Friday, February 12, 2021

Six Questions for NaBeela Washington, Editor-in-Chief, Lucky Jefferson

Lucky Jefferson publishes poetry and flash fiction, to 1,000 words. Issues are themed. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

NaBeela Washington: Lucky Jefferson was started because we wanted to be the literary journal or magazine we weren't seeing when submitting our own work. There aren't a lot of journals that can take art and use that as an intersectional and conversational piece to draw attention to new work and also support budding relationships with authors. We wanted to create a reality where a Black woman could succeed in leading and executing a journal that would potentially reimagine what publishing could be, might be. We use the word "reimagine" a lot, but we love that description because that's what most publications are—they are a hope for something better, greater. In our case, we also hoped for a more diverse playing field and stories that accurately acknowledged our being. 

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

NW: The first thing we look for in any submission is, did you do your homework? Anyone can submit something anywhere, but did you take the time to check out our social media? Did you review our submission guidelines in full? If you did, your submission would express that. One thing we get overwhelmed with at times are writers who spam submit or submit blindly for the sake of submitting. I can't tell you how much of a time suck that is and how almost detrimental that is to the process. Essentially in doing that you're saying, "I don't care about your journal but read my work."

The next thing we look for in a submission is a connection to the current theme. I think this is the primary reason some submissions are denied because they don't properly connect to the theme. And it's so strange because we get more questions about other topics than on what a particular theme means. We wish people asked more questions in general before submitting. If a work connects to a theme and is strong in its form, syntactically sound, and possesses a unique connection to the theme, it's probably getting accepted. 

The last thing we look for in a submission is personality. We ask submitters to get creative with their bios and the way they present themselves and their work because it helps us understand if they will be great brand ambassadors later. We pay more attention to this now because it helps to have people in your corner rallying on your behalf, who are on fire for what you do. When we first started this, we didn't realize how much personality played a role in other authors discovering us or our visibility for other opportunities in general.

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

NW: Lengthy bios. It comes off as extremely arrogant and this goes against what we stand for. Sometimes we'll get a submission from someone and their bio is over half a page long; we ask all submitters to supply a bio that's not only third-person but 50 words or less. This small ask let's us know if you read our guidelines or not, which is also a turn-off. Being completely transparent, we aren't trying to work with writers who have been published everywhere. We are looking for fresh talent, writers who are up and coming or who have never been published. We'll take the engineer turned poet any day.

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

NW: A good hook. The first couple of lines of poetry or flash fiction need to immediately hook us, bury its claws deep into our interest.

SQF: What is Little Jefferson?

Little Jefferson is the kiddie/pre-teen corner of Lucky Jefferson. Here you'll find work from authors ages 9-13. We started it because we wanted to create space for younger writers and encourage those budding passions early on. We are hoping to turn this collection into an ongoing teacher/school collaboration so that we might have an endless supply of student work because as you might imagine, parents are overwhelmed right now and this makes it harder to access them. 

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

NW: Hmm. Since we are working to prioritize the voices of Black identifying authors, we'll mention our digital zine Awake here. This zine is meant to be an ongoing assessment and reflection of the Black experience, from Black authors by Black authors. It's a small but wholesome taste of Black identity and expression at its rawest. We have big dreams for Awake and are excited to unveil them little by little. 

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

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