Friday, October 23, 2020

Six Questions for Mary Elizabeth Bardsley, Leslie Caton, and Laura Johnson, Editors, Backchannels

Backchannels publishes poetry to ten pages, prose to 3,500 words and visual art. “All told, we like a bit of everything: surrealism, realism, post-modern, Victorian, post-post-modern…whatever label you’d like to use.  Intrigue us. Inspire us. Confound us.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Backchannels: We started this magazine to offer a platform for authors and artists that was truly accessible and provided for real connection. We feel it is important to give adequate time and care when responding to each submission so that we can honor the efforts that went into the writing/art in the first place. Ultimately we desired to create a high quality, unique literary magazine that we could be proud of.

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


1. Strong voice/imagery—regardless of the genre, there has to be a grounding and strong voice that carries us through the piece, and we want to fully experience and picture what we're reading too.

2. Authenticity—particularly if it's a personal essay, we want to feel that the piece is genuine.

3. "X Factor"—Something that moves us, makes us think more deeply about something, or something we feel will resonate with a wider audience.

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

Backchannels: If the biography is way too long (after we've indicated that it needs to be a short bio), that is off putting. Also, if there are multiple and obvious grammatical errors in the piece, that will quickly cause our interest to wane in the submission overall.

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

Backchannels: There's no one thing we look for, though an opening that is engaging and draws you in immediately is always helpful. This answer is hard to articulate because we publish such diverse work, and all three of us look for different elements.

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

Backchannels: Absolutely agree with this! From our website regarding submissions: 

We are always interested in strong story lines, characterization, and dialogue. Here’s the deal: we like sex as much as the next person, but we are not publishing erotica or pornography. Also a note about sexual violence: if it is a part of your work, it needs to be contextually and socially important; if you’re not sure what that means, you can always email for additional clarification.


We invite work from all voices and experiences, especially those outside the mainstream. If you create work about race, racism, or sexualities, we highly recommend you write from experience or use care and consideration of your subject matter and understand the complexities and social and historical context of what you take on.

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

Backchannels: We also publish original art, which has been a very rewarding part of this venture. If you are thinking of submitting art to Backchannels, consider the message that is communicated through your art, as well as the composition. We are very interested in your artistic process and artist mission too.

Thank you, Mary Elizabeth, Leslie and Laura. We all appreciate your taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

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