Friday, February 5, 2016

Six Questions for Chris Lott, Editor, Concīs

ED NOTE: Concīs ceased publication in December of 2017.

Concīs publishes poetry to 25 lines and fiction to 300 words. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Chris Lott: In the spirit of concision: nearly 20 years after creating one of the earliest and, at the time, rather innovative online literary journals (Eclectica Magazine), I decided the time was right to reveal my guilty pleasure---my forbidden literary love---of tiny, powerful writing.

Now to meander: I also saw an opportunity to meld my desire to create a publication that distinguishes itself by honoring and respecting authors in every way possible---from response times and providing proofs to presentation and promotion well after the publication---with my frankly personal need to engage in a charitable project. My system in which authors are paid or can become donors to a great charity does both.

And I've become frustrated with the proliferation of online journals that not only don't pay authors but even force authors to pay for the privilege of submitting the work they've labored over. I understand their reasons for these practices but can't agree with them. I guess that's another part of my version of honoring and respecting the writers whose hard work make anything I do possible!

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

CL: Tough question since it could be rephrased as "explicate your intuition." That said:

1. Power. As I say in our guidelines, "We want poetry and prose of the two-inch punch. Pull the pin from the grenade. Bring us the bud exploding into flower. Surprise us." That's both personal and hard to understand, which is why it's so important to read what I've published already and peruse my constantly growing commonplace book of inspirations ( That's the best insight you'll have into my head and heart.

2. Individual voice. Writing a poem as powerful as Joseph Stroud or a flash fiction as profound as Lydia Davis is good; writing work that sounds just like them isn't. I want work that no one else could've written (unless one can ascend to Pierre Menard-ian heights).

3. Diversity. Concīs isn't genre-specific; I'd love to see more flash nonfiction, micro-reviews, work that combines words and visuals, American Sentences, tanka and other tiny forms, and exuberant experimentation with heart (could I get any more vague?)

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

CL: Most *often*: misspellings, typos, broken formatting, obviously wrong punctuation and not paying attention to my guidelines.

Most *intensely*: work that confuses being incomplete with being concise. I receive a lot of work where I don't sense that the writers have fulfilled their side of the implicit contract between author and would-be publisher, work that hasn't been carefully honed. As Pascal put it in a letter, "I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter." Writing short means writing hard.

Bonus: judging from the flood of work I can easily reject, writers should think twice---or ten times---about attempting comedic writing or love (lost, gained, found, missed, whatever) poems.

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

CL: Sometimes. I've had some success suggesting revisions and working with authors to rescue work from the rejection pile. A prose poem I recently published was the subject of nearly a dozen back-and-forth revisions before it felt right. If a work is close---and some work bounces around in my head and between the accept and reject pile for a few weeks---I let the author know. Because of the volume it isn't possible to provide comments to everyone. But I was amused when a writer told me that my rejection letter was so "lovely" that he actually read it as part of a poetry reading he was taking part in!

SQF: What are a few magazines/zines you read?

* The aforementioned Eclectica
* Right Hand Pointing
* One Sentence Poems
* Smokelong Quarterly
* Seven by Twenty
* Broadsided
* Frogpond
* The Heron's Nest 
* just about every literary and cultural magazine at the local bookstore.

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

If Concīs had a soundtrack, what would be on it?

A start:

* "John Allyn Smith Sails" (Okkervil River)
* "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" (Neutral Milk Hotel)
* "Where is My Mind" (The Pixies)
* "Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime" (Beck)
* "To the Dogs or Whoever" (Josh Ritter)
* "Reconstruction Site" (The Weakerthans)
* "Rain When I Die" (Alice in Chains)
* "It's a Wonderful Life" (Sparklehorse)
* "Let Love Rule" (Lenny Kravitz)
* "Singing in my Sleep" (Semisonic)
* "Flirted With You All My Life" (Vic Chesnutt)
* "Say it Ain't So" (Weezer)
* "On the Radio" (Regina Spektor)
* "Ruby, My Dear" (John Coltrane & Thelonious Monk)
* "Jesus, Etc." (Wilco)
* "Annie Waits" (Ben Folds)
* "Brian Wilson" (Barenaked Ladies)
* "Ghost World" (Aimee Mann)
* "Coast of Carolina" (Telekinesis)
* "Ticket to the Moon" (Electric Light Orchestra)

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

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Lott's experience, taste, and erudition benefit us all. I look forward to each new Concis.