Friday, March 27, 2020

Six Questions for Ursula DeYoung, Founding Editor, Embark

A submission to Embark: A Literary Journal For Novelists consists of two parts: the opening of your novel (2,500-4,000 words) and an Author’s Statement of 250-500 words. “The novel in question must be unpublished at the time of submission. It may be partially or completely written, but in either case you should have a firm sense of its overarching themes and structure. We are looking for polished, confident work that reflects clear authorial intention.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Ursula DeYoung: I really enjoy working with emerging novelists, both as a teacher and as an editor. I also know from experience that, aside from Embark, there are very few (if any) literary journals dedicated to novelists. Unlike short-story writers, novelists necessarily have to work on a project for months, if not years, before they have a completed work that they can show to the public. I wanted to give them an arena in which they could share their projects even if they were unfinished, in order to receive feedback, encouragement, and a sense of belonging to the literary world.


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

UD:
(1)  Confident, eloquent writing. Prose that is stilted, clichéd, repetitive, or riddled with typos and errors makes it almost impossible for me to sink into the story. Good writing doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it does have to be clear, well-paced, and articulate: the writer should be able to express his or her points easily and memorably.

(2)  Engaging characters. A character—or two, but no more than three—who is distinct and individualized within the first few paragraphs, with some form of physical presence in my mind, a clear aim (no matter what it might be), and vivid emotions, will always grab my attention.

(3)  Action. The single most common mistake in novel openings is to frontload them with exposition and explanations before getting the story started. Trust your readers, and work to engage them. Starting with action means that readers are pulled immediately into the story; usually only a line or two of back story is needed to provide the necessary context. Once you’ve hooked your readers, then you can build up the book’s world in more detail.


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

UD: The opposites of my answers to the last question. In other words:

(1)  Clumsy, clichéd writing.
(2)  Generic, indistinct characters without clear aims and vivid emotions.
(3)  Excessive exposition that delays the actual beginning of the plot.


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

UD: It may seem a little early, but even in the very first paragraph (even in the first sentence!), I’m looking for the three qualities I mentioned in my second answer. A novel works best when it starts clearly and decisively at the true beginning of the story, without excessive preamble.


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

UD: Certainly erotica would be a hard sell for me, though I don’t mind sexual elements in submissions. I also don’t like excessive or gratuitous violence (especially rape scenes), unremittingly depressing stories, and novels that feature only despicable characters. None of these elements is inherently bad in fiction, but they turn me off as a reader and editor, and I believe that usually they act as impediments in creating a fully successful novel.

I hope it’s needless to say that I also would never accept a submission that promotes racist, homophobic, or otherwise bigoted views.


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

UD: I would have liked you to ask the question “What is your favorite genre?” so that I could answer, “I don’t have one!” One of my favorite parts of editing Embark is reading the wide variety of genres we receive, from science fiction to mysteries to historical novels to contemporary dramas, and more. We try to include a diversity of genres within each issue, to emphasize that we don’t believe quality exists only in certain types of books. You can find great writing in any fiction category, and analyzing what makes a novel excellent within the conventions of the different genres is consistently inspiring and illuminating for me.

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

Friday, March 20, 2020

Six Questions for Tess and e.kirshe, Editors, The Furious Gazelle

The Furious Gazelle publishes fiction and creative non-fiction to 7,000 words, flash fiction, poetry, and plays. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

The Furious Gazelle: We wanted to create a place for pieces that are unusual or unique and might have trouble finding a home in traditional literary magazines, such as cross-genre pieces and odd humor. We’re also not afraid to publish long-form writing (even if some people are afraid to read it).


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

TFG: It can depend on what category you’re submitting to- for general submissions we accept any piece that we think is well written, but we especially love works that pack a sharp punch, grab our attention, and use strong emotion. For Things That Make Us Furious we love something with a sharp wit that makes us laugh, but we’ll also accept a well-written serious rant.


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

TFG: Anything that expresses intolerance such as sexism, racism, and homophobia. We don’t want your weird propoganda— off the top of my head— Christian Jesus aliens who save you and are drawn badly in your children’s books. Also if your female POV character starts thinking about her breasts we are going to stop reading immediately.


SQF: What do you look for in the opening paragraphs/stanzas of a submission?

TFG: That’s subjective, it’s really anything that grabs us personally that will make us want to keep reading. We won’t stop reading unless one of the things in the previous question has happened. We’ll usually keep going so we definitely allow for a slow build.

Also, if you didn’t take time to read it over we won’t either. Incorrectly formatted plays, or copious typos will usually make us stop reading quickly. Also, if your piece doesn’t conform to our submission guidelines, such as wrong word count, we will reject your piece unread. Our submission guidelines can be found at thefuriousgazelle.com/submit


SQF: If The Furious Gazelle had a theme song, what would it be and why?

TFG: John Cage’s silent piano piece “4’33’’, because we want you to sit in silence for exactly four minutes and 33 seconds and read our site.


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

TFG: What else do we accept?

WELL, we accept book review requests both for reviews you have written and books you would like reviewed. Please put book review in your e-mail’s subject line. We consider new or upcoming books, as well as books that have been published any time in the last five years that haven’t received significant press.

We also have a news section- so if you would like us to cover your book-related events, or want to set up an interview, let us know. We’re always looking for help and new writers so if you’re interested in writing news, reviews or interviews for us, get in touch!

Thank you, Tess and e.kirshe. We all appreciate your taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Six Questions for Allison Blevins, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher, Harbor Review

Harbor Review publishes poetry, art, and reviews of poetry and art books. They also run two micro chapbook competitions each year with cash prizes.  Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Allison Blevins: Harbor Review began shortly after the birth of my third child.  Motherhood, in many ways, can be isolating.  Despite working as a professor and publishing my own poetry, I still felt disconnected and needed another creative outlet.  Harbor Review was my way of reaching out to a larger creative community.  Additionally, I have always had an obsession with ekphrasis, and I published my ekphrastic chapbook Letters to Joan (Lithic Press, 2019) shortly after Harbor Review began publishing.  The magazine was a way for me to continue that obsession but move on to new obsessions in my writing.


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

AB: I want to be surprised.  This can be a lovely, sharp turn at the end of a poem or language or lineation or content.  I want a submission to make me feel.  I look for poems that linger under the skin and unsettle or ache.  If a poem sticks with me after I've left the computer and gone to wash dishes or brush my teeth, it may be a poem for us.  Finally, I want to publish poems that deserve a break.  What I've learned as an editor is that there is far more excellent work out there than I can publish.  I want to publish the poem that has been searching for the right home.


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

AB: It is a fairly common sentiment that editors don't like submissions that don't follow their guidelines.  This is true at Harbor Review.  Although, as a writer, I know mistakes happen, and I try to always be understanding of that truth.  I also have a hard rule that submissions should be free of grammar and punctuation errors.  We make very few edits, and our expectation is that work comes to us after several revisions and ready to publish.


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

AB: I don't have expectations for the opening of a poem.  We read every poem all the way through, often several times.  Sometimes, poems build and can't be dismissed based off of a humble beginning.  However, the best poems usually delight all the way through.


SQF: What are The Editor’s Chapbook Prize and The Washburn Chapbook Prize?

AB: The Editor's Prize and the The Washburn Prize are our micro chapbook competitions.  Both competitions are for a collection of 10 poems; the winner of each receives publication online and $200.  The Editor's Prize winner is selected by me, and the competition is open to anyone.  The Washburn Prize winner is selected by the poet Laura Lee Washburn, and the competition is open to women or non-binary writers. Our definition of woman includes all women, including transgender and all female-identifying individuals. Please check our guidelines here.

You can read our first Washburn Prize winning micro chapbook Idiom by Merridawn Duckler online at https://www.harbor-review.com/idiom.  One of the benefits of publishing a micro chapbook online is the wide reading audience your book will reach.  Your chapbook has the opportunity to be read by thousands of visitors to our website each month, and we work hard to promote the work of our author's.

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

AB: I wish you'd asked me what the culture is like at Harbor Review or if our staff has a collective ideology.  We are are group that values and respects diversity.  We have a diverse group of editors, and we are committed to publishing diverse writers and artists.  We uphold feminist values in the running of the magazine and competitions, in hiring practices, reading policies, and all aspects of the work we do.  Additionally, we are all working writers and artists, so we love reading and viewing submissions, we love curating the issues, and we love supporting the writers and artists that are part of the Harbor Review family.  Every aspect of Harbor Review is volunteer based; we do this because we love it and want to give back to our creative community.

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

Friday, March 6, 2020

Six Questions for Bre Stephens, Editor/Founder, The Dark Sire

The Dark Sire publishes fiction to 5,000 word, poetry to two pages, and art in the genres of fantasy, gothic, horror, and psychological realism. “Suitable subject matter may include, but is not limited to, vampires, monsters, old castles, dragons, magic, mental illness, hell, disease, or decay of society.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Bre Stephens: I started The Dark Sire (TDS) for two reasons. First, I was nearing the end of my master's study in English and Creative Writing and wanted to give back to the writing community, to support fellow writers. I thought creating an additional venue of opportunity would help creatives find their voice. Second, I saw a lack of opportunities for gothic and psychological writers -- and anyone who wanted to write traditional slasher or horror fiction due to limiting guidelines of publishers. From my research, gothic and psychological fiction is a small market that most publishers won't cater to due to lack of marketability (profit); likewise, most publishers won't print too much violence, blood, gore, and/or controversial content due to the social climate we live in. In my professional opinion, limiting creativity in any way is a form of censorship that I cannot abide. Thus, the creation of TDS helps me support the writing community by giving opportunities to silenced writers of those works not publishable elsewhere. For me, giving a creative a voice, a platform on which to be heard, is the goal. I am proud to publish Poe-era works, as well as dark, creepy, twisted, and even violent works that entertain.


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

BS: Professionalism is the number one thing I look for in a submission, with mastery of craft and story arc the second and third. I have guidelines set and expect the author to use them to be the most successful in the process. The attention to detail, making sure everything is in its place, wanting to make a good first impression is all part of professionalism. If a form is half done or the query letter incomplete, I wonder how professional or complete the creative work will be. The professionalism of the submission marks the professionalism of the author's craft. The author's craft, then, is what I seek in the first few lines of text -- mostly, the first line. I can tell a great writer from the look and feel of the writing itself. Short stories, for example, are a completely different storytelling mode, and how the writer crafts the story tells me a lot of the writer's mastery of the medium. This is why mastery of the craft is so important, which leads to mastery of the story arc. No matter what kind of submission I receive, each needs a story arc. Short stories need a beginning, middle, and end that throws the reader into a story led by a strong protagonist; a poem needs to delve quickly into its message; a piece of art needs to carry its viewer into a new world that is waiting to be expressed. In short, professionalism, mastery, and story is what I look for in all submissions, and I start looking for such in the submission form and query letter, which I will use as an indicator for the work itself.


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

BS: The biggest turn-off is INCOMPLETE SUBMISSIONS due to not following guidelines, my pet peeve being no synopsis. Most often than not, a submission is rejected (many times without being read) because the creative doesn't follow the set guidelines. This includes completely filling out a form BUT not sending a query letter with attached piece. I do NOT want an email sent to me with just an attachment -- no greeting, no message of introduction, no query letter. When this happens, I just want to hit delete. Almost as equally, a secondary turn-off is a submission not correctly formatted and/or not professionally presented. If the work isn't polished, I'm not interested.


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

BS: Action, the jump into mid-story, word choices that will drag me into the grit; for art, I'm looking at color choices, composition, and texture/depth. The creative has to grab me and hold on tightly within that opening (first glance). If they can do that, their work will most likely hold my attention. My suggestion, don't waste time in setting up description. Just. Get. To it.


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

BS: Politics, agenda, erotica, slice of life. TDS is a darker toned magazine that publishes stories with grit, dirt, and darkness intertwined with psychological aspects of mind-churning dizziness. Anything too bright or happy, or politically motivated, would be a tough sell for me to approve for TDS. I want at least an undertone of darkness churning in the story. Remember: "Suitable subject matter may include, but is not limited to, vampires, monsters, old castles, dragons, magic, mental illness, hell, disease, or decay of society.” Any story, poem, or art that strays from this would also be a hard sell, especially if politically charged, slice of life, or romance/erotica.  


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

BS: The question I'd like to pose would be, "Is TDS open to LGBTQ+, controversial content, and international submissions?" The answer: ABSOLUTELY! In the debut issue, I printed an LGBTQ+ short story that had been rejected by many other publishers because of controversial content. I'm all about giving a voice to the voiceless. And, it is my belief as a publisher that controversy is needed in order to discuss today's most critical social and cultural issues; and to do so, censorship is unwarranted. Lastly, I love getting submissions from international creatives, which have represented such countries as the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, and Indonesia. I will give a voice to any creative that gets my attention -- though getting and keeping my attention isn't easy.

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

Friday, February 28, 2020

Six Questions for Nick Olson, Editor, (mac)ro(mic)

(mac)ro(mic) publishes flash fiction and creative nonfiction to 1,000 words. “We want your heart, your soul, the pieces that are a part of you.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Nick Olson: Before launching (mac)ro(mic), I had edited at a few other magazines (I was at one point Associate Editor at Cease, Cows, Assistant Editor at The Citron Review, and Managing Editor at The Arrival Magazine), and I absolutely loved the process—discovering and publishing new writers, breaking dry spells for experienced writers, and just generally championing the work of others. Starting/running my own magazine seemed like a worthy challenge and a logical next step, so I took it. I’m very glad that I did.


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

NO: Honesty, voice, and clarity. I’m not picky when it comes to POV, tense, perspective, genre, etc. What it comes down to is that I’m looking for powerful work, and in my experience, powerful work comes from honesty. If not factual honesty in the form of creative nonfiction, then emotional honesty. I can tell when a writer really feels what they’re writing, when they’re pouring themselves into a story, and I can usually tell that within the first sentence or two. I live for that. After that, voice and clarity tend to tag along automatically when you’re writing with honesty.


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

NO: The intent to impress rather than express. Vocabulary is great, and a witty style is fun to read, but it all has to be in service to the work. If it veers too far into look-ma-no-hands territory, it quickly takes me out of the story. Once immersion is lost, that’s pretty much it.


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

NO: I look for a hook, a hint toward theme and tone, and a character/situation that I need to know more about. I tend to have one of my old college writing professors in my ear while I’m reading submissions, with questions like: Why does this story need to be told? And: Why now? I don’t need or want those questions to be answered right away, but I want to have some possible answers of my own when I finish the story. Also: never, ever, ever underestimate the power of an excellent first sentence.


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

NO: Great question! I love Wigleaf, and I was already a huge fan of The Citron Review and Cease, Cows before I was brought onboard at those magazines. Also: Cleaver, Molotov Cocktail, decomP, Oblong, Eunoia Review, [PANK], Monkeybicycle, Tin House, Glimmer Train, SmokeLong Quarterly… The list goes on and on. There are so many wonderful editors and writers, so many incredible magazines out there. It’s a great time to be a lover of literature.


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

NO: I wish you’d asked whether I knew about SQF before this interview, because the truth is that I’ve known about this site for quite some time, and I love what you’re doing with it. I used to read your interviews with editors back when I was a younger writer without a published story to my name, when I was looking for ways to get my work out there and make it stand out, so it feels surreal to be doing an interview with you all these years later, now that I’m an editor myself and have been lucky enough to have my own work published in a bunch of really cool places. Thanks so much for the interview, and thanks so much for doing what you do. It really makes a difference.

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