Friday, July 31, 2020

Six Questions for Despy Boutris, Editor-in-Chief of The West Review

The West Review publishes poetry, art, and occasionally short prose (interviews, reviews, and flash fiction). This journal commits itself to having a majority of contributors come from groups that are underrepresented in today’s literary world, publishing writers and artists who are: LGBTQIA+, of color, immigrant, disabled, working class, youth, elder, and/or other communities that have historically been overlooked or marginalized by the literary elites. Read the complete guidelines here

 

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?


Despy Boutris: Well, truthfully, in part, because I had been quarantined for two months already amid COVID and was in search of a project. More than that, though, I wanted to create a journal that lifts up emerging writers with differing and intersecting identities—and one that pays! Although the current payment is small, I hope to raise it in the future; I think it’s so vital that online publications compensate their contributors, and I don’t know many venues inclusive to emerging writers that do. This is a small way to give back to the writing community of which I am lucky enough to be a part.



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

 

DB: (1) Music, (2) deft line breaks, and (3) invention.

 

Firstly: Of course, since poetry began as an oral tradition and was accompanied by a lyre in the ancient world, a poem’s music is vital; I search for euphony, for rhythm, for sentence variation, for an ebb and flow.

 

Secondly: I am enough of a formalist that I appreciate the power of the line—which can be used to increase or decrease tension, or to create and then subvert meaning, as in Jay Hopler’s “O, The Sadness Immaculate,” when he writes, “I look at the parakeets nesting in the blood / Orange trees.” I love line breaks that feel deliberate and complement the poem’s content.

 

Thirdly: I am queer enough that I appreciate poems that are inventive, disrupting traditional notions of what poetry is and should look like. And, yes, I know that this contradicts the former two points, but I find myself intrigued when a poet intentionally uses cacophonous language, writes in a “borrowed” or invented form, or eschews line breaks all together with a prose poem. Our first issue included several poems (coincidentally, by queer poets) that used lists, footnotes, scattered and hyphenated words, and an interview form. I think complicating readers’ ideas of “poetry” as a form—as well as who can write it and what terrain it can cover, content-wise—is as important now as ever. As such, I often look for invention.



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

 

DB: Poems, prose, and art that exhibits sexism, racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, or ableism immediately turns us off—and we receive these submissions more often than you would think. More nit-picky: I am turned off by weak line breaks, flawed grammar, and repeated typos.



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


DB: Again: (1) music, (2) deft line breaks, and (3) invention. I also love a strong first line.



SQF: What are your three favorite poems?

 

DB: This is such a hard question! These are the first three that come to mind:

 

Fog” by Mark Doty

 

Like Church” by Natalie Diaz

 

A Little Closer to the Edge” by Ocean Vuong

 


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

 

DB: I have two: one serious and one fun.

 

(1) What advice would you give to new writers who are just beginning to submit their work?

 

As I learned from Kevin Prufer, a wonderful poet and my favorite professor to date: Make your cover letter personable. Address the editor by name (and spell it correctly! I got an email last night that began “Dear Depsy Bartris”) and, if you have the energy, include your reason for submitting—are you a longtime reader? Did you particularly enjoy a poem in the last issue? If so, name it. From my experience, a specific and personalized cover letter makes a difference to editors sifting through the slush.  

 

(2) If you were to make a playlist for The West Review, which songs would it contain?

 

Perfume Genius’s entire discography.


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


Friday, July 24, 2020

Six Questions for Cassia Gaden Gilmartin and Elizabeth Murtough, Editors, Channel Magazine

Channel Magazine publishes fiction and essays to 6,000 words, and poetry. “We publish new, previously unpublished work that engages with the natural world. We have a particular interest in work which encourages reflection on human interaction with plant and animal life, landscape and the self.” Read the complete guidelines here.


SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

 

Cassia & Elizabeth: We started Channel in April 2019 to offer a platform that was lacking here in Ireland for writers whose work engages with the natural world. Our inspiration came from international eco-journals such as the US-based Orion and the UK’s Elementum. Ireland had been without such a publication since the closure of the wonderful EarthLines Magazine in 2015, and we felt that, in the current climate crisis, this type of project was crucial to building a culture of connectedness with nature.

 

In all uses of the word a “channel” directs something—an idea, a material,  a spirit—through or towards something else. We created our Channel as a passage through which ideas about human relationships with nature might flow.

 


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


Elizabeth: Hiddenness, uncertainty and surprise (see Jane Hirschfield, Newcastle/Bloodaxe Poetry Lectures, 2008). I’m looking for that “oh!” moment when something reveals itself, and the self it reveals is utterly honest and unexpected.

 

Cassia: Honesty, precision and a distinctive point of view. I love to read a piece that seems to have sprung out of its author almost by accident, because it demanded to be written.

 


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

 

Elizabeth: When a work doesn’t seem ready for publication, it’s usually that the piece’s resonance is limited by something within it (a construction issue, or a tone that’s too bold or too vague, or a truth that the writer themselves is turning away from, for example).

 

Cassia: Cliché, or the sense of a rehearsed or recycled voice.

 


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


Elizabeth: Whether poetry or prose, I’m looking for immersion. I want to enter a piece with confidence in its intentions and be kept curious as I go along.

 

Cassia: I’m looking for freshness and specificity in the language. A sense that the writer isn’t creating this piece because it feels clever, or they’ve read something like it, but out of real and deeply felt engagement with whatever it’s trying to say.

 

 

SQF: If Channel had a theme song, what would it be and why?

 

Elizabeth: Big Yellow Taxi, Joni Mitchell

 

Cassia: Something collective, a round or call and response.

 


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

 

C & E: What counts as “nature writing” in your view?

 

Nature writing is a broad and adaptive genre, given many definitions across time, and much of the work we publish falls outside some of these definitions. It might be said that all writing is nature writing of a sort, in the sense that all human thought and language is ecologically derived. We gather and showcase work that engages intensively with that truth, using nature variously as grounding theme, character, setting, metaphor or otherwise. The scope of this is best judged by reading a back issue.


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

 


Friday, July 17, 2020

Six Questions for isaura ren, Editor-in-Chief, perhappened mag

“we here at perhappened mag strive to publish your truth, whatever that looks like. tell us your story how you know best.” Issues may be themed. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

IR: I started perhappened mag because I'm fascinated by memory, nostalgia, and the way they retroactively color our experience. The ethos of perhappened is to showcase your most surreal memories—perhaps they happened that way, perhaps they didn't. There's no judgment here. The stories we tell ourselves are often truer than the truth. When you're given the agency to rewrite your history, your future follows suit.


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

IR: Firstly, adherence to the issue's theme is paramount. We don't ask for much beyond that, but we've already turned down some stellar work because it wasn't theme-adherent, and that means it won't coalesce with the rest of the issue. Our current theme can always be found on our submissions page, which is linked above. Next, we look for clean copy. This means your piece doesn't have any glaring errors that could be fixed by proofreading or using a service like Grammarly. Finally, we cherish a strong sense of voice. You could write a 1,000 word creative nonfiction piece about the most mundane, everyday experience like getting a nosebleed, but if your voice is present and punchy, we'll probably love it! Know who you are and put it on the page.


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

IR: Submissions that don't follow an issue's theme, again, are a no-go 100% of the time. If you think your work is the exception, it's not. I promise we won't take work that isn't at least concept-adjacent. However, the stronger your piece is, the more wiggle room you have in that regard. Secondly, submissions that include graphic depictions of sex, sexual assault, gore, etc. are almost always an instant rejection. Allusions are alright, and we prize stories of survival, but anything graphic that's not in good faith is not for us. Please read our submission guidelines for more clarity on that subject. Lastly, submissions that do not follow our formatting guidelines turn us off, simply because they can be difficult to read. Please have mercy on our screen-weary eyes.


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

IR: We don't look for any particular approach to begin a piece! Tell your story how it begs to be told. However, we do have a preference for setting the scene, rather than jumping straight in medias res. We love pieces that revel in description and atmosphere, especially regarding prose.


SQF: If perhappened mag had a theme song, what would it be and why?

IR: I'm torn between two: "Past Lives" by BØRNS (2014) and "Always Something There To Remind Me" by Naked Eyes (1983). Both these songs revel in past love, but they're not mournful or regretful. They're acknowledging that the past sticks with you, no matter how many changes you undergo or how many selves you become. They also give the feeling that, should you wish to return, the past will always be there for you.


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

IR: I think these questions were all fantastic! One opportunity I wish I'd had is to shout out other fabulous lit mags; I would boost Mineral Lit Mag, dreams walking, Non.Plus Lit, Windows Facing Windows Review, and many more. Indie lit mags are the future of writing. They're giving an accessible platform to voices that would otherwise go unheard, and that's a powerful phenomenon. Please support small mags, journals, and presses. Thank you for your time and attention, and please follow @perhappened on Twitter and Instagram!

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

Friday, July 10, 2020

Six Questions for Haley Jenkins, Founder/Editor, Selcouth Station

Selcouth Station publishes short stories, memoir, interviews, non-fiction/essays, and reviews to 3,500 words, flash fiction, and poetry. “Selcouth Station is a small press dedicated to supporting and promoting the work of indie artists, writers, gamers and any other creative entrepreneurs who want to get their work out there, both online and in print.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Haley Jenkins: We have only this last month started the Selcouth magazine and we are currently preparing our first issue. We have been publishing work online for just over four years and we decided to look for different ways to showcase the beautiful, brilliant and memorable work sent to us by writers, poets and artists. While the webpage publications have been successful, something always niggled at the back of my head: is this the best we could do to really promote this gorgeous work? Even though the format will be the same – as a digital magazine – it would give the work more prestige, a little more shine, and may lead readers to enjoy those works they may have otherwise skipped over when they popped up on Twitter and Facebook feeds. It is also a great opportunity to promote other presses and small publishing outlets, opportunities and events in one place.


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

HJ: 
1. Something different – at Selcouth we really enjoy work that pushes boundaries, something that makes us sit up and pay attention. Even if the content is traditional – say boy meets girl – we love to see writers put their own spin on it and really bring out their characters. 

2. Language – Last year’s winners of our chapbook call-out all had something in common: they used evocative, potent and well-placed language. Whether it was Mab Jones’ description of a Welsh kitchen or Stephanie Staab’s poems about UFO-believers; or Mandy-Suzanne Wong’s descriptions of sound recordings of wild animals – every one of them used the best language they could to convey their imagery, characters and voices. We enjoy writers who aren’t afraid to play with language. This boils down to three rules for me: 1. Show don’t tell 2. Be concise (don’t say in 100 words what you could have said better in 10) and 3. Be daring.

3. Characterisation - this is more a fiction one but it often sneaks into poetry too. I adore character-focused stories, where I am made to feel that this character is a living, breathing human-being who has personality and whose journey I want to follow. I have read so many stories and books (some published by big presses and "critically acclaimed") where the characters are so bland, so run-of-the-mill, that I don't care about whether they live, die, get what they want or not. I personally love complicated people. I adore characters who aren't 'good' or 'bad', but who are a complex mix of both because that is what we humans are. I want your characters to be human. I want imperfection. What matters is that your character acts in accordance with who they are, not suddenly do something out of character because it is convenient for the plot. The plot should be dictated by your character, not the other way around. 


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

HJ: The initial gut-kick comes in the email the submitter sends us: a generic Dear Sir/Madam/Editors with a basic biography and missing or incorrect elements from our guidelines. If you want an editor to take the time to read your work, then take the time to read their guidelines, it is common courtesy. We try not to say “do a cover letter” because I think whether a writer does one or not and how they write it says volumes about their commitment and respect. While I will never judge a submission by the email, there is nothing like a good first impression. Am I going to look more favourably towards a writer who mentions us by name, shows they know a little about us, includes all the things we ask for from subject heading to an author photo; or the blank email with an attachment with the heading “for your kind consideration”? 

Also bland characters and rhyming poetry (I have been convinced a few times). Also poetry that is very self-indulgent: I have no issue with poems that talk about the writer, their relationships etc, however I have already had my fill of angst, teenage, HE/SHE NEVER LOVED ME, I AM ALL ALONE IN THIS WORLD, I WILL PROVE I AM STRONGER THAN ANYTHING, Disney-style dramas. Yet, the content is not the issue, it is how the poet/writer describes it. Any theme or idea can be triumphant if the writing is true and well-thought out. 


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

HJ: I try not to put too much pressure on the first line, because many of the books and poems I love have pretty run-of-the-mill first lines, but then the poet/writer builds up that foundation and sucks me in. I would advise not making it too gaudy, too whizz-bang with literary techniques, sometimes there is nothing better than a good, simple, clean first line. I would rather you write 100 good lines than 1 fantastic one followed by 99 mediocre ones, because the writer is convinced that the first line will carry all the weight. 

I also look for detail. I love detail, adore detail and it is surprising how many writers/poets miss the opportunity to be intimate with detail. For example, when I have a poem/story about a heartbroken girl, I want to know what is special about this girl, what sets her apart and this can be as simple as: she raided the fridge and devoured the leftover, tomato-thick spaghetti her little brother cooked two days ago. This tells me so much about the girl: she turns to food for comfort, she isn’t picky, she has a little brother and she also doesn’t necessarily care that she is eating all of it and not leaving it any for the rest of her family. That is a great detail-filled line as opposed to: she grabbed leftovers from the fridge. 


SQF: Will you publish a work an author has posted on a personal blog?

HJ: It is a tricky area because the copyright isn’t necessarily with the author. Everything we post on Facebook, is technically owned by Facebook (it’s in the fine print). The same can go for other blog sites. So, depending on where it is coming from, we may consider it, but as a rule we don’t accept previously published work, simply to avoid this minefield. 


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

HJ: What word would you use to describe us at Selcouth Station?

Community-focused (alright it is technically two words!): we share other presses’ events, work, we review their books, we promote working together and looking after authors. We’re not about competitiveness or shooting for those big-buck ideas, we are little, intimate and passionate. We do not make a profit, we don’t even try that hard to get more money, because we always want the focus to be on the writing, on the authors and on the community. We will always keep a book in print, we’ll always make sure it is available digitally and we strive to not charge anyone for submissions. Our books range between £5.00-8.00 as we had to bring up the prices so we weren’t always having to dip into our personal funds. This is our only source of income for the press.

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

Friday, July 3, 2020

Six Questions for Jacob Robinowitz, Editor-in-Chief, 96th of October

96th of October publishes speculative fiction (1,000 to 10,000 words), poetry that can be read in five minutes or less, art, and music and videos. “And before you send your work, please ask yourself, is it weird enough?” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Jacob Robinowitz: I couldn't find a speculative fiction magazine that made literary writing its main focus. 


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

JR: A polished literary style, which shows the author's acquaintance with good writing. Weirdness is something I also prize: unexpected ideas, quirkiness. Humor will find a welcome with me. But there are no hard and fast rules: if the writing is good and it's  the SF/Fantasy/Horror genres, I am glad to be surprised.


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

JR: Misuse of words, faulty syntax and plot contradictions. 

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

JR: An elegantly turned phrase, a poetic image, a sign that the writer has literary skill. I don't really care how soon things "happen" in a story. Chekhov's short stories are exemplary: not much happens, and I'm reading them in what is probably a not so great English translation, yet I'm enthralled. How does he do it? Chekhov has a great deal to teach anyone who wants to write short stories in any genre. 


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

JR: There are none. If you can really write, there are no limits as to content. If sex or violence are being used for a serious narrative purpose, I'll listen. If shocking material is there to cover for a lack of ideas, that is rapidly apparent, and my interest will wane.


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

JR: How long does it take you to respond to submissions? What kind of attention do you give them?

96th of October is a start-up, so we are eager to hear new voices, we are not bored, we have not "seen it all." We give all submissions a careful read, and get back within a few days. It's like a new restaurant where the staff is knocking itself out to make everyone feel particularly welcome and valued.

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