Friday, February 19, 2021

Six Questions for Laura Cassidy, Claire Hennessy, and Eimear Ryan, Editors, Banshee Journal

Banshee Journal publishes fiction and essays of 2,000-4,000 words, flash fiction under 1,000 words, and poems of no more than 40 lines. The journal is based in Ireland, but welcomes international submissions from writers of any background. Read the complete guidelines here.


SQF: Why did you start this magazine?


Banshee Journal: All three of us are writers and passionate, opinionated readers, and we wanted to carve out a space in the Irish literary scene for work that we love and wanted to champion. 



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


BJ: We look for something that invites the reader in—this might be because it's so intriguing that you need to know more, or because there's something very relatable in there, or it's strange and beautiful and you're not quite sure what's going on but you're willing to let the writer pull you along.


We look for work that has been crafted—that after the initial glorious artistic impulse, effort and care has been put in to refine and develop a piece.


We look for work we enjoy. This is absolutely one of those subjective things and writers often hate hearing it—it feels like it should be 'fairer', like grading an exam. But it's true, and the more writers can accept this, the easier it is to realize that a 'not for us' really means that, and isn't a damning indictment of you as a writer. (To get a taste of the kind of work we like, you can take a look at our website—a selection from back issues is available there and should be, if we're doing our job right, a pleasurable reading experience for people as well as 'research' for submitters.) 



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


BJ: The first thing is people who haven't read the guidelines—sending us work that isn't suitable (for example, news articles, academic essays, a whole novel or poetry collection). I know people who submit work to journals are sick of hearing this, but Read The Guidelines! There's a reason everyone keeps saying it!


Aside from that, work that's in its early stages and needs to be revised or developed before it's ready for the 'yes'/'no' that submitting involves. Work that feels overly-familiar and depends on cliché from the beginning. Work that stays general without getting specific, skimming along the surface instead of going deeper.


Finally, cover letters that are overly-detailed can be offputting—for example, you don't need to explain or apologise for not having published work previously. We expect that some of our contributors won't—we love being able to say we were the first place someone appeared in print! And you don't need to present an analysis or justification of your work—let us get through the cover letter quickly so we can move onto just reading it.



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


BJ: We look for anything that will keep us reading—for fiction that might be a distinctive voice or situation, for poetry it might be a surprising or interesting use of language. At that early stage it's probably more important for us not to be put off—we want to find something we're excited about, we're primed for it. We don't read to the very end of every submission—our priority is identifying the submissions we're going to take on and want to develop further—but we do give everything a fair chance. 



SQF: Is there a particular type of submission you’d like to receive more of?


BJ: We'd love to see more flash fiction, which is a terrific form but tricky to get right, and more creative non-fiction—particularly essays that are personal but draw in other things, in the way that essays can, rather than being straightforward memoir. 



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


BJ: 'How should writers respond to rejections?'—both in terms of their own heads and actual responses sent! It's rarely a good idea to send a response after getting a rejection note, unless it's a very quick thank-you for any specific feedback included (which is not typical, and it's important writers understand this—if you're seeking out feedback, a workshop or writers' group is the place to go, it's the stage before sending-out). It's hard for it not to sound passive-aggressive, and sometimes it can be actually aggressive—'you've made a mistake, you don't understand my genius, should've known to expect this from [insert insult/swearing here]', etc. (Of course people think these things, but do your ranting to a pal, not at the editors!) An awful lot of people think about submissions as waiting for a 'yes' instead of expecting a 'no'—if you presume that 'no' is a default, it's a much healthier attitude. A 'no' doesn't mean 'you can't write'—good work does get turned down. All the time. There are so many writers we've published whose work we've said no to at other times—both before and after an acceptance. It's normal. It's been so valuable to us, as writers ourselves, to see things from this side of the desk. That the writing world is 'full of rejection' is something we hear a lot, but you need to believe it emotionally as well as intellectually to be able to deal with it.


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


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