Friday, August 30, 2019

Six Questions for C. B. Auder, Editor/Illustrator, Claw & Blossom

Claw & Blossom publishes prose to 1,000 words and poetry. “Your work MUST also contain elements of the natural world.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

C. B. Auder: I’d been rolling the idea around for some time. My original concept was "Given that everyone is now squashed into a planetary Titanic, what last word-dances must we share?" and I squirreled away oodles of notes on nautical terms and icebergs. Fortunately, my superpowers are over planning and procrastination, because as the cynical years fell away I began to appreciate that, although the Western world is Sargassoed in a gyre of consumerist culture, there are also a heck of a lot of folks bobbing around out here who care deeply about sustainability, but who just feel too isolated or overwhelmed to contribute to momentum on that conversation.

A quote attributed to Arthur Ashe sticks with me: "Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can." I hope Claw & Blossom will, in its small way, help normalize the notion that human dramas are neither modular nor orthogonal to the natural world. Every personal conflict we experience is happening not only within the context of planetary ecosystems but is often also affecting those ecosystems, and too many human activities--common plot points that we accept without a second thought--still produce irreversible costs down the line. I believe that if we ever hope to slow down real-life planetary damage, we need to shift our myths and stories away from characters who live in three-act vacuums. To that end, my goal is to publish pieces in which the camera has been slightly zoomed out, so that the natural world might bleed into the traditional narrative bubble.

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

1) Urgency. It should somehow feel necessary for the eye of the story to be sharing these words with others. I don't want to feel like we're just killing time together waiting for a bus.

2) A confident narrative voice attuned to an audience. If readers are going to get invested, we need to trust that our feelings won't be handled casually or dropped. And confidence aside, there should also be a heart to the piece, a sense of humility. The best-chosen gerunds in the world won't save any of us if our characters aren't grappling with moments of genuine vulnerability.

3) Contextual complexity. For pieces that focus intimately on human conflict, I'd like to see narrative angles that illustrate an association to the natural world in a way that's not forced or incidental. For pieces that specifically lament environmental traumas, I'm interested in seeing how authors employ shades of gray--so as to invite readers to engage with the cruel complications--rather than sending work that's didactic or preachy.

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

CBA: Tough question. Every time I try to pin down the sort of thing people send that never works, somebody submits that exact thing and has found a way to make it pop.

I think I can safely say that pieces showing animals as good things to catch or tame or cage or ride unfortunately miss the point of the "natural world" element. Claw & Blossom also regularly receives poems that are essentially odes--sketches marveling at a creature's many wondrous characteristics. These portraits are always heartfelt, often have scintillating language, and I'm usually quite fond of the species myself--but for the piece to have a real impact on me, it also needs movement. Something to invest in, that's actually on the page.

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

CBA: Words that won't allow me to stop reading. I feel short pieces can't afford the luxury of throat-clearing. I hope to find strong, essential imagery and a compelling point of view from the get-go.

SQF: What one piece of advise can you offer writers and poets hoping to be published in Claw & Blossom?

CBA: Do what you can with the elements under your control (send things you're proud of, and submit to places where that work would be appropriate), but also understand that a love for your words isn't something you can calculate or mastermind.

The process of accepting a piece is unfortunately a lot like dating. To start, do I like how it smells, chews its food, treats its waiter characters--or are those verbs reminding me of a nasty narcissistic uncle? At a minimum, submitters should first read a journal's website, and browse issues, to better gauge a potential love connection.

The pieces I invite on subsequent dates--the short list--are those that feel insightful and societally relevant, and that make me tingle in ineffable ways. Final pieces--the ones Claw & Blossom absolutely must go steady with, polyamorously--wow, this analogy is getting exciting! The point is, I want to accept submissions that will work together pleasingly as a whole. For the issue to feel cohesive, the works should complement each other in style and tone. That relationship simply can't be engineered.

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

CBA: What's your feeling on humorous subs? I'm glad you asked, Jim! I am a huge fan of irreverence and wit, and consider satire to be a vital force in troublous times. If we can't find ways to recharge from this world's record levels of frustration and sorrow, we won't be of any use to ourselves or others, never mind the orangutans.

Tone is the tricky part. Put it this way: after a long, crappy day, I need dumb diversions as much as the next idiot sitting on my couch. I also write my own goofy environmental allegories and sub them out to places that seek the odd and offbeat. For Claw & Blossom, however, I am not looking to capture a light, wacky aesthetic. After I finish reading a submission--whether it's laced with dark humor or peppered with aching tragedy--I want to feel humbled and stunned. I want to feel thankful that such a gift was sent my way, and I want to open that gift again and again.

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


  1. I'd like to post this interview on my Facebook poetry site. I feel it's deserving of further attention.

  2. Hi, Neall. Thanks for contacting me. Yes, you may post the interview on your FB poetry page. I ask two things: 1) please include a link to the SQF site — — with the interview, and 2) please send me the link for your FB poetry page so I can support you.

    Jim Harrington
    Six Questions For --