Friday, October 13, 2017

Six Questions for Mary Lynn Reed and Lesley C. Weston, Editors, MoonPark Review

MoonPark Review is an online literary journal devoted to publishing compelling, imaginative short prose that breaks our hearts, haunts us, makes us laugh, or gives us hope. We love flash fiction, prose poems, and hybrid forms. Submissions should be 750 words max. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

MLR & LCW: We started MoonPark Review because we couldn’t have a baby, and we really wanted to produce something creative together. (Okay, technically, it might have been possible for us to have a baby, this point in our lives, we agreed we’d both rather be kept up at night by great literature versus a crying tiny human.)  LCW has served on an editorial board previously but MLR has not, yet always wanted to have the experience. For awhile it was a nice abstract idea -- starting a literary journal together -- but oh, so much work (!) we concurred as we considered all the existing demands on our time and attention.

So, we set the idea aside, until a shared vacation full of carefree days on the deck, writing, reading, and talking about fiction, when it became clear that while our individual tastes in prose were often different, when they converged on a particular story we often both felt that piece was the best of the day’s reading.

This realization truly was akin to the revelation of holding an infant and discovering in its beloved form and features the unique blending of both parents. So, we decided to give this journal thing a go. So far the experience has been fantastic. We’re putting the finishing touches on our Inaugural issue, which will debut this Fall.

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

MLR & LCW: The two of us have very different styles and literary aesthetics, and we’ve decided that we must agree on every single piece we publish in MoonPark Review. To get us both to champion a piece, it is likely that the following three ingredients will be present:

Clarity: While we love poetic imagery and the creative use of language, and we have patience as readers for authors to develop thoughts, ideas, setting and characters leading toward a defining movement, we expect clarity in the prose. We are primarily interested in literary stories and prose poems, so subtlety and nuance are encouraged, but we like to have a sense of being grounded, both at the sentence level and in the piece overall. Examples of writers who achieve the kind of clarity we crave include: Ernest Hemingway, Jonathan Lethem, Jeannette Winterson, Donna Tartt, and William Maxwell.

Logic: When a writer creates a beautiful word-picture of a setting, a gorgeous character description, then smacks them into a sentence, paragraph, or entire situation that otherwise makes no sense, it fills us with despair. No matter how strange a world, no matter how unusual the character, everything must have an undeniable sense of logic. Every bit of setting, character, observation, every word of narrative, must support the existence of that strangeness without defense or belabored explanation.

In life, the randomness of events is a daily slaughter to us all. People act without thought all the time and do weird, dumb, sometimes vicious and unjustifiable things. If a story is centered on that randomness, on illogical lizard-brain motivations, all well and good, but it still must have a certain logic on the page. Even during a random string of events, a person has to be on foot, not behind the wheel of a car, to WALK down a street.

In magical realism, speculative prose, logic is imperative. In a world made entirely of bananas, inhabited only by goats, if a three-legged, cane-wielding goat-protagonist brandishes said cane in self-defense against thieves, the item MUST be fashioned from banana-wood, or a goat-bone (or goat-hide cured-by-goat-piss and banana-paste hardened). Metal, oak, carved rock, plastic has no place in the world of this premise. Their careless appearance would destroy a reader’s willingness to be there. And unless there is an unexpected spaceship landing, the ruffians better be goats, or kids with stubby little horns. If the thieves are after something transformative, some amulet or tincture, the protagonist’s magic eyelash, there must be some prior hint  that magic resides somewhere in banana-world (whether in banana flesh, peel, bark, leaves, banana freckles, etc. or within or without the three-legged goat-protagonist) before the mugging occurs. Otherwise we readers will not be able to “buy it” when the stolen object allows the bad kids to open a magical portal to Disney World.

Resonance: Both of us crave prose that creates an impression that continues to resonate after our first reading has concluded. We want to be moved by what we read, and not just a miniscule sigh of oh, that was nice, but for hours, days, months, and even, bless us (!) years. Yes, both of us have read stories that still ripple our nervous systems years later, and send us scurrying to read them again. So, if a submission we receive is  placed in the “maybe” pile in the afternoon, and in the evening one of us asks, what was it about? what did we like about it? and neither of us can recall with any clarity, it’s likely to get moved to the “no” pile. If one of us remembers it quite well, it will be re-read.

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

MLR & LCW: Unearned endings, over-written endings, lack of literary shape or movement, political rants, personal essays, gratuitous violence, or lesbians tossed randomly into a story in a lame attempt to qualify the thing as gay-themed. While we don’t blame literature for serial killers, rapists, or animal abuse, we just don’t want to publish such fare. And while every publisher says this, no one seems to hear, we do appreciate submitters who read our guidelines. Yes, we know when writers haven’t bothered, especially when they send traditional poems or stories far longer than our maximum word count.

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

MLR & LCW: Occasionally. When we particularly liked a piece, spent a long time discussing it, and/or we think our observations may be useful to the writer, we will offer those comments.

SQF: If MoonPark Review had a theme song, what would it be and why?

MLR & LCW:  Mr. Blue Sky by Electric Light Orchestra (particularly from the Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix, Volume 2.)  Because LCW is Groot, MLR is Rocket Raccoon, and MoonPark Review is an expression of love, joy, and hope in a lunatic world.

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

Question: You ask for literary prose, then invite speculative fiction, magical realism and prose poems, what do you really want?

Answer: We want literary flash fiction, literary speculative fiction, literary prose poems, and literary hybrids. NOT verse poems with line breaks. NOT trade fantasy or trade sci-fi.

Make us think and make us feel and leave us with a powerful image. That’s the key to our hearts.

Thank you, Mary Lynn and Lesley. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

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