Friday, August 7, 2020

Six Questions for Dean Ford, Prose Editor, Defunkt Magazine

Defunkt Magazine publishes prose, poetry, visual and performance art, music and videos. It’s a quarterly online magazine with an annual printed anthology and accepts unsolicited submissions all year at no cost. Based in Houston, Texas, it hosts readings, open mics, and other live events all of which have been moved online due to the threat of covid-19. Add them on social media @defunktmag on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to keep up with the releases and events. For the complete submission guidelines and more check out their website.

 

SQF: You mentioned you are relatively new to the staff. What about Defunkt Magazine enticed you to become an editor?


Dean Ford: When I was invited onto the staff, I had just received a rejection letter from the Fulbright Scholarship that I had spent like 6 months applying to and felt lost as to what was next. Defunkt became my home. The staff is full of talented artists and intellectuals with a passion for giving marginalized voices a platform and they welcomed me on and helped heal the hurt from that rejection. It’s more than a literary magazine but a conglomerate of art forms and I was just happy to be a part of it. The opportunity to be prose editor came when our previous prose editor decided to step down to pursue his writing full time. I jumped on the offer because I believe this magazine is alive and growing and I want to put my hand to the plow to help it continue.  



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

 

DF:

  1. Authentic Voice: Possibly the most subjective yet most important quality. Having an authentic voice is not easily defined, but a reader knows when a character is real; when their emotions come from a real place rather than from a writer aiming for sensationalism. I suggest avoiding a perspective unfamiliar to you with the caveat that it can be done when there’s an acknowledgement to its unfamiliarity.
  2. Brevity and concise phrasing: saying more with less and prose that flows.
  3. Invitational: Prose that invites the reader to commune with the story. Prose that while perhaps showing an ‘other’ experience, gets at some universalities that connect us all. Done well by authors demonstrating their authentic understanding or perspective of humanity. The difference between a good story which performs all the proper craft techniques and an exceptional story is its ability to connect with the reader. I like to think of this as the spirit of the piece. When an author can reach through the prose to the reader, and the reader can see the human behind the narrative, the story is demanding to be published.


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

 

DF: If a story glamorizes hateful or violent behavior with no counter narrative, it’s binned. Do give me perverts and sinners, just make sure they come with a side of humanity.


Opposite to brevity and concise phrasing, if the story is not readable because the syntax is clunky or burdened by errors, it may not get a full reading.


Personally, I’m turned off by inconsequential conflicts. Often this appears in stories with YA drama where the character tries to pass their minor grievances as world-altering and life-threatening. It can be done as satire, but I’d suggest avoiding it completely. In the same vein, I’m turned off by inconsequential climaxes. There should be a permanent change or movement for the character from whatever is the established stasis.


But to balance that, another turn-off is sensationalism. When an author attempts a story riddled with melodramatic violence and cliché crudities for the sake of grabbing attention. You should probably avoid writing a story about thieving killer lesbian strippers if you’ve no experience with thieves, killers, lesbians, or strippers.


One more, I’m bored by flat text. There should always be something living underneath the words, especially in dialogue. Even if you’re giving me a Raymond Carver-esque story, or ‘sofa fiction’ as I call it, I want to feel something swimming beneath the surface.

 


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


DF: The first paragraph should hook the reader and establish a stasis. It should work to ground us and propel us. I want to know the occasion for the story. Why is this story being told? Also, a helpful mechanic is the introduction of a ‘clock’ or any other framing technique to build expectations.

 


SQF: Your guidelines state Defunkt offers one on one consultations. What does a writer need to know in order to take advantage of this service?

 


DF:  If you’re interested in receiving professional feedback from graduate level authors, you can send us an email at defunktmag.editors@gmail.com telling us which consultant you’d like to work with if you’ve a preference, the manuscript details, i.e. genre and page count, and any other information you’d like to share, like if there’s a deadline you’re trying to meet. More details are on the website, including bios of the consultants. It’s an excellent opportunity to get professional feedback while helping support the consultants and the magazine. The consultation fee is only $55, far less than what most mags charge, and $50 of that goes to the consultant.



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

 

DF: What are your favorite themes or styles?


Like I said in the first question, Defunkt Magazine is a home to all marginalized voices. We host a diverse staff of varied backgrounds and creeds. Though, for me, who is gay, a navy veteran who’s living with bipolar disorder, who grew up in a homophobic Christian home and who has a brother suffering from schizophrenia, LGBTQIA+ narratives and mental health narratives really resonate with me. They hit home. Also, I love postmodernism. Donald Barthelme levels of weird. I love stories that push edges. Chuck Palahniuk levels of taboo. I love stories where something is waiting in the rafters and crawling in between the walls. Carmen Maria Machado and Shirley Jackson levels of dark.




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