colin, you’re a writer of short stories, as well as a publisher. What have you learned about writing as a result of reading all the short stories sent to you?


I’ve read the masters of the form – Mansfield, Munro, Carver et al – but reading the stories my fellow writers send me is extremely rewarding. They’re my peers; I’m a short story writer trying to place my stories too. Their ways of solving some of the problems I encounter in writing my own stories have at times astounded me, but in a good way. First person? Close third person? Omniscient third? There are reasons for making the choices we make. In the course of editing the first six issues of the magazine I have read close to six hundred stories, and I’ve learned a lot from many of them. It’s stimulating, and a learning process. Editing, good editing, is a creative activity.


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

Friday, April 22, 2022

Six Questions for Kailee Wakeman, Founding Editor, long con magazine

long con magazine publishes fiction, poetry, audio, video, visual files, and hybrid forms of art. All submissions must be “artworks created in response to other works of art and culture.” Read the complete guidelines here.


SQF: Why did you start this magazine?


Kailee Wakeman: We started long con because we had an original idea for an online magazine ("art about art") that excited both Andy and I. We plotted what elements we would like to see in an online mag: aesthetically beautiful, a digestible number of pieces per issue, a mixture of forms and genres, and (most importantly) we feel it is vital to pay our contributors. 



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


KW: 

  1. Submissions must be on theme ("art about art"). 

  2. Submissions that get our attention are often funny, odd, or original. 

  3. Submissions that do best have a clear, concise, sincere artist statement.



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


KW: It's hard to give time to a submission that is riddled with errors. It shows us that this is in "first draft" stages and not ready for publication. 


It goes a long way if you show us that you understand the concept of the magazine. Often all this takes is simply looking at a few pieces within any issue. 


The artist statement is a big piece of the puzzle as well, so take time in telling us how your artwork is responding to another piece of art or culture. We don't love having to coax an artist statement out of a person. 



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


KW: I don't think we look for anything in an opening paragraph or stanza. Get weird! Do your thing! If it makes you happy, we want to see it.



SQF: You offered a number of workshops in 2021. Do you have plans for more in 2022?


KW: Yes! We plan on offering workshops every year. We have a bookbinding and zine workshop coming up in March as well as workshops from John Barton and Angie Quick to look forward to. 


We encourage workshop proposals from all past long con contributors. It is another way we offer artists a venue for making money, and it is also a key way we pay our contributors. 


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