Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Six Questions for Matthew Guerruckey, Editor-in-Chief, Drunk Monkeys

Drunk Monkeys is an eclectic web zine that provides a home for emerging writers and poets, offers in-depth discussion of cultural issues, and features critiques of film and television that rely on analysis rather than snark.  Read the complete guidelines here.

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

MG: The chief quality we're looking for in a submission of any type (and we run a pretty diverse selection of material) is earnestness. I can be pretty sarcastic in my regular life, but I truly think there's enough of that on the internet - I love black humor, but snarky assassinations of low-hanging topics aren't going to draw me in. 

So, #1, be genuine. If you're writing fiction, show us that you really understand (and give a damn about) the character, their motivations, and their worldview. In poetry, give us a direct link into the experience of your subject, even if it's an abstraction. If you're doing a review, don't just rip apart something, tell us why you hate it, or why you love it. 

#2, if you're writing fiction, please tell a complete story. Often we'll get flash fiction, a genre I don't really connect with, because it usually places mood ahead of story (with that said, we've published some truly excellent works of flash fiction). But you can reveal so much about a character's entire life in just a few words - really challenge yourself to do that. 

#3, know why you're telling the story or writing the essay. So many times I read works by writers who are clearly gifted with words, but turn in rambling, messy stories because they didn't tighten up their plot points or thesis with a second draft (or third, or fourth, or fifth). Sometimes I'll take these anyway, because the writing or subject is so interesting but the more work I'm going to have to do to shape your piece the less likely I am to publish it. 

SQF: What common mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a submission? 

MG: Egregious spelling errors, weird formatting, or bizarre tangents. I've also gotten some submissions that were just top to bottom filth -- don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of filth, but there needs to be a little substance to back it up or you might as well be swearing in traffic. Not the most compelling stuff to me. Also, if you're going to try your hand at a funny dialect, please, please, please read it to yourself before you send it to make sure it actually reads the way it should. If it comes off false at all, I'm not likely to go any further, because I don't think our readers would. 

SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?

MG: I wish I had time to give more. Often, if I find the work interesting but flawed I'll suggest an author make revisions and resubmit, and that's turned out to be fruitful for us. But I will admit that very often I'm too busy to reply as directly as I'd like. I have a full-time job, and the rest of our editorial staff all have families, jobs, and school. Someday I'd love to be able to help more writers with their work.

SQF: Will you publish a submission an author posted on a personal blog? 

MG: This is a bit complicated. Luckily, I've not encountered this situation yet, but my gut feeling is that I would ask the writer to take the piece down and replace it with a link to our post. We pay for all our submissions and even though our writers retain the rights to their stories, there's a kind of contract that we will be the exclusive home of that story, and we've paid for that right. 

SQF: What do you want authors to know about the stories you reject and how authors should respond? Along this same idea, do you mind if authors reply with polite questions about the comments they receive?

MG: That there are a lot of reasons that we reject stories, and not all of them are related to the quality of the piece. Sometimes it's just an economic reality that we can't afford any more work at that time--or we may have just published something very similar to it, and want to keep the posts varied. 

As I've said, I'm not always able to give a succinct answer in the body of a rejection letter, however, if a writer asks me directly in a response what it was that caused us to pass on the work I will give as complete an answer back as possible. I'm a writer myself, and I can understand how frustrating it would be not to know. It's never a problem to ask. 

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

MG: The question of "What would you like to see more of?", and my answer to that would be many more essays that explore cultural or political issues. We're lucky enough to get a steady stream of fiction and poetry submissions, but I'd really like to tackle more current events on the site. I envisioned the project as a platform for free discussion, and sometimes I think our literary focus overwhelms that kind of discussion.

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

NEXT POST: 10/19--Six Questions for Richard Flores IV, Editor-in-Chief, Plasma Frequency Magazine

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