Friday, August 19, 2022

Six Questions for Cormack Baldwin, Editor, Archive of the Odd

Archive of the Odd publishes fiction of 500-8,000 words, nonfiction of 500-1,500 words, and art.  “[A]ll submissions must relate to the current theme and also be found-fiction.” Issues are themed around the horror genre. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Cormack Baldwin: I'm a big fan of found-fiction, so naturally it's a decent portion of what I write. And what I found while submitting is that it's really hard to place, at least compared to traditional prose. It's generally regarded as "quirky", and the things I love most about it, like the tendency to eschew singular narrators, drawn out action sequences, and linear time made it a turn-off for many editors. I remember going through the archives of places I wanted to submit to see if they'd ever even accepted any.

Archive of the Odd is meant to celebrate these narratives, while asking the question, "What is a story?"

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


1. Worldbuilding. We often refer to it as micro-worldbuilding, as we're usually only getting a tiny peek at the world we're reading about. It's less about rigorous detail and more about feeling like a complete world.

2. Characterization. This is an odd one, because we publish things that frequently don't even have characters. Who's the main character of a WikiHow article? But for things like texts, forums, anything where characters interact, we want to know who's speaking instantly, just by the way they talk. It helps readers relate, and it's easier to keep track of who's who.

3. Truth to form. Do emails feel like emails, or prose shoehorned into an email format? Does the small town newspaper read like a smalltown newspaper? Every form has its own character.

A good example for all of these, actually, would by Andy Tytler's “The Comments Section” in Issue 1. As the title suggests, the story is in the form of a comments section on an advice column. And it has that inexplicable draw of reading YouTube comments when you really, really know you shouldn't. There's random arguments. No one's sure who's on whose side. Someone keeps correcting grammar. And it seems like a bunch of non-sequiturs at first, but as you read, the story develops naturally. You get a glimpse into the fear, anger, and humanity of a dystopian world that comes out not in exposition, but in how each person experiences it. You connect with characters whose names are obscured by complicated screen names. It feels like seeing people respond to real world news, and hits all the harder for that.

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

CB: We like humor, and we like horror, but generally things done for shock value are turn-offs. I think part of that is that neither of the editors are easy to shock, given that we both have at least some medical background, and we re-read, so anything that can't hold up to at least two reads isn't going to work. This also means that twist endings have to be developed well, because pieces will be read three, four times. Twists for the sake of twists often lose their impact. 

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

CB: Throwing us right into deep water. The great thing about found-fiction is that it doesn't feel the need to explain itself- if you're filling out a form for a library card, for instance, does it explain what a library is? What your town, state, country is? Some good examples would be Rhonda Eikamp's “The Year's Best Blood Diseases” (read here), which doesn't stop to explain biohacking blood performance art, it just launches into why the bloggers like these ones best. That's not to say you're out of the loop, as a good piece will make clear what is going on, just not through exposition.

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

CB: The good news is there aren't hard sells when it comes to genre, as long as it’s speculative. Hard sci-fi, soft sci-fi, urban fantasy, high fantasy, every form of horror, we want it all. And we don't mind sexual content (except, again, for shock value). We have in our guidelines that we don't publish pure pornography (no plot, no characterization, just sex), but given the form I don't know how big of an issue that would be, anyways. If you can find a way to write found-fiction erotica, be my guest. I want to see how you do it.

One hard sell is pure humor. We don't put that in our guidelines because we love humorous, light-hearted pieces and we don't want people to self-reject. But if the entire point of the story is to make us laugh, it has to be really, really good. In our first issue, we have two pieces, “The Securities and Exchange Commission v. The Undying Sea”, and “Welcome” that are definitely on the spectrum of horror-humor, but they also have engaging stories and characters. (Plus, they manage to make us laugh on every re-read, so, all around wins.)

An odder hard sell is epistolary stories, like diaries and letters—strange, given that two of the longest pieces in the first issue, “Goblin Universe” and “Skipping”, are epistolary. Obviously, we're not going to outright reject them! But it will be more difficult to get one in. Part of this is that they're just so common, and we try not to have multiple stories of the same format. Also, when making final decisions, one thing we consider is "how likely is this to be placed elsewhere". Epistolary has a decent shot with most publishers. A collection of road signs? Maybe not so much. So, if we like both equally, we'll tend toward the road signage.

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

CB: Since we're so niche, I'm going to ask (and answer) "Do you have any advice for writing found-fiction specifically?" because outside of #3, the things we look for are pretty common across spec fic.

The first thing to remember with found-fiction is that you aren't bound to many of the rules of prose. You don't need characters (again, WikiHow) or even necessarily plot—stories can go somewhere and be great reads without having a character create action. Sometimes it's just about the wonder of peering into a different world.

One of the most common things we say when deciding whether to reject a piece is "It's not sure what it wants to be yet." Usually that means something like "there are characters, but they're not strong, and they're not relevant to what the focus seems to be", or "there's exposition that makes us think it's worldbuilding, but then it swerves and there's this miniature plot in said world that feels tacked on".

With that in mind, if you're sitting down to write a piece, ask yourself what exactly you want to get across and focus on that. Don't complicate things because you feel like a story has to have this, that, or the other thing to be good. Is this a worldbuilding piece with evocative prose? Focus on making a beautiful, interesting world. Is this a character-driven plot? Focus on your characters and moving the story along. We don't need exposition. You want a dread-soaked horror story? Bring the dread!

We’re not bound by the same restrictions or expectations as other magazines. We want every permutation, from rich prose to sharp humor to complex story and world. If you make sure your work shines, we’ll see it. Thank you!

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

Friday, August 12, 2022

Six Questions for J. B. Stone, Founding Editor, Variety Pack

Variety Pack publishes flash fiction to 1,000 words, short fiction of 1,001 to 9,000 words, non-fiction to 5,000 words, poetry, reviews/interviews, and visual arts. “We want something short that kicks through the door and pushes against the literary grain. We crave gripping, haunting work that is hard to turn away from once we dig in. We accept both genre and literary work.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

JBS: I started Variety Pack as a means to expand the literary community in a city I have called home for the past 12 years—Buffalo, NY. I saw the work wonderful spaces like Just Buffalo, Peach Mag, and Foundlings Press were doing and wanted to start something that expanded this. When I thought of the concept I sort of thought of how I view my own literary pursuits. Not just aiming for one particular style, or form, or genre to hone my craft in, sort of like a variety pack for literature. I think for me the space I am providing, the aims of the space I hope to cultivate in our weird, and beautiful literary community are extensions of my own personal mission statements. 

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

JBS: I oversee a good portion, but this is an answer best left to my fellow editors


  • Ben-Flash Fiction—Something new. A clear, distinct voice. A flow that takes me from the beginning all the way to the end of the piece without break. 

  • Asela-Poetry—Not being afraid to play with words and language. Bringing themselves out through their writing whether it’s being vulnerable about an important moment in a poet’s life or a reflection. Just having fun with poetry. 

  • Ian-Short Fiction—A character that is well developed with their own voice. A setting that makes me want to go and experience that location. A piece that drives itself forward. I want to be pulled into the work.

  • Skyler-Essays/CNF—To learn something, feel intrigue about a topic. Distinct and creative forms of writing within a non-fiction piece. Movement! I want to read from beginning to end, knowing there was patience and precision put into the story. That every part of what is written down was necessary and made me want to keep reading.

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

JBS: Another best left to my fellow editors.

  • Ben—Clunky writing. Flash fiction is a short drift down a raging river. The voice of the piece should flow as naturally. Writing that’s unsure of its voice, or is using its voice for a contrived purpose, often results in choppy rhythm for the reader. 

  • Asela—It’s either submissions that include racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, colorism, xenophobia, etc., or people sending their work when our submission calls have passed. 

  • Ian—Anything that inspires hate or goes against what Variety Pack's goals are. Along with this, any submissions in which the submitter clearly has not read the guidelines. 

  • Skyler—A missing voice. Creative non-fiction shouldn't lack personality. It shouldn't read like all the textbooks I skimmed over the years. Too often, writers lose themselves in their non-fiction pieces and the writing comes across as dull and lacking spark, when all it needed was a little more of what the writer really has to offer.

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

  • Ben—A reason to keep reading. I want to publish your work. Make me.

  • Asela—Nothing too specific--If that stanza has a great opening line or has language that adds something unique to their work. 

  • Ian—I want the piece to set an atmosphere that pervades through the whole story. 

  • Skyler—A reason to care. The beginning needs to make me think, "well, I really can't put this down until it's over."

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

JBS: When we say we love to see BOTH genre and literary work we absolutely mean it! As for more of our submission categories! We definitely would love to see more Essays, Reviews/Criticisms (Theater/Art/TV/Film/Books/Music) and Visual Art (especially comics!). We are also always looking for more short fiction, flash fiction, and poetry of course! We also would definitely love to see more genre work sent our way (Mystery/Suspense, Horror, SFF).

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

JBS: I think for me a question I love to be asked is where do you see your publication going? Long term goals? I think for me over trying to eventually move to print we eventually want to be a space that pays our contributors, maybe finally expand into having contests with guest judges, even have some digital anthologies set up. This is a process I am actively pursuing, because writing is a labor, and I think we are transparent about not being able to pay for such at this time, but again we want more than anything to not only be a space that cultivates both new, emerging and established writers, but pays them a fair honorarium for their work. For me, being a space that continues the level of accessibility and being a space that actually pays it’s writers is one I aspire for the most in our future.

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

Friday, August 5, 2022

Six Questions for Ariel K. Moniz and Terri Pinyerd, Founders/Editors, The Hyacinth Review

The Hyacinth Review publishes poetry, creative writing, art & photography, essays, columns, and other creative artforms, including music and video content. They are an online journal dedicated to exploring the humanities through various mediums & providing free learning resources for all. Learn more here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Ariel & Terri: As two creators ourselves, with academic backgrounds in English literature and a love for the humanities, we wanted to find a way to share our passions with others. A literary journal has been a long-time dream, and a shared vision made it a reality in December 2021.


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

A&T: We do not approach any piece by looking for anything specific. We give each piece we receive the same consideration and attention as another. We will say that we do tend to gravitate towards pieces that feel intentional, meaningful, and sincere in message and delivery.


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

A&T: If a submission feels like it is unintentionally directionless or is difficult for the reader to connect to, we will often decline the piece with hopes that the creator will be given the time to bring it to its fullest potential before resubmitting it to us or elsewhere.


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

A&T: We do not search for anything specific, but we do tend to gravitate towards a sense of connectivity and coherence throughout the piece.


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

A&T: Gratuitous violence and excessive sexual content are very hard sells for us. Any kind of discriminatory or bigoted content is completely unacceptable and will result in an immediate ban on submitting in the future. We want people to have access to free-range creativity, but never at the expense of the well-being of others.


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

A&T: We hoped to share a little more about how we aim to be a source of knowledge and positivity for the creative community. Our mission is to use our love for this community and the humanities to benefit other creatives. By starting this magazine, we hope to create a platform for creatives to have their work seen and admired by others. We do our best to support those creators and get their names and work seen by the community. We also offer a list of free resources for everything from language learning to accessing free online courses. An extra feature is an “Author’s Picks” section on our site where we include the books that our contributors have suggested, in the hopes that these works will also help other creatives tap into some inspiration. We have other ideas in mind going forward, and we are excited to see how The Hyacinth Review grows through the generous trust and work of our contributors as well as our own passions as editors.

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

Friday, July 29, 2022

Six Questions for Dylan Fritz, Co-Founder/Editor-in-Chief, Fish Barrel Review

Fish Barrel Review publishes poetry to two pages, fiction/non-fiction to 4,000 words, and artwork. “We are looking for dedicated, enthusiastic writers. Young, old, just starting out, or been at this for decades–we want to see the drive and passion that compels you to create.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Dylan Fritz: I started Fish Barrel Review with a friend after Peter LaBerge, founder of The Adroit Journal, visited our high school poetry class. He talked to us about the world of editing and publishing, and his experiences with founding Adroit when as a sophomore in high school. We were pretty amazed that he was able to do it, and I remember thinking, "Well, if he could, why couldn't I?" This aligned with a newfound interest of editing my peers' work, and I knew this was a project I could be passionate about. I've grown to love figuring out how and why writing can better relate to an audience, and what makes writing good. And being apart of a community of writers is really amazing too, I love emailing back and forth with contributors, and learning from other lit mag editors. It's all worked out better than I could've hoped!

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

DF: I'm always looking for originality--as much as I want a piece to be written beautifully, I'd much rather be surprised by something unlike anything I've read before. I think a lot of teens are taught that a certain type of writing is what's acceptable (flowery prose, deep metaphors, a lot of detail), and we think about it too hard. I just want to see that people aren't overthinking it, and just writing what feels like them. Don't worry about sounding like anyone else. 

The second thing has to be a good ending. So many great pieces get ruined at the very end because the author is thinking too hard about wrapping up all the loose ends, and the loose ends don't always need to be wrapped up. Although it's definitely a tricky balance, because when we ask for short stories, we want complete stories. This took a long time for me to understand, but "completeness" doesn't always mean a tight resolution. It can mean that things are starting to get better, or that someone has learned something. It's definitely a tricky balance to strike. 

And this is very poem-oriented, but I love a piece that follows its instincts and jumps from different associations. That's another sign of an author not being too far in their head, because they have the freedom to go with whatever they're thinking and just write it down because it feels right. The raw connections between objects and humans and memories are what makes up poems to me, so I'm always looking for poems that find those connections. 

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

DF: There are a lot of little things that bother me. Not following submission guidelines is a big one, because we have them all listed out. Although, as a writer, I know it can sometimes be difficult to organize when you're submitting to a lot of places in a short amount of time, so I get it. It also turns me off a lot when it feels like the writer takes themselves a bit too seriously, which you can tell from how a piece is written. Unnecessary description, thick paragraphs, long words, something that sounds pretty for the sake of sounding pretty. It reads as almost dishonest to me, and, as editors, we want to see something raw on the page. 

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

DF: I'm looking for something that surprises me a little bit. Something that doesn't seem right but works, or something that I need to know more about. Oftentimes it's not even the plot that catches me, it might just be the writing style of the author that's extra intriguing. We publish a lot of varying writing styles, which I'm a big fan of. 

SQF: Are there story ideas that you’d like to see more of in your submissions, or are there story ideas you receive too many of?

DF: I'd love to see more stories that go way outside the box, and are just super weird. That can be very tricky though, because a lot of times I'll have a story that's weird and I get to the end and I don't know what I just read. I like stories that are weird but use that as a tool to get something else across, something deeper than just weird, and I wish I saw more like that. 

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

DF: What's the most difficult part about running a lit mag?

There are so many difficult parts about running Fish Barrel, from staying organized to balancing it with other life responsibilities. Most small lit mag editors don't do this full-time, it's not exactly the most fruitful position in the world. I also hate sending out rejection letters for pieces I really like. Oftentimes I'll read a piece and get super excited about it, but the ending just doesn't work, or the plot didn't amount to anything (even though I can tell the writer is very talented). So it's difficult to have to say no. But all of it is very much worth it, because it's so fun and rewarding to see an issue of writing come together in real time. I love being able to give people a platform.

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

Friday, July 22, 2022

Six Questions for Will Faour, Editor, Space City Underground

Space City Underground publishes prose to thirty pages, poetry to twenty pages (max of seven poems), art and reviews, and various forms of art. “We desire to create a space where stellar artists can express themselves unapologetically, free from any oppressive, earthly confines.” Learn more hereand here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Will Faour: Originally, Space City Underground was a joint effort between three people, myself included. We had all worked together on a previous magazine, and once our time there ended, we decided we wanted to keep working on a literary magazine. We held a few meetings to discuss the theme, such as if we wanted a literary magazine that accepted any kind of work or if we should have a more specific focus. All three of us were part of marginalized communities in some manner, be it gender, sexuality, religion, or some combination, and we wanted to use this magazine to platform others in marginalized communities. From our first meetings in 2020, the world has grown more polarized, and as we're now seeing legislation enacted to harm minority groups even more, we all really want to see others use this magazine to let their voices be heard. Even though I'm the only one left with a direct role in the magazine since we started, we all believed in this goal, and the current staff is extremely passionate about it too.

Additionally, on the administrative side, despite my title of editor, we are an explicitly anti-hierarchical magazine. We vote on each decision, and everyone holds the same amount of power. Some participate more than others, but we take everyone's opinions seriously. This ties into why we started SCU: the other founders and I were already against most forms of hierarchy in general, and after some of our previous litmag experiences, we all agreed that SCU would not work if it had a strict hierarchy. Everyone in our staff holding equal power means it's easier for us to find and hear as many voices as we can, and no one ever feels left out. I'd discussed an anti-hierarchical approach with a few co-editors at my previous magazine, but it never panned out. Experimenting with this approach was the other reason for starting this magazine, and so far, it's worked wonderfully for both our staff and our submitters.

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

WF: My answers for this question and the next two will likely differ from some of our other staffers, but as a member of the prose team, I still feel qualified to respond here. In no particular order, I'm looking for storytelling, prose, and identity. When I say storytelling, I mean all of the basics: plot and themes, characters, really anything that draws my interest. We love receiving and reading stories of all genres, but that alone doesn't guarantee publication; what the author is trying to say and how they say it are what stand out here. To that end, prose also plays a key role here. A unique style of prose may be enough for us to decide on publication, but more often than not, it's about how well the prose and storytelling complement each other. I'm a fan of prose that gets to the point while also demonstrating the author's skill with the pen, churning out beautiful words without growing so flowery that it becomes distracting. The rest of the prose team may not necessarily agree, and I can't speak for the poetry team at all, but that's what appeals to me in a story.

In terms of identity, I'd like to start by addressing and dispelling the notion that putting identity first harms a story's quality. If the main character is not a straight, white cis man, or some aspect of the character's identity plays a part in the story itself, it's not "forced," and it doesn't lessen the quality; it simply is a part of the piece, and one that may resonate with plenty of people with similar experiences or looking to see themselves somewhere. To say otherwise is to insinuate that the default characterization or experience for all stories is that of a straight, white cis man, and I don't buy that for one second. With that said, I don't believe one's identity does or doesn't need to be at the forefront of a story. Rather, it shines in the piece they write, appearing through the prose, the characters, the settings, and everything else. Someone may write a story directly about their own experiences, or they may distance themselves from the story and allow their identity to seep in through more subtle ways. They may focus on a GSRM identity, or they may write of their own experiences, knowledge, job history, etc.; but when a part of who the author is appears in the story, no matter how, that creates something beautiful.

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

WF: You can probably tell that I come from a family of journalists when I say typos everywhere. English is an ever-changing language with so many different variations and nuances, and I don't believe in being strict and upholding a 19th-century dictionary's word. Using a different spelling or having one or two typos is fine, and English is hard and filled with plenty of opportunities for stylistic prose, so grammar errs don't bother me either, but unless it's part of the story in some manner, seeing countless typos will give me a negative impression that might otherwise be unearned. Word, Docs, and other programs for writing have spell checks, so not even using that before submitting tells me you don't really care about this piece and just want to have your name out there, and if you don't care, why should we?

This is exceedingly uncommon, and we also take into account ESL speakers. Again, this is just hastily typing something up in a short amount of time and sending it in without even looking over it or hitting f7 once. We tend to be lenient with our deadlines, so there's no need to rush a midnight submission in. Finally, if a piece is filled with errors, but it's clear the writer put effort into it, we can typically look past these errors.

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

WF: I just want some indication of what this piece is about. It can be a single line of dialogue, or it can describe the setting of the piece, but I'm not fond of having to guess what I'm reading about at the start. I don't want to speak for the poetry team, but when I look over a poem, I'm interested in the style that presents itself in the opening.

SQF: Your Reviews section is different from most other publications in that it’s not limited to books or collections. Please briefly explain how you came up with the idea.

WF: Thank you for asking about this! Truth be told, the reviews section in its current state is the brainchild of our reviews editor, Ashley. I had a few reviews I was interested in writing and publishing when we started SCU, but Ashley was the one who wanted to turn reviews into its own section. While we love reading, we also love consuming other forms of media such as movies, albums, and video games, and at our previous litmag, we discussed submitting these kinds of reviews. It had already published reviews of movies and albums in addition to books, but a video game review I wrote as an associate editor became the first video game review they had ever published, and there was no pushback at all from the upper staff. Since that was the first litmag Ashley and I worked at, reviewing any medium, rather than just books, has always been the norm to us, and there was never a question about restricting it.

With that said, so far, the only reviews have come from our own staffers. Anyone is welcome to submit a review or literary essay to us!

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

WF: One question a former staffer asked that I've thought about a lot is what my long-term goals for SCU are. It's difficult to think about what the future holds with how everything is changing in the world right now, but I want to stay with this magazine and continue with its mission statement for as long as I can. We held a fundraiser for trans youth with our previous volume, and I'd like to keep doing those kinds of things moving forward. SCU is a literary magazine, but it's not just that to me. I think that litmags themselves can be a form of art, and I like seeing SCU as its own art, which will continue growing and developing for as long as possible. If I can learn that we helped even one person feel safer or better, then that'll be a success to me. In the long term, I want SCU to be a platform that helps as many people as possible and makes the world a better place.

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