Friday, May 22, 2020

Six Questions for Han and Gary, Editors, Lunate

Lunate publishes flash fiction, short fiction to 2,000 words, and poetry. “No genre limitations, but our inclination is towards serious, thematically rich, adult work.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Han and Gary: Lunate sprang from our desire to see a broader range of serious, intelligent, emotionally sensitive 'literary fiction' in the flash world. We were a little tired of seeing stories with, say, a strong whiff of misogyny about them; and, likewise, childs-eye-view pieces, which were little more than slices of misery porn about broken homes and broken people, with no real interest in the narrative impetus or the possibilities of language. So, we decided to make our own space where like-minded writers could find a home for their work.

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

We look for different things.

  • Interesting and inventive use of language .
  • A gripping story - preferably something that strays away from the tropes of Death, Divorce, Dementia.
  • Humour - A story doesn't have to be side-splittingly funny; it might just be a single moment of wry observation contained within a more sombre narrative, but I can't stand stories which are morose. 
  • A properly clean manuscript. No missing words (we get a lot of that), typos, grammatical issues. We do state that we'll happily clean up minor errors etc, but if there is messy punctuation throughout, we have to say no. If I see an opening sentence like "Laura folded her camping chair and walked back to car...", I'm already doubtful about what might follow.
  • Story. That might be a two thousand word extensive, event-driven narrative, or it might be the drug-fuelled fancies of an astronomer as he contemplates life, the universe and, well, vegetables (see: our Lunate 500 Competition winner The First Man On the Moon by Rosie Garland), but it must be A Story. Three quarters of works we decline are not so much stories, as thoughts: first person, contemplative pieces, invariably bleak but also static in that respect. We're yet to receive a submission of that type where the close, inward recollection surprises with a jumping-off into something unexpected, is humorously self-deprecating or enlivening for the reader. We like it when characters caught in those situations turn the narrative mirror on themselves: become the reader, almost. That’s generous writing when it happens.
  • Style. Inventive wordplay, nicely managed or a very simple, economical prose style (its elegance a result of its ease.) A one thousand word piece where every word earns its place. (Again we receive so many two thousand word pieces where we find ourselves becoming bogged down in the thick, overly detailed dialogue. Cut!) I've read much of our published work aloud - it's often that expertly crafted.
SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

Han: Child's eye-view. It has its place, but more often than not it gives a piece a twee/claustrophobic edge that puts me off completely.

Gary: Domestic dysfunction: we get a lot of stories about divorce, from both women and men. The bitter tone of these stories is so overpowering and the narrative so battering, there's simply nowhere for the reader to go. They're a tract, rather than a story, and they rarely surprise. We understand that people need to write from experience, but very often it feels like the writer is simply too close to the material and, as a result, the tone options do narrow: overwrought, morose, claustrophobic. We published a flash called Birth Story by Andrea Holck, narrated by a pregnant woman as her waters break while answering the door to - and meeting for the first time - her recently deceased partner's mother. It is emotionally devastating, has a 'twist' you don't spot coming, and it's laugh-out-loud funny. All that in five hundred words - it can be done!

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

Han: A gripping plot point and clear narrative voice - I know, I know, who doesn't want that, right? But I really don't think it can be overstated. Grab your reader from the off. Especially if we have had a flurry of submissions, I want to be seized and invested from the off.

Gary: Probably language. Are there four lines, say, that are just really nicely, economically delivered? The rest can follow.

SQF: What is the Lunate 500 Competition?

H&G: Our Lunate 500 competition is a flash contest for pieces of 500 words or less on a theme of our choosing. The shortlist is compiled by both of us, and then sent to a guest judge. We counted down that shortlist over fifteen days in February: twelve highly commended pieces, and then a third, second, and winner. We were blown away by the response. People really liked the format and they loved the work. We're biased, for sure, but the shortlist was just exceptional - so much craft and invention.

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

If you'd asked us which authors we most admire, we would have answered in a variety of ways depending on the day, the lunar cycle, and how much caffeine we'd each had, but for a rough idea, today we will say:

Tayari Jones
Banana Yoshimoto
Cho Nam-Ju

John Irving
Gwendoline Riley
Helen McClory

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

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