Friday, November 6, 2020

Six Questions for Kyle Diduck and Jay Miller, editors of The Lit Quarterly

The Lit Quarterly seeks to maintain a platform for the free expression of ideas through creative writing. The Lit Quarterly publishes short fiction of 1,000-5,000 words, verse poetry of 12-40 lines (preferred), and non-fiction essays of 1,500-5,000 words. See guidelines for preferred topics.

(Ceased publication)


SQF: Why did you start this magazine?


Kyle Diduck: I started the magazine primarily as a motivator for myself and others to see our writing through. By putting together a magazine that would be published in hard copy, and by paying the writers, I hoped to encourage them to further develop the works that, in some cases, they’ve been casually working on for years. I also hope to curate a space where free and open exchange of ideas can occur through creative writing. A lot of publications, and the industry at large, can be notoriously stifling to challenging, original, or contrarian ideas, which narrows the scope of discussion for everyone.


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


KD: Firstly, a work should be engaging and plausible, subtle and insightful. This is a lot to ask, but I think the best writing occurs when the author finds a balance between these four things. Secondly, I look for works that challenge readers by going against the orthodoxy and sensibilities of modern readers—this isn’t a requirement, but they capture my attention much more strongly.


Jay Miller: Bold style, original expression, dénouement. Like Kyle says, it seems like a lot to ask to me, too, although perhaps only because I can’t seem to achieve it often enough in my own writing. Fortunately for us, we get a lot of ingenuous material throughout the year. We never have a problem filling the pages.


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


KD: If a work is obviously a rough first-draft, spilled upon the page. Also, if a work tries to make broad, definitive declarations about the reality of the universe without justification, context, or nuance.


JM: We’re all on the same team here. I try to be brief in commentary with things I don’t like. I try not to hold onto, from piece to piece, what turns me off about a submission, but I maintain a standard procedure when approaching a new work: does this remind me of anything? If yes, is it a new take or a bona fide rehash? If no, is it something I think I could learn something from editing? If yes, I pour my heart into it; if no, I continue my editorial catechism until something results in a flowchart yes/no. Entrusted with people’s work, I enjoy challenging myself as a potential editor of their pieces, then as a hands-on kind of guy, I redline the hell out of everything with my suggestions, diagnostic questions, fact-checking, allusions, etc., hoping not to impose myself beyond reason. I really want contributors to know I’m working for them, so if I can’t see myself getting into the weeds with them, I don’t want to make my job their problem and I tell myself no.


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


KD: I look for a voice/perspective that I can sympathize with, whether this be the protagonist or the narrator. I don’t have much sympathy for characters who wallow in victimhood or oppression, or whose identity is hinged on those things.


JM: Like pop music, the hook has to connect, it's gotta be hot. There has to be sparks. If it doesn't jive, it doesn't click, it doesn't pull the reader in, even momentarily, it's gonna be a hard sell.


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


KD: Science-fiction, fantasy, and other specific genres of fiction are hard sells for me. Plausibility in a story is great bedrock on which to establish meaningful characters and plots. It’s difficult to engage with human problems while keeping everything realistic, but I like seeing how contributors try to overcome this challenge. (Note: in the past, we have published works that contained elements of sci-fi and fantasy, but those elements were not the defining features of the stories).


JM: I love it all. Big fan of sex in literature (Sade, Ellis, Nin), and I remain partial to much sci-fi and fantasy (Judy Merril, Isaac Asimov, Eoin Colfer). Hard sells for me are… Artaud said it best: “enough of these poems that only end up benefitting those who make them more than those who read them!” I’m not suggesting you need to become a master of astrophysics and botany to compose original poetry, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to know what’s original and what’s been done to death. There’s a lot that hasn’t been written yet, there’s a lot left to be said.


SQF: What kind of submissions would you like to see more of?


KD: I would like to see more essays addressing aspects of society that have emerged very recently. The last fifteen years has seen rapid changes in social interactions, warped political paradigms, new and changing ideologies, and unbridled technological changes, and I would love to see original and insightful discussions on these topics for our non-fiction section.


JM: Generally speaking, we want to use our platform to publish stuff we don’t think would easily find its way to the light of day without us. Bombastic and full of facts. Like every 3 months we get an essay or two absolutely laden with facts. I love those. They’re precious to me. When they’re full of things you know, maybe only peripherally, or very obviously not at all, and you look everything up one-by-one and realize this whole crossword of paragraphs is spelling out one very unique, tangible idea. That, but fiction.


SQF: Are there certain topics/subject matter that the writer should avoid?


KD: No. Any topic is acceptable if it’s executed properly.


JM:  No, not with us. We don’t go out of our ways to shout it from the rooftops but we really dig true grit, stories about mental health, sexuality, mature themes, etc.; but we won’t workshop or proceed with anything that isn’t done tastefully. Every now and then, we agree to print something because it simply delights the sense to read. 


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


KD: “What are some of the main challenges of processing submissions for a magazine such as yours?” Answer: one difficulty is finding a way to reject an author’s submission without being discouraging. Oftentimes, whether I can articulate it properly or not, the work just hasn’t yet reached the place where it’s bound.


JM: “What impact do we hope to have with the magazine?” Our answer: we hope to leave people with something to remember. We’re young, too, and this is just the beginning of our careers as writers.

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

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