Friday, May 10, 2019

Six Questions for Matthew Maichen, Editor-in-Chief, The Metaworker

The Metaworker publishes fiction and nonfiction to 3,000 words, poetry, art, and anything else that will work on Wordpress. “We’ve been going strong since August 2015 and our mission is still the same: to publish great things to read.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Matthew Maichen: I never started it, in a way I just kept it going.

All of my co-editors and I are alumni from Chapman University, where we ran a very successful literary magazine, Calliope. Several of the pieces from our edition were chosen as some of the best undergraduate writing in the US by Plain China.

After we graduated, Marina and Nicole had the idea to start some sort of magazine, they brought on Elena, Darin and I, and ultimately Nicole left, and I had to step up to be the Editor-in-Chief. In the beginning I did a lot of the heavy lifting. Now it’s become much more collaborative and I often feel like I’m just relying on the other editors.

Why I stepped up is simple: we did good work that we felt passionate about. We wanted to keep doing it. When you major in fine arts, you choose to immerse yourself in a world of art throughout your college experience. The moment you leave, you leave all that behind unless you put serious effort into keeping it in your life. For me, The Metaworker is one of the ways to do that.

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

Note before I start that my opinion is exactly 25% of what gets a submission accepted. We all vote, and we often disagree.

First place is originality. A lot of people say that we, as a society, are just repeating the same stories and same art over and over. I disagree. I want to see new voices and new experiences. A lot of our submitters are foreign, (from our US-based perspective) and for me that can fit the bill if they illustrate places and experiences I’ve never seen in writing before. Others play with format in ways that I appreciate.

Second is the meaning and implication behind the piece. I want to accept something that’s at least impactful. Ideally, it should be about something. You’d be surprised how many pieces seem to have an empty meaningless conflict, or suffering for the sake of suffering. I need it to matter more than that.

Third, of course, is the quality of the actual writing. To be totally honest, I can get lost enough in the first two to overlook this (IF THEY ARE GOOD ENOUGH). However, we just can’t accept pieces that look like rough drafts. And if a story is well-written enough, it may end up being accepted even if it fits a trope checklist.

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

MM: The majority of the time, in fiction, it’s the ending. There are so many things that can go wrong with a piece, but if you ask me what people most commonly botch, they botch the end.

We’ve even started calling a certain type of ending an “and then he died” ending. A writer doesn’t know how to wrap things up so just ends things as horribly as possible very suddenly, hoping that it will be impactful. It almost never is.

In poetry, I often hear Elena say: “I’m not hearing anything said that I haven’t heard before.” We really look for originality in the language of our poetry, and, to be frank, it bores us when we don’t see it.

SQF: What do you look for in the opening paragraph(s)/stanza(s) of a submission?

I honestly think a lot of editors, agents, and submission curators of all kinds care too much about this. I can’t really blame them, sometimes they’re so awash in submissions that it’s all they get to read. Still, it ends up mattering too much.

To answer the question directly: a good beginning that immediately hooks us while establishing the tone of the piece is appreciated. It will be a point in a submission’s favor. But I almost never put things down just because they don’t immediately grab me. I suspect we might be kind of unique in that.

SQF: Is it necessary to read the guidelines? Many are long and boring.

MM: Okay first off: ours aren’t! We try really, really hard to give them flavor. Second: yes. Read the damn guidelines. We’ve found that most of the people who ignore our guidelines also tend to be dismissive of us in general. They mass-email publications, they’re rude when we call them out on it (yes, we even remind them and give them another chance, a lot of publications don’t), and they just generally don’t respect us. So if you don’t follow the guidelines, we’ll associate you with those experiences.

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

What future do we envision for The Metaworker?

Lately, we've been trying to go back to the drawing board and discuss what we want to do with The Metaworker. We've also been trying to establish a way to compensate contributors and pay for print copies through a donation-run method of fan-support. Getting money involved is proving to be a challenge, but ultimately we don't hope to make money off of this. Our goal is to pay writers, not ourselves.

Finally, thank you so much for the interview. It's flattering to have someone reach out to you like this. And if you're hearing about us for the first time, make sure to follow us on all our social media accounts! We have a facebook, a twitter, a tumblr, and an instagram, all named The Metaworker.

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

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