Friday, July 12, 2019

Six Questions for Tanya Ferrell, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, SERIAL Magazine

SERIAL publishes short stories of 500-10,000 words, novellas, novels, and serialized fiction. “We accept all genres, however we specialize in genre fiction like action-adventure, science-fiction, mystery, fantasy, horror, thriller, romance, and westerns.” The reading level must be young adults. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Tanya Ferrell: I started SERIAL Magazine because I love serialized fiction. I’ve been reading and writing free serialized genre fiction online for over 10 years now and maybe a few years ago, I got inspired by Stephen King’s book On Writing where he discussed his journey as a young writer submitting to magazines… which led me to revisit to Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Barsoom which I’d argue is one of the best serialized pulp fiction stories of all time. These many points of inspiration made me want to see if there was still an appetite for serialized fiction and old school pulp mags, so…SERIAL Magazine was born.

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

TF: Pacing is everything. It has to suck you in and be a fast read, because I don’t believe genre readers or magazine readers are especially patient people, especially with unknown authors. I also don’t think SERIAL Magazine is something that readers sit down to read cover to cover on a leisurely Saturday. It’s small and compact, designed for portability, and I imagine our stories are read between commercial breaks and in bathrooms and on commutes. We fit in where we can get in.

In that vein, within the first few paragraphs, the character needs to be given a compelling reason to care. Is the main character and/or the situation they’re in sympathetic? Is the environment especially unique and interesting? Is a mystery afoot that we want to see resolved?

While not always necessary, we love an unexpected moment or twist, something that makes the jaw drop and prompts a “WTF?!” reaction. We want stories that will stick with people and be talked about after they’re read. When the editorial team meets to discuss the stories we’ve read, these are usually the ones that stick out.

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

TF: If I’m halfway through page one and I don’t know who the main character is and why I should care about them, and what the premise or conflict in the story will be then it’s unlikely I’ll keep reading. I’ll do a skim but if nothing interesting catches my eye, then it’ll likely be rejected. Not because it’s a bad story, but because it isn’t a good fit for our publication.

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

TF: This will sound bad, but I don’t read a lot of magazines or zines on a regular basis. I check-in and skim read Clarkesworld pretty frequently as I really admire what Neil Clarke has done to build up that magazine. But I’d say I spend more time reading vintage pulp mags, serialized stories that have been turned into novels, and modern serialized fiction.  

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

TF: We don’t publish erotica. But I suppose hard sells would be stories that feature ghosts, Nazis, and/or hate crimes. Many authors don’t take ghost stories far enough, a character realizes that the person they’ve been interacting with was a ghost and that’s the end… which doesn’t make for a compelling story. And many authors use serious topics like Nazism and hate crimes as a crutch to add gravitas and depth to their story when the actual bones of the story aren’t very strong.

I’ll also say writing that still needs a lot of editing. I am 100% a story person. I can read through writing that needs work to find the gem of a story hidden in there. But editing does take time and slows us down. My editorial team has gotten good at saving me from myself and shooting down stories that will eat up a lot of our time in editing.

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

TF: Are bios / cover letters necessary for submission?

Please don’t waste your time sending a bio or cover letter. They don’t get read. All submitted stories go into a folder to be read and we choose the stories we like most. Once we’ve chosen, we reach out to the author. Bios don’t get read until days before publishing. Cover letters never get read. We only want your story. If you’re submitting a novel, we would also like a synopsis. But that’s it!

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

Friday, July 5, 2019

Six Questions for Samantha Daniels and Eric Orosco, Co-Directors, Levee Magazine

Levee Magazine publishes prose up to 8,000 words (including flash fiction and flash nonfiction) and poetry. Their submission page provides lists of works they enjoy and works they skim. “Overall, we won’t know what we’ll love or hate until we see it.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Levee Magazine: While there’s a plethora of literary magazines in the world, there’s never too many outlets for authors to get their work out. We wanted to create a magazine that’s open to anyone from anywhere, no matter how much or how little experience they have. None of what we publish is fodder—if we don’t believe in a piece enough to invest ink and paper on it, we won’t take it. We make sure we produce a magazine that writers and editors alike can be proud of.

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

Samantha: Something that has lots of heart, lots of thought, and the craftsmanship needed to convey that heart and thought in a way that I feel it, too.

Eric: Sentence variety, momentum, and surprise.

  1. Sentence variety keeps the submission alive; it’s what creates a rhythm that keeps the reader going and shows that the author has more than a handful of words up their sleeve.
  2. Submissions that keep the momentum going with intention keep the reader engaged—I believe that a piece should always be moving toward something and that every sentence should be aiding that in some way. 
  3. Right now we have over 200 submissions to read through, and I can guarantee that a month from now I’m only going to remember the ones that found a way to surprise me. 

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

Samantha: Flat writing—be that poorly-written dialogue, lack of musicality in the language (especially when it comes to poetry), undeveloped characters and/or plot—the list goes on and on. Essentially, if I’m reading a piece and my mind is allowed to wander onto different things while I’m reading it, I’m gonna vote to reject it.

Eric: For fiction, I’m turned off by writing I can’t visualize.
For poetry, I’m turned off by poems that break lines and stanzas without a clear intention.

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

Samantha: When it comes to the opening, I expect to see craftsmanship in the writing, and I want my curiosity to be piqued.

Eric: I’m looking for the three basics: character, plot, and setting. How an author handles those in the beginning is telling of the piece as a whole.

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

Levee: We are comfortable with reading and publishing uncomfortable material. What it really comes down to for us is whether or not the writing itself can carry the weight of the material in a meaningful way.

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

What are we reading right now (besides Levee submissions)?

Samantha: I’m finally getting around to reading The Animals by Christian Kiefer. He’s got a new novel out called Phantoms, so I gotta catch up!

Eric: I’m reading Jurassic Park by Michael Chrichton for the first time and also re-reading Junk by Tommy Pico.

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

Friday, June 28, 2019

Six Questions for Clarabelle Fields, Editor, Carmina Magazine

Carmina Magazine publishes prose under 3,000 words, poetry, and photography. “Simply put, we are looking for creative works that are inspired by some aspect of classical studies and that incorporate and/or allude to classical themes, places, characters, and stories in some way, shape, or form. “ Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Clarabelle Fields: Classics and creative writing have long been two serious passions/interests of mine, and I have always loved seeing all the beautiful ways various authors and artists have been inspired by ideas drawn from classical literature. I wanted to offer a platform where modern-day authors could continue to do what so many other authors have done prior: using classics to create something new, imaginative, and beautiful. I love being able to see both of my favorite things (classics and writing) being combined into one project.

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

CF: 1. Meaningful engagement with/usage of classics in the writing. I’d like authors to demonstrate that they have a relatively good understanding of the classical material that they’re using in their work. This doesn’t mean that they need to know every nitty-gritty, pedantic detail of the specifics of a mythological narrative or of a particular period in history. I just want to get a sense that the usage of classics in the writing serves a thought-out purpose that seeks to convey a message or meaning to readers. Just as an example, let’s say you want to write a story with characters that are named after figures from classical myth. These characters don’t even need to be anything like their original Greco-Roman counterparts. You could completely reimagine them and write your own story featuring these completely new characters using those ancient names. There just needs to be a deeper meaning behind why you have chosen those particular names for them, something that shows that you put thought and purpose into how you blended classics with your writing.

2. Original content. Even though I’m looking for work that draws from myths, stories, and histories that already exist, I like for submissions to always contain enough new content—ideas, plot twists, additional storylines, etc—that they are original and unique unto themselves. The work, though inspired by classics, still needs to be an original creation that adds something to the existing narrative. For example, if you want to submit a retelling of a myth or a reworking of an ancient storyline, you need to add something creative enough that it makes the work definitively your own and offers a new perspective on the topic.

3. A compelling narrative. As I also mention in response to another question below, I look for submissions that can reel me in and hold my attention. I like submissions that have a strong sense of purpose and direction and that are held together by a good storyline.

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

CF: One thing that produces a very fast rejection is if the submission clearly does not follow the submission guidelines. If it appears that the author didn’t take the time to read through the submission guidelines page before sending their work in, I’m left with a sour taste in my mouth. The submission guidelines are there for a reason—to make things easier for both me and the authors who are sending me their work. I hate having to turn down a work simply because it doesn’t fit what the magazine is looking for. The work itself might be perfectly fine, but if it doesn’t fit with the guidelines, I can’t publish it, regardless of its merit. I will also get turned off by seeing classical themes/names/places just being peppered into a story to make it “classical” without there being a deeper meaning or understanding behind their usage.  

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

CF: The first thing I look for is whether the piece fits with Carmina Magazine’s focus or not. Does it relate to classics in a meaningful way? Is the author offering a new perspective on ancient themes and stories? Have they successfully integrated these ideas in their work? These are the initial questions that I ask myself as I start to read a submission. Another thing I look for is whether the submission has a compelling narrative that catches my attention (as mentioned previously). If the piece doesn’t reel me in by the first paragraph or first few lines, I’ll be less inclined to select it for publication in the end. It’s great if the piece—especially the opening of the piece—contains some kind of “hook” to grab readers’ attention. This could be an enticing bit of dialogue, strong imagery to draw the reader into the story’s world, an action scene…something punchy or sharp or breathtaking enough to really catch you as you’re reading. 

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

CF: I don’t know if the magazine has one theme song in particular, but there definitely are albums and musicians that complement its overall theme/purpose. I would point readers to the work of a modern Greek band called Daemonia Nymphe. Just as Carmina Magazine seeks to combine classics with modern creativity, this band draws from ancient Greek music, mythology, and language to create their own meaningful, classics-inspired music, and that is similar to the interdisciplinary creativity that Carmina Magazine is all about.  

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

CF: “The submission guidelines page says you accept work of all genres. Is this true? Are there genres you prefer for submissions?”

Carmina Magazine does accept work of all genres! As long as the work integrates classics in a meaningful way, I am more than happy to consider it for publication. There aren’t specific genres that I strongly prefer to receive. People very commonly submit historical fiction, fantasy, and poetry.

One thing that I do personally love, though, and something that I hope to incorporate more in the magazine is genre-bending/genre-blending fiction. I love seeing classics being used in genres and forms of creative expression that we might not traditionally associate with it. (E.g. James Joyce’s Ulysses or the Coen brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou?) I love it when the author isn’t afraid to push the boundaries of genres and traditional expectations and even goes out on a “literary limb” to explore ancient themes in radically new ways. The possibilities are endless: a fusion of classical myth and Stephen King-esque horror, classics-themed haiku, etc., etc. That said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with submitting work that doesn’t seek to do this. I’m still happy to accept work that doesn’t genre-bend/blend. Genre-bending/blending is just something that I personally really enjoy reading and I love seeing how creative and diverse authors’ work can be when they do this.

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

Friday, June 21, 2019

Six Questions for Mette Jolly and Philippa Hall, Editors, Funny Pearls

Funny Pearls publishes cartoons, short stories and funny takes on life written by women worldwide. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Mette Jolly: I was looking for funny, short pieces to read online. Anything, a humorous dating series, short stories, cartoons. Something to read during breaks instead of online news and gossip. Admittedly, I may have been looking in the wrong places, nonetheless, I couldn’t find what I was looking for and decided to try and create it. I imagined that if I was looking for it, others might be too.

Philippa Hall: It was Mette’s idea, but I was thrilled when she asked me to join her in this venture. I have always used humour as a coping strategy for life and, like Mette, love the idea of a platform showcasing the funniness of women. I think that a lot of women underestimate how funny they are.

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

MJ: The submission has to make me laugh, or at least smile a lot. Originality is appreciated too as is a tidy, well-structured piece. But I love nothing more than a line that makes me laugh every time I think of it.

PH: Obviously our top requirement is that it has an element of humour. I don’t necessarily expect to be rolling on the floor laughing, but I must smile at some point during the reading. The topic itself may be amusing or the story may be written in a humorous way, even though the subject matter is dark. Or the narrative voice may have a wryness to it. Secondly, for me, good prose is a joy. I love words and have huge admiration for writers who can produce textured language. Thirdly, originality. If you have a fresh idea or a new way of telling a classic story, you will always engage your reader.

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

MJ: We don’t often receive anything that seriously turns me off. But I don’t like banal musing or cliché of any sort, be it in story, expression or even single words. Also, submissions, which are mean-spirited or in which characters have been created purely so that the writer can trash them. That I do find off-putting. 

PH: Laziness. Laziness in all its forms. When a writer hasn’t proofread or bothered to fix basic mistakes or hasn’t pushed themselves to work towards perfecting the writing. That is often manifested, as Mette says, in resorting to clichés – predictable ideas, hackneyed turns of phrase, or falling back on the easy option.

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

MJ: I think the list you mention applies to our website too although we haven’t received very much of that sort of thing. In addition, anything with a particular political angle tends to be a hard sell with our audience. Presumably because they visit the site precisely in order to get a break from all that.  Finally, stories that make the reader struggle through several pages to get to the point are unsuitable for an online format. Don’t get me wrong, a twist at the end can be great, but it mustn’t be the only point of the story.

PH: Sex can provide a great deal of humour in life, so I’m surprised we don’t get more stories about sex! Erotica is different though. Erotica and humour are perhaps not ideal bedfellows – yes, I know what I did there! – so we don’t get a lot of submissions which include blatant eroticism. I’m not sure that there is anything we deliberately use as a hard sell but there certainly are two topics which women seem to enjoy writing about: food and diet; romance and dating.

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

MJ:Greg’s Theme’ from the movie ‘Little Fockers.’

PH: The theme song from ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’. It’s funny but it’s also about being fearless as a woman. That song always lifts my heart.

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

MJ: Perhaps you could have asked why we only accept writing by women.

The answer is that we felt women were poorly represented in the humour genre. I would like to stress that we have no empirical basis for making this claim, it was a feeling, rather than a scientifically established fact. But many female writers have since told us they never thought they could be funny or that they had been told specifically that women aren’t funny. The latter is obviously nonsense.

Another widespread misconception is that only women enjoy humour by women. That’s nonsense too as our male readership would testify.

PH: Since we only accept submissions from women, I wish you’d asked whether our magazine is intended only for women. The answer to that is ‘no’. We have a broad readership and do not market Funny Pearls at a primarily female readership. Everybody needs a laugh!

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

Friday, June 14, 2019

Six Questions for Grey Wolf, General Editor, AHF Magazine

AHF Magazine publishes short fiction, including flash, author interviews, essays on writing alternate history, book reviews, and more. “AHF Magazine is dedicated to promoting alternate history and the associated genres of Science Fiction, Steampunk, Historical Fiction and Fantasy.” Read the complete guidelines here. AHF Magazine is published quarterly, and the quick URL is

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Grey Wolf: The idea came to me walking to work one morning (I do gardening to earn my day-by-day money). I realised that while the AHF website was a good resource for writers to promote published books, I was not providing an avenue for people to promote their new work, or broad ideas. I had previously published 10 issues of Innovate Magazine and 9 (then) of The Wolfian, and the idea of a magazine dedicated to alternate history (and associated genres) strongly appealed. It has always been a passion of mine, and I have always enjoyed reading and helping other people with their writing in the genre (on discussion boards etc). I thought it would be something valuable I could do for writers, whether they were published or not.

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

GW: Although it might sound a bit pedantic, one thing I look for is compliance with the submission guidelines - sent to, specifying it as a submission to AHF Magazine, and telling me something about it in the submission email.

I also look for an interesting start to the piece, that sucks me in and at the same time anchors me in the genre or sub-genre that the piece is about. Because we take submissions from science fiction to urban fantasy, it is useful for the editor to be able to get into the right mindset to assess a piece from early on. While I accept some pieces have twists late on that change expectations, most do not, but it can be confusing not knowing whether I am reading alternate history, historical fiction, or historical fantasy.

I guess a third thing I look for is sensible internal formatting - it is not vital to adhere to the guidelines as to font and line spacing, as I can change those, but I look for the submission to be spaced properly, with breaks clearly signaled and the style to be constant throughout.

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

GW: Bad English - I realise it is not everyone's first language, but if the submission does not make sense, or reads very awkwardly we won't be publishing it. If it is poetry, we might contact the poet and query the problems we have. But if it is prose, we will generally decline it. After all, while anyone can make allowances for writing as a second language, it is the readers who are going to be reading it, and wondering what it is.

Please don't take that to mean we don't want submissions from people whose second language is English - we have had fantastic stories from people around the world. All we mean is that the translation, or the art of writing in a second language, has to be of an acceptable standard to publish.

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

GW: A catch - I think it is that simple; we look for something to draw us in. If it doesn't draw us in, then it probably won't draw the readers in. Drag us into the story on the first page, make us want to carry on reading. We will almost always read a submission to the end, but the difference between the "YES!" pile and the "It got better as it went on" pile is the initial catch. If the reader isn't invested in the story from early on, they will probably skip it when reading the magazine, and the more submissions we get per issue, the less space we have for stories which end well, but don't initially drag you in, because the less patience the reader will have for those.

SQF: Is it really necessary to read the guidelines? Many are long and boring.

GW: Well, if I think a submitter has not read the guidelines, any email replying to their submission will ask them to read the guidelines and agree to them. We might ask this anyway, but we will certainly ask it if we feel that the submitter has not read the guidelines. Either way, you're going to be asked to agree to the guidelines, so it's best to read them!

I don't know what I can do about anyone finding them boring - it's difficult making them exciting! But they are the evolved guidelines from quite a few years' experience publishing magazines. The submitter certainly needs to understand the copyright aspects and that we do not pay. That a submitter is free to use the piece elsewhere, subject to conditions, is the quid pro quo of our not paying for submissions.

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

GW: I guess it would be a question on controversial things - such as sex, magic, using real people as characters etc.

AHF Magazine is aimed for a broad, general audience, so while we have nothing against erotica we won't publish it. But some stories include sex, and this is fine - with the proviso that under Amazon's Terms and Conditions we have to flag this up as an issue of the magazine for over 18's only.
Our primary focus is alternate history, though we include historical fantasy and urban fantasy among the genres we will publish. Within these genres, magic is fine as long as its presence and use keeps the story within those genres.

The use of real people from the past as characters in alternate history is fine (within reason). Using living people is much more problematic - it occurs on a lot of discussion boards, but there is a grey area as to whether that counts as "published". Publishing a story which includes a living person used as a fictional character is a dangerous area for a publisher. If they feature in a by-the-by fashion that does not defame them, we might wave it past. But in general we would approach this would supreme caution.

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