Friday, July 6, 2018

Six Questions for Matthew Thorpe-Coles, Editor, flash & cinder

flash & cinder: a journal of writing excellence is a biannual publication of flash fiction and poetry. Learn more here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Matthew Thorpe-Coles: I started flash & cinder because I wanted to create a mixed poetry and prose platform that focuses on a single word and concept – and also because I love reading submissions from writers across the world. An online magazine seemed the perfect pursuit. 

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

MTC: The first is simple. Originality. I love stories and poems that I haven’t read before. Of course, we all love the classic relationship troubles stories, the smoky bar with the seductive woman in a red dress, but there’s nothing about them that I can’t find elsewhere (unless the woman turns into a brass instrument – have read a similar story before).

The second is experimentation. I don’t want submitters to flash & cinder to feel that we’re completely cemented in old poetic traditions and only the most formulaic prose. That being said, it’s sometimes nice to bring the old forms back – I recently accepted a villanelle which was unlike any I’d read for quite a while.

Finally, I love something that feels refined. Most people know that the first draft of anything is effectively terrible, so I love reading something that feels like it’s been chiselled at and made sparkly. This is obviously a difficult thing to know when you’ve achieved this result – so basically try as much as you can, but don’t burn yourself out.


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

MTC: Poor formatting, poor grammar, or a poor submission letter. I think there’s a certain decorum to submitting, and it can have a bit of a bad reaction if your submission is a bit rude or poorly displayed. It’s not too difficult to create a form submission letter to send out to editors, or run your work by another pair of eyes, and it can have wonderful results on how your work received.

SQF: What magazines/zines do you read on a “regular” basis?

MTC: There are many great ones I dip in and out of! Flash: The International Magazine is a great one. Poetry Magazine is an obvious, but wonderful publication, and I buy it every month. I also read plenty of non-fiction magazines to get a flavour for independent publishing – Lodestars Anthology being my absolute favourite. 

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

MTC: If I understand your question correctly, I’m not hugely fond of stories that use death as a plot device, especially as a shocking ending. I think it’s a bit of a trope – like waking up and the whole plot being a dream. I don’t like poems that simply tell you how to think either, or overtly tell you too much. There’s skill, and a lot more finesse, in writing something that conveys something implicitly, and takes you by surprise.

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

I wish you’d asked: Do you have any advice on how people can improve their likelihood of getting published?

People can always improve their chances of publication simply by correctly following the rules. For example, our magazine allows for simultaneous submissions, but a lot of larger magazines can’t facilitate the back-and-forth that sim subs demand. Another simple one is checking the word count. I know myself, and other editors, have had pieces that state they’re bang on our upper word count limit, but then when you check them in a word processor, they’re far over. It’s frustrating, as some of the pieces are wonderful, but it would be unfair to publish pieces that break the rules at the first instance.

Thank you for having me!

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

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