Friday, April 26, 2019

Six Questions for Dom Fonce and N.P. Stokes, Co-Founders/Editors, Volney Road Review

Volney Road Review publishes poetry, fiction to 3,500 words, and art. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?


N.P. Stokes (prose editor): I got involved with Volney Road because I felt that the literary scene in Youngstown had a lot to offer. That feeling grew, and got bigger as we marched onward. I discovered there was something important, or even magical, when authors and stories capture the feeling of place and time. Every one of us builds our mind through reference frames. Every experience we have tells us how to understand and communicate our other experiences, that is why Star Trek still feels like the nineteen sixties, despite being about the final frontier and all. By making moments of their lives tangible, through both fiction and non-fiction, writers who capture their schema, the essence of their world, honor those moments by immortalizing them in ways that documentaries, news reports, and history books cant.  I envisioned myself and Dom creating a magazine centered around works that have a strong sense of that, artists capturing snapshots of their little slice of the infinite, and transforming the unknowable individual into a universal experience through their art.

Dom Fonce (poetry editor):
I wanted to help create a Youngstown-based lit mag that wasn’t owned or operated by Youngstown State University. I also felt morally obligated to create a publication that paid its contributors (although, for now, it’s not much.)


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

NPS: Working with prose, the number one thing I look for is that the story starts in the first two paragraphs. The writer must quickly establish a voice that draws the reader in. It does not have to be an action scene, or anything dramatic, though it can be.  The dialog, events, or narrator's voice has to feel real. A story that immediately captures that lightning of intention usually does everything else right as well.

Second, the story needs to feel important, not that all stories aren't important, but the story has to feel that way. It’s a difficult thing to quantify, but if the narration gets side tracked or spends too long talking about events or objects that are not central to the plot, it suffers from slowdown, and usually tends to lose that sense of voice.  Urgency and importance drives a short story. The whole thing can take place in the backseat of a taxi cab, two people arguing through text. But what is important is that what happens has real weight, real meaning to someone, somewhere.

Third is word economy. When phrases or idioms become over-used they lose meaning. They also get distracting. In dialog characters might, and often should, conform to specific speech patterns, but in narration I look for signs that a writer sees their sentences as art. What I mean by art is that the words themselves are interesting apart from the story. Artists experiment and explore conveying ideas and images in as varied arrays that technical writing, or every day writing does not.  You can tell with a single paragraph when a writer has moved beyond using written words to tell a story, and into transforming the act of writing the words themselves into a matter of importance.

DF:
As I continue to write myself, I find that I must also work to follow the advice I’m about to give. With regards to poetry, I’ve been using the term “hitting the mark” recently. A poem either hits or misses its mark.

Every poem wants to be profound. However, every aspect of the poem—the word choice, the central and subsequent images and metaphors, the word music, the focus, and the meaning—must align to create profundity. A poem must go beyond personal journaling and confessionalism. Likewise it must go beyond zany and outrageous imagery. A profound poem has to speak to many people—for this to occur, the language must be approachable enough and the message must be about the universal human experience.

For issue 1.2, we received over 750 poems and chose only 5 to publish. That may seem rough for submitters, but I believe it should be difficult to publish poetry.


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

NPS: If a piece begins with a long string of exposition, it’s usually a non-starter. Another let down are stories that seem to either lose focus, or lack focus. This is actually a challenge I find happens in my own writing. As a writer I want my story to do everything. But as a reader, as an editor, I realize that if a story is trying to do everything, capture everything, then it isn't doing anything, or capturing any one thing well. It's a little bit different with books, but with short stories the story needs to hone in on something, capture that one thing, and deliver as much of it to the reader, as succinctly, as possible.

DF: When a poem feels too much like a personal journal/diary entry.


SQF: Is reading the guidelines really necessary? Many are long and boring.

NPS: Editors receive hundreds, even thousands, of pieces to review. If your piece is not formatted correctly, it takes that much more time to review it. Multiply those five minutes it takes to fix the formatting by several hundred and you have a serious time sink. Pieces that are not formatted correctly are rejected outright. Also, beyond the practicality, there is a level of respect involved. Our editors and staff are taking time and really putting in effort to read every single piece—so long as it’s formatted correctly—and give it a fair evaluation. That is because we respect all of our contributors and prospective contributors as writers and artists. Not taking the time to read the guidelines and submit in the correct format, that isn't just showing that you don't respect us. It’s also showing that you respect your submission less than we do.

DF: I understand that sometimes submitting to magazines can feel like number and odds game—especially if you are an academic and publishing is part of your job.

After managing the submissions for issue 1.2, I found that the majority of submission errors came from individuals who were obviously mass-submitting their work to dozens of magazines. While I don’t support this practice, I understand the volatility of the publishing world and the need to find homes for pieces.

However, for us, if you do not follow the guidelines, your work will be rejected outright.


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

NPS:
I'd be in agreement. If its sex for the sake of sex, or violence and gore just for the sake of violence and gore, or anything generally considered vulgar, really, it needs to be there only if it adds something of value. If it does not serve a deeper purpose, usually the writer is using sensational imagery to make up for something missing in their story. Better to find what the story is trying to say, and spend time saying it. Having said that, however, if the event is critical to the story and captures something real, or adds to a character—if it does that job of making the personal universal—then anything goes.

DF: It’s unlikely that we’d publish anything that showed overt hatred to people based on their immutable characteristics. That’s not to say that characters cannot be hateful as part of their character or that hatred could not be used to prove a broader point. So far in the small life of VRR, however, submissions of real hatred have been very rare.

Essentially, as N.P. stated above, anything can go as long as it’s done in good faith.


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

NPS: Why write? Why submit?

Usually when you ask a writer why they write, their answer will be something along the lines of "because I have to." I respect that, and I feel that way too. But, I've come to learn that it’s not enough. Writing because you have to, that is why people keep journals, or create terrible and amazing fan-fictions. I'm not looking down on those as forms of expression mind you, but the writers I have been around who are the most successful go further than that. They write not just because they have to, they write because they have an audience that they want to make a connection with. Do that. Write what you need to write, but when you are writing, imagine your audience, the person or people you are sending your signals to. Then when you submit, you'll have a better chance of knowing which magazines you should submit to. They'll be the ones that you feel like your readers will already be reading. When you are writing for yourself, your having fun, and you are creating art, I won’t deny that. But when you are writing for an audience—an audience you plan on trying to reach—that is when you know that what you are writing is important, by knowing who it is important to.

DF:
What separates VRR from other lit mags?

We are comprised of a young, thoughtful staff that dares to pay its contributors. We are based in the Rust Belt which, to me, is among the most interesting, diverse, and tough regions in America.

The majority of our staff are university seniors. I, for example, have been accepted in Temple University’s MFA program in Philadelphia. As our staff moves on to graduate school or the workforce, each member will take a piece of VRR with them, opening new and exciting opportunities to VRR and its contributors.

Thank you, N.P. and Dom. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Six Questions for Amanda Steel, Editor, Printed Words

Printed Words publishes poems to 50 lines, creative non-fiction, book reviews, flash fiction to 500 words, short stories to 2,000 words, and more. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Amanda Steel: I know there are a lot of talented writers out there, and I wanted to help get their work published. I understand that the more well-known publications get so many submissions and they can’t publish all the good writing they receive, so I created Printed Words.


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

AS:
Following the guidelines is always a good start, because it makes my job easier. I have them for a reason, however I wouldn’t rule out accepting good writing because of it. I also love when people send in short stories, book reviews, flash fiction or creative non-fiction because we don’t get as much of those genres. Lastly, anything that is well-written and thought-provoking is likely to grab my attention, because if it makes me think, it will make the readers think too.


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

AS: Personally, I’m not a fan of forced rhyming and over the top language, but there are three of us selecting pieces for the e-zine, so this doesn’t rule out this kind of thing being selected.


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

AS: Lynyrd Skynyrd's All I Can Do Is Write About It, because sometimes that’s all you can do—then submit that writing to Printed Words, of course.


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

AS: Anything that discriminates against anyone else. Or lots of swearing, because we have to think about people who read the e-zine. We want people to be entertained, not offended.


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

AS: Do you send personal replies when rejecting a writer’s work?

At the moment I do, while we have a steady but manageable number of submissions. As a writer I know how frustrating the “not quite right for us” rejections are while understanding that editors don’t usually have time to give personal replies. While the submissions remain manageable, I aim to offer at least a line or two on why I haven’t accepted someone’s work.

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

Friday, April 12, 2019

Six Questions for Annabel Mahoney and Katherine Mills, Editors, The Wellington Street Review

The Wellington Street Review publishes poetry, fiction to 3,000 words, creative nonfiction to 3,500 words, and art. Read the complete guidelines here.


SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Wellington Street Review: Because all our friends were doing it and we wanted to look cool.

No, really we saw a gap - certainly in the UK lit mag scene - for literature and critical engagement with history, which is strange because historical fiction and period drama tend to dominate the cultural landscape. Annabel has a degree in history and is studying critical theory at postgrad level, and Kat’s degree is in English Literature and Creative Writing. Both of us write a lot on history and memory, or how historical figures are received and interpreted. The nice thing about the phrase ‘historical engagement’ is that can mean engagement on a macro or a micro level; how you engage with or think about the past, or how the past is engaged with or portrayed.


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

WSR: Originality – underrepresented historical thought and evidence. Original reception of historical media; original interpretations of events and historiography. Not poems about your ex.

Cohesiveness – we like there to be a tangible thought behind the poem. Our optional commentaries provide the writer with a space to explain how their writing relates to the reader and to the overall ethos of the Wellington Street Review. The reader is vital in writing; the work is written to be received and there must be a takeaway for the reader. Poems you have to read several times to parse or which are too esoteric can be difficult to engage with.

Voice – a recognisable and unique voice from the writer and an idea of how the writer interprets work. We have some lovely poems in our upcoming issue which are pastiches of other poets, but the writers’ reading and voice works in a conversation with the original, and the poem is about the dialogue rather than a conscious emulation.


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

WSR: Not following the submission guidelines is a big and an obvious one. Small mistakes are inevitable and they happen to everyone, but when a submission arrives without any body email or without any engagement with the editors, it’s a tell-tale sign that not much thought has gone into why the writer would like their piece featured.

In the submission process, it’s easy to focus on how your work is right for the journal, but it’s equally important to think about what the journal can do for your work. What can we bring to your piece? Are you submitting because you would like to be featured in a space alongside works of a similar ethos, or to be able to feature a commentary? Or is it because you’ve seen a journal with its submissions open?


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

WSR: Both of us have very different tastes and backgrounds when it comes to poetry. It leads to a more varied end result in the magazine and for some very interesting editors meetings.

Everyone always talks about drawing a reader in; as a reader, what catches Kat’s attention is an evocative use of language. She’s a big fan of Imagism so what she’s looking for in a creative piece is writers who pinpoint an image, time, place, or a feeling which resonates with her. While Annabel has been writing creatively a long time, her background is in academia and teaching and so she likes to see a clear communication of ideas which have a real purpose behind them.

In critical non-fiction, we both like to see a confident approach to the subject matter and a clear, personal voice. Essays don’t have to be dry to be worthy of publication!


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

WSR: In our submission guidelines we ask for submissions without gratuitous swearing, sexual language or violence. We absolutely won’t publish racist, sexist, homophobic or xenophobic content, TERF/SWERF rhetoric, or iterations of Islamophobia, anti-Semitism or any form of religious intolerance. Although periods of history may feature intolerance, and we understand a desire to replicate historical authenticity, as editors we have to draw a line between historicity and promoting intolerance.


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

WSR: “What have you discovered in running a literary magazine?”

Although The Wellington Street Review is only two months old at the time of writing, we have discovered that the growing poetry community on twitter is a great source of both support and readership. Finding an enthusiastic community of writers and publishers who often overlap and who are engaged purely for the joy of sharing in literary work has been a wonderful experience for us.

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

Friday, April 5, 2019

Six Questions for Jay Chakravarti, Founder/Editor, CultureCult Magazine

CultureCult Magazine publishes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, opinion pieces, interviews, and more. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine? 

Jay Chakravarti: Although it was the aspect of storytelling that brought me closer to the Arts and especially literature, I have always been curious about the behind-the-scene aspects of publishing and design. Designing and editing a magazine had been on my wishlist since my days in college, around the time I discovered the many worthy voices and opinions that go unheard in this postmodern state of cacophony. Thus, I finally started CultureCult Magazine in October 2015, three years after finishing the Master's program in English literature at the University of Calcutta.


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

JC: The first thing has to be grammatical consistency. Spelling mistakes are a downer, so is bad grammar, even though I enjoy an exceptional work in smartly written local creole.

The second thing, be it fiction or non-fic, has to be the 'story'. There are stories bearing stark visuals or originality while others treat a tried and tested subject with a supreme penmanship and a fresh perspective. I like both approaches, provided they are done well.

The last thing is the je ne se quois - that undefinable quality that separates a good work from a not-so-good one! I do believe editing involves a lot of gut-feeling when it comes to selecting the eventual line-up of an issue. Sometimes, one is right. Sometimes, one ends up regretting some decisions in hindsight! It's all in a day's work, really!


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

JC: The faulty spelling and grammar thing, I suppose. It practically determines whether I am able to finish reading a submission or not!


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

JC: I would be lying if I said I look for a hook in the first paragraph/stanza itself. It always helps when the writer has my attention by the end of the first paragraph/stanza, but I like to believe I am a patient editor, so if the first whiff of 'magic' comes in the second or third paragraph/stanza instead, it won't be an issue if the overall work has promise.


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

JC: Call me old fashioned, but I find it hard to attach the concept of "hard sell"  to what is essentially a labour of love. Any endeavour, I believe, has to be a labour of love to have a meaningful existence in the first place. It maybe easy to secure some easy reads/purchases by featuring something that 'sells' but I do believe that it's the perfect balance of our curated content, design and art that brings dedicated readers, writers and followers to our magazine.


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

JC: Where is the magazine published from? Which genres do you prefer?

CultureCult Magazine publishes from Kolkata, India. We do not discriminate submissions on the basis of genre, we merely wish to publish the best effort of the artist and hope that we remain open minded enough to feature as many genres and points of view as we possibly can.

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

Friday, March 29, 2019

Six Questions for Cathy Ulrich, Editor, Milk Candy Review

Milk Candy Review publishes flash fiction to 750 words. Only submit previously unpublished work. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Cathy Ulrich: Purely for selfish reasons! I love reading and I love sharing amazing stories with people, and having a literary journal is a great way to do both. Even if a story isn’t a perfect fit for Milk Candy, I’m always so grateful that someone was willing to share their words with me.


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

CU: Beauty in the language, first of all. I’ve been a musician since childhood, and I love finding music and musicality in writing. If the language sings to me, that’s a really good thing.

Something unexpected. I like when a story veers off from the predictable, whether in plot or character or, again, in language. That moment when a story does something you weren’t quite expecting it to do — that’s such a great and powerful moment.

New narratives. I want to share the voices that haven’t traditionally been shared. I want to share the stories that haven’t traditionally been told. There are so many beautiful voices in the world that have been silenced for too long. I want to hear them. I want them to be heard.


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

CU: Any hint of bigotry. A lot of writers don’t notice their implicit bias, but as a person of mixed race (black and Chippewa Cree on my birth mother’s side, white on my birth father’s), it really stands out to me. I try to be as thoughtful as possible in my responses to writers when pointing it out — I haven’t seen anything yet that was intentionally hurtful and I think — I hope — people are open to learning and changing.


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

CU: The first sentence has to draw me in. It needs to be something strong and unique, something that makes me long to keep reading and fall into the story.


SQF: If Milk Candy Review had a theme song, what would it be and why?

CU: Guitar Vader’s “Happy East.” Miki Tanabe’s vocals are so childlike and ethereal, and this song is so unlike any of their other songs. I still get chills when I hear it.


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

CU: “Will this ever be a paying venue?”

As much as I would love to pay writers for their work, and as much as I feel they deserve it, the fact is that I’m a single mother working three jobs to make ends meet. I would hate to charge submission fees when that is something I typically can’t afford to pay myself. I chose an inexpensive platform (submissions through e-mail, WordPress web site) so that I would never have to shutter Milk Candy’s doors due to lack of funds. I want our writers’ works to always be available for people to read.

So, sadly, Milk Candy will probably never be a paying venue. But we want to always be here to share beautifully weird stories.

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