Friday, September 24, 2021

Six Questions for Nathaniel Mellor, Editor, Pigeon Review

Pigeon Review publishes short fiction to 3,000 words, flash fiction to 1,000 words, micro-fiction to 300 words, and art. “Sometimes the moments that impact us the most are the quiet ones. The ones we didn't realize were happening and didn't know had ended. These are the stories we want.“ Read the complete guidelines here.


SQF: How did you become involved with this magazine?


Nathaniel Mellor: I’m one of the co-creators, actually! My partner and I had the idea for a literary and art magazine years ago, but didn’t think we had the experience or knowledge to start one. Now that we’ve worked in galleries, been published, and had shows, we figured we could give it the proper time, respect, and knowledge it deserves. 



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


NM: (I’m writing this as if the question means “Top three things you look for in an accepted submission. If you mean in the submission itself, then I look for how long the story is, if the writer sent a bio, and if the story is written in English.) The unexpected. I personally like things in stories that are unexpected, whether it’s a theme, plot, ending, character, or some anachronistic device the writer has used. I don’t love twist endings, but when they’re done well, I’m happy to see it.


I also look for word usage. I enjoy stories that have a slightly peculiar word choice. I find that it slows me down in a good way, allowing me to better enjoy the story. We often see this with writers who don’t speak/read English as a first language.


The last thing I look at is the way the narrative is created. Is there any/too much implausibility in the story? Is it honest? Do the characters act in a consistent way? Is the story itself displaying a negative message? Does it promote violence/bigotry/supremacy even by accident (taking satire into account).



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


NM: I try to place the story over the quality of writing, mainly because we receive a number of stories from people who don’t speak or write English natively. It can be extremely difficult learning to speak a new language, but learning the complexities of the written language can often be harder, in my experience.


That being said, I won’t accept a story (even if the story itself is amazing), if the writing quality isn’t close to the quality already published.


I also won’t publish stories with outright misogyny (especially if the writer doesn’t seem to realize they’re being a misogynist), racism, intense trauma (sexual or physical), that doesn’t serve a purpose and is only there for shock value or to create a “powerful” backstory. 



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


NM: How quickly the story grabs my attention, how quickly the writer is able to build a world, and how outright understandable the opening paragraph is. If it’s a paragraph I have to go back and read two or three times, it makes me wary of the clarity of the rest of the story.



SQF: If you could have dinner with three authors (living or dead), who would they be and why?


NM: 

1st. Marcus Aurelias. (Although not a writer and only wrote one book which was published years after his death, I like to think he’d be a writer if born in more recent times.)

2nd. Simone Weil. 

3rd. Truman Capote.



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


NM: Do you enjoy what you’re doing?


A: When we began this journal, I wanted to grow it into something massive, and this was only four short months ago. My time involvement went from a few hours a month to more than sixty hours this past month. And as with nearly all literary journals, it doesn’t pay.


So this idea of enjoyment is something I think about often. Why do something if we don’t enjoy it? We go to a job we don’t enjoy because we need the money it offers. Sometimes we spend time with our family even if they drive us up a wall, sapping our enjoyment away.


Running a literary magazine has its ups and downs. Website work is always a headache. Remembering to tweet, usually at some point in the middle of the night, is a pain. And sending rejections is honestly heart-breaking because I’ve been on the other side many, many times, and I want to say “yes” to everyone.


At the end of the day, I find I do enjoy it. I enjoy creating this space for people to show their art and their stories. I enjoy being able to help people’s careers, whether they’re full-fledged writers or they’re just beginning. And I think I do it because in some small way I hope I’m making the world a better place, even if only slightly, by helping beautiful work see the light. And in a world like today’s, just a little more beauty is never a bad thing. 


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

Friday, September 17, 2021

Six Questions for LaShawn Wanak, Editor, GigaNotoSaurus

GigaNotoSaurus publishes one longish (5,000 to 25,000 words) fantasy or science fiction story monthly. “Send us that story you really believe in–the one, maybe, that quickly ran out of places to submit it to because it’s so long.” Read the completed guidelines here.


SQF: Why did you start this magazine?


LaShawn Wanak: Ann Leckie originally started the magazine and handles the more business side of the magazine. I took over as submission editor in 2019. What drew me to the editing position was that it only publishes one story per month, which worked well with my workload with the dayjob and my own writing. 



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


LW: Usually it's just two things that I look for in a submission.


  1. Does it get my attention? I love stories that surprise me and pull me in. It's hard for me to nail down what exactly that means, but stories that subvert the status quo or usual tropes. But then again, even a story that leans on a trope can still catch my attention if it's written well. If a story makes me think, or makes me see things in a new way, or if it makes me happy

  2. Does it fit Giganotosaurus's style? I would say that our style leans more towards the literary that have fun with dialogue and wordplay, or that contains lush worldbuilding. 



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


LW: Make sure the submission has been spell-checked and edited well. I don't mind a few misspellings here and there, but any story that has numerous spelling and grammatical errors will pull me out of the reading experience. I'm not a fan of violence or harm being done for shock value, or women, people of color, or queer characters who are very passive within the story. 



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


LW: I tend to read broadly, so I like a large number of styles. I like turns of phrases, or situations that make me go, "Oo, this is a strange situation. Let's see how far it will go." My rule of thumb is that if a story doesn't pull me in in the first five pages, then its chances of capturing me at all goes down significantly. If you're wondering what has gotten my attention in the past, reading through our previous issues will give you an idea.



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


LW: I'm not huge into blood and gore for the sake of it.  Also, stories that have violence against women and/or children, or the topic of slavery are a very, very hard sell for me, unless they're done really really well. 



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


LW: Let's go the opposite of your previous question. What would catch my interest then?


I also love stories that use genre to delve into conversations about identity, race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion, etc. 

The past few issues had stories that meditated on the nature of grief, mainly because I was going through a hard time and those stories spoke to me. But we've also published stories that are downright goofy.


So basically, if I love a story, I publish it, and I hope that other people will benefit from reading that story as well.


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

Friday, September 10, 2021

Six Questions for Hannah Kludy and Morgan Wagle, Co-Managing Editors, Nocturne Magazine

Nocturne Magazine publishes fiction to 7,500 words, flash fiction to 1,000 words, art and errata in the horror genre. “We want something that makes us stay awake at night. Or have strange dreams. Or wake up still thinking about your piece while we drink our morning coffee. We don’t just want “eww,” or “yikes.” We want to scroll through your submission with trembling fingers.” Read the complete guidelines here.


SQF: Why did you start this magazine?


Hannah Kludy: We started this magazine because we love horror. It's my personal favorite genre to read, and often writing that is seen as just "entertaining" is looked down upon. I wanted to help showcase that horror writing can be just as good as literary writing, and that talented contributors everywhere are creating great stuff.


Morgan Wagle: I think I’m speaking for both of us here when I say that we wanted to provide a place for horror writers and artists to be published. I’ve noticed there are a TON of literary magazines, but many of them do not accept horror and other speculative fiction. There are many talented horror creators out there and we were absolutely blown away by the number of submissions we received and the quality of the work. We had originally planned to have a submission period open for 11 months of the year, but we received hundreds of submissions in less than two months and chose to close our submission period early. To me, this just proves that there are many horror artists and writers who are hungry to find a home for their work.



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


HK: I look for nuance. I feel like we get so caught in tropes, and there is comfort in that. It's predictable and therefore less scary. I like submissions that subvert expectations, have interesting characters, and put me off. The last bit is tough to nail, but that feeling of unease I got from our final selections was really something.


MW: For fiction, besides the absolute bare minimum of good writing and a story that makes sense, the three things that really set a submission apart is 


  1. Emotional impact (Some of these stories have literally given me goosebumps and made me gasp, comment, or laugh out loud.) 

  2. Beautiful language AND a compelling plot line (Many of the stories seem to be so “literary” and ambiguous that they have little or no plot OR the stories with an interesting plot just don’t have good writing. If your submission can feel “literary” and have an actual beginning, middle, and end--bonus points for a plot twist that I don’t see coming--then I will most likely fall in love with it.) 

  3. A story that stays with me (If I can’t get your story out of my head even days later, it’s likely an automatic acceptance. It’s difficult to explain exactly why this happens, but I think most stories that have this effect on me correlate to real life somehow and get me thinking about society and human nature. A horror story that successfully explores identity, societal expectations, relationships, etc. is most likely to stick with me.)


For art and poetry, it really boils down to emotional impact for me. 



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


HK: I would say resorting to gore, torture porn, or abuse/assault as the only motivation or horror element turns me off. If you have nothing other to offer me besides sexual assault to terrify me, I'm unimpressed by the lack of imagination. Plus, it can be painful for some readers, especially if it's gratuitous.


MW:The absolute worst thing a submitter could do is to submit work that does not adhere to our guidelines. This happens way more often than you would think. Other than that, submissions that are written poorly or use shock factor purely for the sake of trying to shock the reader (spoiler alert: it never works and will earn you an automatic rejection). Also, I’m not a fan of submissions that use dramatic irony throughout the entire story and reveal “the twist” that I saw coming multiple pages before. If the story exists just for a plot twist, it’s just fatiguing for everybody involved.



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


HK: I think it depends. When I'm reading poetry, I like a strong image or sensation, something that elicits a physical reaction from me. For prose, I like strong language and orientation. I like to know who is where, and feel grounded while not being bored.


MW: I think the opening paragraphs/stanzas are usually reflective of the rest of the piece, and I actually find that reading the opening paragraphs weeds out a lot of submissions. I feel like you can’t find any reason to accept a submission based on the first paragraph alone, but you can find reasons to reject a piece based on the first paragraph alone. Because of this, I actually look for reasons to reject the piece as opposed to reasons to keep the piece. The #1 reason for rejecting a piece at this point (for me) is stilted language, overly flowery language, or mediocre writing in general.



SQF: Could you briefly explain what types of work fall into the errata category?


HK: Errata was really our way of saying if it's not poetry or fiction, you don't need a label. We are open to pretty much anything. Sometimes this is non-fiction. Other times it's erasures or a mixture of visual art and poetry that the writer can't quite categorize in either box.


MW: Creating is a messy process, and not every work fits neatly into one category. A piece can still be publishing-worthy even though it may not be classified as fiction, poetry, or art. We are open to experimental works and felt that we needed a category to reflect that.



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


HK: This is a good question! I wish you asked what things I find most frightening. For this, I'd say I am terrified of a good ghost story. Ghosts are so versatile, and there are so many cool things you can do with one. Ghost stories also leave a ton of room for characters to move around and bounce through time. I feel like it's almost a blank canvas, and when I read a good one, I get goosebumps.


MW: I wished you would have asked about our advice to writers! As a writer myself, rejection is totally normal, and it could happen for so many reasons (some not under your control). I say don’t let it get you down. Just keep writing and submitting! Also, I’ve looked back on pieces I’ve had rejected and I now understand why they were rejected when I hadn’t before. Continuing to write and hone your craft will do that to you. As an editor, I’d like to point out that many pieces we enjoyed just could not make the cut, given the set amount of space we have for one issue of Nocturne.


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


Friday, September 3, 2021

Six Questions for JM Williams, Editor-in-Chief, Of Metal and Magic Publishing


Of Metal and Magic Publishing was founded in 2020 by a diverse team of fantasy authors. The OMAM team has been writing and publishing for years and felt that, with all of our combined experiences, we could create a publisher which could give opportunities to new and exciting voices in the world of fantasy, help and support writers with their careers, and above all, contribute to the world of writing in new and exciting ways.


The collaboration began many years prior when a handful of us came together to create a new fantasy world. Our international menagerie crafted stories which all took place in the same epic fantasy setting. We developed a unique method of storytelling that involves writing in the same shared fantasy universe, which we each populate with our characters, cultures and stories. Through hard work and heated debates, we developed a unified canon and history for our first world—SORIA.


It is this innovative and unique format of shared worlds that Of Metal and Magic Publishing wishes to build on. In addition to seeking out new voices and the best talent in the traditional fantasy genre, we also seek to craft new worlds for our authors and contributors to relish and share. Every single story published by OMAM has the potential to grow into something greater, a new epic world of shared narratives.


As a publisher, we are always looking for submissions from new authors. In addition to publishing novels in our signature flavor, we also publish short fiction on our website and in occasional anthologies. We are also not averse to fantasy verse. If you’re a fantasy author, whatever your chosen format, send us your work.


SQF: Why did you start Of Metal and Magic Publishing?


JM Williams: 

As the above description notes, OMAM was started by a group of us authors who were all collaborating on a unified project. At the time, the SORIA team were all signed under another indie publisher, and I was team leader. This publisher was the one who originally came up with the idea of expanded, multi-author universes. We were one of many such teams. But unfortunately, that publisher went out of business. They were kind enough to sign over the rights to SORIA, so that I could keep my promise to my team to get all of their books published. We’ve released two of the main Soria novels so far—my book Call of the Guardian, and Richie Billing’s novel Pariah’s Lament—with three more on the way. These are all initial novels and this number doesn’t account for potential sequels. We are hoping to eventually develop other shared fantasy worlds in the same way we have built Soria. 





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


JMW: 

Professionalism, quality of writing, but most of all, creativity.


Everyone can learn to write well in a technical sense. It’s much harder to be able to come up with a compelling story idea, not only plot and character, but a theme or deeper meaning that sets your work apart from others. I struggle with this myself.


But the first thing I am going to see is your query letter, and that conveys a lot about both your professionalism and your experience in the industry. I strongly suggest you research how to write a query letter or a cover letter before you submit your work to a publisher. Also familiarize yourself with Shunn manuscript format.


If you present yourself well, I will ask for an initial read. For a longer work, this is typically 25 pages. When I read your work, I am checking the technical competency of your writing. If you haven’t spent much time learning grammar, formatting, structure—the professional aspects of the job—it will show. A few mistakes here or there are fine. But if you are consistently formatting your dialogue incorrectly, or misusing punctuation such as semi-colons, colons, hyphens, then I’m going to send it back. Ultimately, the more technical problems in the work, the more time I, or someone else, will have to spend editing it.


The technical quality of your writing also hints at your level of professionalism. I expect the people I work with to be dedicated to their craft and to be willing to put in the time and effort to get it right. 




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


JMW: 

Fantasy as a genre has its own quirks. There are several common pitfalls. One is excessive info-dumping in the opening chapters. We did a podcast on world-building a while ago. Another is the use of crazy spelling for names, fantasy-ifying your spelling for no other reason than to look fantastic. We did a podcast on names as well. World-building needs to be subtle, especially in your opening pages. It is very easy to overwhelm your reader. When that happens, they might put the book down and never pick it back up again. 





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



JMW: I know a lot of folks get fixated on opening lines and opening paragraphs. As far as novels are concerned, I am more focused on opening pages. I honestly don’t remember the opening lines of most books I like. What I do remember is the feeling of being pulled in and the end result of sticking with a book, rather than setting it down for good.


As I noted above, one of the biggest problems in fantasy is a slow start that is overburdened by world-building. Your opening pages should focus on your character rather than the world. Introduce the world details that are necessary to understanding the opening scene, but leave the complex descriptions for later chapters. 


With regard to short fiction, the opening lines become more important. The shorter your work, the faster it needs to start, and the greater the initial hook must be. 






SQF: When reading a novel/novella submission, what clues do you notice that tell you the author is a novice?



JMW: Cover letters, formatting, and grammar.


There’s an art to the cover letter, which you learn as you go. And the cover or query letter is usually different depending on whether you are submitting a short story or a novel. If your initial contact doesn’t describe your story well, doesn’t provide genre and wordcount or other essential elements, I’m going to guess you’re a novice. 


When I look at your manuscript, if it is not in standard manuscript format, I’m going to guess you’re a novice. Same goes if the work is riddled with grammatical errors. One thing about working in the industry, you get a lot of experience working with editors, and you pick up all the little grammar rules and guidelines that you previously didn’t know. You know how long it took me to learn definitively the rule that a comma must be used before a conjunction that separates two independent clauses? I actually learned that one from a grammar machine. 


All this being said, I have no problem working with novices. I actually enjoy mentoring new writers. Especially with short fiction, I am willing to help a new author learn the ropes and fix their work. With short stories, I might just bite the bullet and take the time to do a thorough edit, providing comments about the rules as I go. For a longer work, I might send it back with some feedback and an editing guide, asking the author to revise on their own and resubmit. 


Bottom line, just because you are new to the game, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play.






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


JMW: 

It might be fitting for me to add a few comments on shared fantasy universes. How did we get hooked on this? And what are some of our influences?


When we started working on this project under our old publisher, we very much had the idea of trying to port over a television narrative structure to prose fiction. Accordingly, our books were broken into episodes, seasons, and series. You get a lot of crossover on TV. Of course, there are big shared universes like Marvel and DC. But you also have things like the crossover episodes of Hawaii Five-O and NCIS: LA, where the characters jump over to the settings of the other series. Or things like the Law and Order world, where all stories exist in the same universe, even if they don’t cross over much.


Actually, that publisher had a brilliant idea of putting out a reading app where you’d purchase by episode or season, rather than purchasing books. The serial content would come out on a regular basis, and you could subscribe to your favorites. That was like 3 years ago. Unfortunately, the little indie couldn’t get the app to work right. But, of course, Amazon did!


For me, personally, I loved shared universes. What’s better than being able to get more and more content from a story you enjoy because more than one person is working on it? The Star Wars expanded universe springs to mind, though I don’t recall there being a lot of overlap there. I am a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings, and I particularly enjoy the other mediums, such as video games, which color in the spots of that world that the original books did not fully address. LOTR: War in the North is one of the most underappreciated video games of the last decade, in large part because of the brilliant writing. That game took the visual style of the films, combined with the narrative complexity of The Silmarillion and Tolkien’s lesser known tales, to create a very compelling window into a then unexplored part of Middle Earth. The game also provides a very good explanation as to why the infamous “eagle plot hole” isn’t a thing. I keep my XBOX 360 around just for this game.



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


Friday, August 27, 2021

Six Questions for Leia, Head Editor, Full House Literary Magazine

Full House Literary Magazine publishes poetry to 30 lines, prose to 750 words, scripts to 1.5 pages, and visual arts. “Full House Literary Magazine is looking for unique pieces that are just screaming out to be shared with the world. These pieces can be fun, experimental, and engaging.” Read the complete guidelines here.


SQF: Why did you start this magazine?


Leia: I started this magazine because I wanted to give all writers the platform and space to be recognised for their work, and feel like writers. So many people I know are hesitant to call themselves a writer, or be proud or confident in their work. I want to give writers that voice and space to share what they love doing, and celebrate that. 





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


Leia: Confidence, uniqueness, boldness. We want our published pieces to stand out with language that we’ve never seen before. You’ll wow us by taking risks and not being afraid to be bold. 





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


Leia: The main reasons we sadly must reject a submission would be: if it is offensive, breaks our guidelines, includes many grammatical or spelling errors, or if the language doesn’t take enough risks.





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


Leia: Something that pulls us in from the very first line, and that has a clear voice or tone shining through. 





SQF: What will readers experience on your podcast?



Leia: On our podcast, audiences can listen to interviews with emerging and upcoming writers, reviews of recent literary magazine issues, and our newsblast. The podcast is perfect if you love all things literature from poetry to prose. We give a platform to as many fantastic writers as we can and release episodes every two weeks. 






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


Leia: What is the most exciting thing upcoming? 


The most exciting thing that is upcoming for FH is our 24 hour live stream festival for charity. The festival will include some truly amazing guests and run from Friday 10th of September to Saturday 11th of September 2021. 


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