Friday, July 15, 2016

Six Questions for A. E. Phillips, Editor, Donut Factory

Donut Factory publishes flash fiction to 1,000 words and poetry in any genre. Learn more here.

(Ceased publication)

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

AP: So glad you asked! There seems to be a severe shortage of publications open to what I like to call ‘oddball writing’. This is the kind of writing that really digs into the absolute weirdness of what it means to be a human being, to be so intricately strange. I was at a reading last weekend which featured several poets and writers. The carpet was this red, woven tapestry of patterns and the windows went all the way up to the ceiling, which in turn had its own kind of majestic shape – chandeliers, leaf engravings – I mean, the whole thing was just beautiful. The people, too. There were heels, hair was clipped up, dresses, leather shoes, smoky eyes, vests – it was, for lack of a better word, an affair. And then, halfway through the reading, a remarkably plain girl, no older than 20, her hair in a ponytail and her feet in Birkenstocks, stands up, moves behind the podium that’s almost bigger than she is, pulls the microphone down to her face, and says, “This has a warning attached. The last time I read this, it got a little awkward.” None of us knew what she meant. She starts to read. Three girls driving out from a mountain town in a beat-up Camry slam into a deer. It’s still alive, but just barely. Its skin is twitching, that kind of thing. Well, armed with the innocent intent of putting it out of its misery, these girls actually start to enjoy their task. I won’t go into detail, but needless to say, it was not received with any kind of imaginable warmth. Yes, everyone clapped, but afterwards, sitting in the bar down the street, my friends beat her story to a pulp. It was the only story we talked about that night. I started Donut Factory to be a home for writers and poets who are like that story: odd, uncomfortable, and wholly riveting people.

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

AP: I don’t need for stories or poems to wrap themselves up at the end and, in fact, I prefer the open-ended variety. If there’s a satisfying (but not obvious) line or end, I’m more likely to keep thinking about the piece and if I keep thinking about the piece, I’m going to want it. I also look for the characteristic voice of the writer: are they melancholy? Are they excitable? Are they bored, nervous, agitated, overjoyed, exhausted? Vibrancy in language, I think, is what I’m looking for. Lastly, I want to see our senses excited by the writing. I want to smell the dead deer and hear the girl in flip-flops laying on the horn before she hit it. Good writing, that’s really what I’m after. I just recently accepted a piece about orange juice being poured down the bathroom drain because the way it was written made my skin tingle. It was just so strange.

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

AP: Excessive and graphic violence is normally an automatic shut-down. The deer story I mentioned earlier was tactful in its violence. I like the idea of exploring why we are violent more than how we are violent.

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

AP: I would love to have the time to do this for every submission, but I’m on a tight schedule. However, if I liked the writing but didn’t feel the piece as a whole was a solid fit with Donut Factory, I’ll generally explain why I thought this and ask for another submission from the author. This has worked out quite well in the past.

SQF: What magazines/zines do you read most often?

AP: Blue Monday Review is fabulous. I know a few of the contributors to Donut Factory have been published with them in the past. I’m also a fan of Weirderary, a strictly online publication. Here is one of my favorite lines from a recently published short story, “Sugar Family” by Cathy Ulrich: “You make yourself a family out of sugar. You bounce from store to store, collecting bags of it”. Weird, right?

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

AP: “Do you often forget to eat, drink, or relieve yourself when reading through submissions and/or formatting the publication?” Yes. I love this work.

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

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