Friday, August 9, 2019

Six Questions for Cavin Gonzalez, Editor, Back Patio Press

Back Patio Press publishes flash fiction/non-fiction to 750 words, non-fiction and fiction to 3,000 words, poetry, and art. “Remember, this is a casual setting so we’re playing by Holiday rules: no politics. We’re here to have fun.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Cavin Gonzalez: The literary sphere is so chock full of pedestals, formalities, gatekeepers, and anxieties, especially for people new to the scene. It can be daunting. Twitter, aka the heart and soul of indie lit as far as I can tell, can be a pretty negative place. I started writing because I had fun doing it. I don't think there's a lot of places to just relax, have fun, and tell stories for your friends/random internet folk to enjoy. I remember, when I first started getting involved in the scene about four years ago, being so stressed about crafting the perfect submission and not knowing how to reply when an editor I admire finally accepted my work. It was such a waste of time!

I recall most vividly the egg shells I walked on out of fear of being interpreted as 'the new guy' or 'unprofessional'. I wanted a place to exist where people didn't have to walk on egg shells and could have fun making art, so, here it is. Pressure off, sprinklers on, grill burning.

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

CG: A lot of editors I think won't admit this but I always look for "scene status" of the submitter first. This is what I base edits/comments on. If someone is just getting started out I'm more willing to go out of my way to help them grow, even if the piece isn't accepted. Having them send me work and editing it, stuff like that. Just holding productive dialogues. Helping up-and-comers really fills me with joy, you know? Seeing someone go from having zero publications to seeing them in the wild, in a venue I've myself failed to get into, that's the good stuff, feeling like I played a part in encouraging someone to keep trying. Other than that, I have a soft spot for surrealism. I'm always looking for absurd and surreal work; the combination of every day life and the extraordinary events that take place within it. Voice is also incredibly important. I tend to lean away from heavy language and towards casual language. There are always exceptions of course.

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

CG: Haha, it's kind of hypocritical since a lot of my content reflects this but classical "edgy" stuff. Cigarettes and whiskey. Being horny and alone. Poe or Bukowski-esque content. And, of course, just the usual stuff. Hate speech, sexism. I am fond of shitty characters, bad people are a reality that should be addressed, an important part of the social ecosystem, but if a piece is just a way for a writer to broadcast their own shittiness under the guise of "fiction" that is usually transparent. I also despise political discourse in literature. I understand why it exists but that's not why I am here. I am here to have fun, not get pissed off. I am here to learn about people, not have ideologies jammed down my throat.

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

CG: I see "establishing scenes" being very important to MFA/MA writers and was just talking to a friend about how much I think it's not necessary. I am not a student nor a teacher and don't need exposition dumps or something groundbreaking to happen in the beginning to enjoy a piece. I mean, the last line is what really matters to me. The finale. However writers wish to start a story, that's usually fine by me. Place, character, theme. Whatever they think is most important. I don't think I've ever suggested a new introduction to a piece. Some people think the introduction matters most to readers, and maybe to some it does, but not me. If I like the voice I'll keep reading. I'm in it for characters. Show me someone interesting and that's a good start.

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

CG: Political content will get axed immediately. I mean, strictly political ideology red versus blue content. Grey areas exist. You want to talk about the bourgeoisie? Do it in a creative way, without being so on the nose.  I don't want to run The Onion. Life is political by nature, we are surrounded by politics, but I don't want to read half-assed satire about the president. I want to escape all of that via literature. Life is political enough for me. I'm more interested in marginalized people, outskirt surfers, than the people that are always being discussed. Sexual content is also a hard sell. Sometimes it's done really well, sometimes it feels... gross. I lean away from the super heavy content. Back Patio is a place to have fun, even if that fun is also sad, and there are other, more appropriate, venues for all that. Also, writing about writers, where maybe the main character is writer, or NF focused on writing, or poems about writing poetry-- those will hardly ever be accepted. I think it's kind of cheesy.

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

CG: I think a good question to ask, or that I would like to answer, is 'Why should someone create art?'

People have a lot of reasons to create art. Some people need attention. Recognition. Praise. Monetary compensation. And this isn't a bad thing, just an observation. It's natural, to want those things. Hell, I want those things REALLY BADLY. But if that's it, the only reason you're doing this, you're going to be unhappy. You're going to end up dissatisfied with the scene if you're looking for anything besides having fun, making friends, and creating something you're proud of. I believe someone should make art because they must, because it makes them happy. If you find your motivations changing, well, that's going to be a tough battle. Almost none of us will come out on top. And even if we do, that 'top' is such a speck of a thing. Don't get me wrong, I'm still gunning for the top. I want that sweet ass Indie Lit Throne. I think it's fine to aspire, but one should also be grounded when doing so. 'Shoot for the best case scenario and be content with whatever happens' is my philosophy on adhering to Art as some sort of lifestyle.

If you're not happy then quit. Find something that will make you happy. We only have so much time, don't waste it.

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

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