Friday, August 14, 2020

Six Questions for Noah Sanders, Editor, The Racket

The Racket publishes prose, poetry and non-fiction to 750 words, and art on a weekly schedule. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Noah Sanders: The Racket has been a reading series for a few years now. When COVID-19 suddenly swept live events (and my status as an 'employed' person) off the table, I had some free time and some free creative energy. I've always wanted to do a journal and providing a distraction, brief and hopefully entertaining for people trapped inside their homes seemed like not only providing a service, but a way to keep me sane when the hours of freedom became a bit of a prison. 

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

NS: First and foremost - voice. I don't need originality in terms of concept (because I don't think good writing has to reinvent the wheel) but I need the writing to sound distinct, to stand up and out of the crowd and assert itself as something interesting and something different. Second, we ask for pretty short submissions (750 and less, for the most part) so the writing needs to be tight. There's a general sloppiness that pops up in a lot of submissions and those that are fine-tuned and clearly edited shine like a supernova. Finally, and I know this sounds like bullshit, but there's a certain something in a good piece of writing, an energy or a hook that I can almost physically feel. I don't love a lot of pieces on first read, but if that bump of interest exists I'll go back over and over again to see why. 

SQF: What most turns you off in a submission?

NS: There's a certain aggressive, entitled, dude energy that comes through so often in poetry. I never thought I would associate bros and poetry (though bro-etry is pretty funny) but it is a serious contingent in our submissions piles. There's this feeling entangled in so much of the writing from male-identifying authors that this poem not only should be read and accepted but deserves to be so. It makes me feel like I'm in middle school and I'm being poetically bullied. And not to say swagger or confidence in your work is a bad thing, far from it. Entitlement though if I get even a whiff of it, I'm out.

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

NS: Again, an interesting voice. You don't need to shock me with your opening line or wow me with your ability to use more than one multi-syllabic descriptor. I just want to feel your subject and your energy and your voice. I'm not saying that's easy, but if that reads in your first stanza/paragraph, you are already way ahead.

SQF: What are hard sells for your publication?

NS: Poetry about writing poetry does very little for me. Also, though we haven't received any yet, like button-bursting, 'aching loin' romance feels pretty off-brand for us.

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

NS: What should my cover letter include?

Writers of the universe, your "cover letter" (or the email your submission is attached to) shouldn't be longer than your actual piece. It shouldn't be a twelve page deep dive into the historical context in which your piece was conceived. I don't need to know every publication you've been published in (but, seriously, that's a lot of publications). I don't need to know your backstory (though I'm sure it's interesting). That said, your submission should have a brief introduction to the piece you're submitting because submissions without them are both a) kind of creepy and b) so impersonal it implies you aren't submitting to The Racket for any reason besides you are fulfilling your submission quota for the day/week/month. It's a fine line to toe, but I believe in you.

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

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