Friday, April 30, 2021

Six Questions for Rowan Bagley, Editor-in-Chief/Prose Editor, Not Deer Magazine

Not Deer Magazine publishes fiction, nonfiction, and essays to 2,500 words, flash fiction to 1,000 words, poetry, and visual art in the horror genre. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Rowan Bagley: I struggled for a long time to find magazines that were putting out the kind of work that I wanted to see, which was horror and surrealism by marginalized voices. I was frustrated with how the genre had become dominated by the same kinds of stories by the same kinds of people, and I decided that the best way to find a magazine that took other perspectives into consideration was to create one. When I pitched the idea to my co-editors, they got excited and suddenly I had two other people who wanted to see this happen.



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

RB: We’ve all agreed that it’s important we choose pieces that mesh well with the theme of Not Deer, which is foggy and uncanny. We want to publish pieces that have this same kind of uncanniness to them. We also look for freshness, we want to read narratives that we haven’t seen before. Nobody wants to read something from a stale perspective and we always take into account what a reader would enjoy when we first look at a submission. Lastly, we look for presence. We ask ourselves if the submission we’re reading has left us with a lasting impression because the best pieces of literature are the ones that stay with you long after you’ve finished reading them.



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

RB: We don’t like to see pieces that have obviously not been thoroughly edited before being submitted. We understand the occasional spelling or grammar error, but we feel as though our time and the time of potential readers is being wasted when we’re given a piece that’s clearly a first draft. We also dislike when a submission doesn’t follow the guidelines on the site. For example, if a submission comes to us 400 words over our limit and is submitted as a PDF, we know that our guidelines weren’t read and that feels intensely disrespectful to the work we do.



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

RB: Openers are a kind of litmus test for the rest of the piece and if we aren’t grabbed within the first sentence or first few lines, then we can hardly expect a reader to be. We look for openers that shake us by the shoulders and force us to pay attention.


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

RB: I’ve been writing in the horror genre for almost 10 years and reading it for even longer, and I can say for a certainty that the hardest sell for me is sexual assault as a plot device. Many writers of horror (or even horror fans) feel as though the genre and brutally violent sexual assault are somehow inextricably linked, which has never sat right with me. There are ways to convey horror without it and, at this point, it feels lazy to hinge a plot around a very real kind of violence that 1-in-4 women (a statistic that’s even higher for Queer and Trans people) will experience in their lifetime. Reading is entertainment at its core and there is nothing entertaining about sexual assault.


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

RB: This is sort of a basic question, but I’d ask what is most enjoyable about running a magazine. I enjoy being able to share a person’s work that they’ve put pieces of themselves into as well as hear how that work has affected a reader. We’ve gotten a lot of submissions from people who’ve read a piece we published and were motivated to send in their own, simply because someone else’s writing resonated with them. I love when submitters tell us a piece we published stuck with them because it lets me know that the work we’re doing is leaving the desired impression. I enjoy knowing that people look forward to reading our publications.

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

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