Friday, June 11, 2021

Six Questions for Tahlia McKinnon, Founder/Editor-in-Chief, Hecate Magazine

Hecate Magazine is an online journal and bi-annual anthology that publishes poetry, short prose and creative non-fiction. Submissions are open to women writers and other marginalised gender identities and expressions, including bigender/polygender, non-binary/gender-non conforming and two-spirit writers. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Tahlia McKinnon: Hecate Magazine was founded during the current pandemic and born out of a particularly bleak period of my life. After years spent striving toward an editorial career, I found myself in a stagnant marketing role within a corporate company. A suit of skin that really didn’t fit me. And working in that pressure-cooker environment during the heightened anxiety of lockdown, it caused me to hit some catastrophic mental lows.

It was so overwhelmingly daunting to me, to realise that I had been existing on autopilot for quite some time. Silencing my creative impulses. Denying myself time to write. The one thing I truly know how to do. The absolute basis of my identity. 

Hecate was something I had to get out of me – almost compulsively. It’s a project that gave me purpose throughout the pandemic. Faced with such a hostile period of isolation, I craved community. I needed to reconnect - with my own self too.

I actually ended up quitting my job in December of 2020, and despite economic uncertainty, I can confidently say that it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. Hecate breathed life back into me, and making this magazine my focus has been soul-food. In so many inexplicable ways. 

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

TM: I’m not sure I can pinpoint particulars, but to any writer looking to submit to us, I would say this: Capture and captivate us. Tease us with twists and open endings. Weave a web of lies. Make your tales dark. Make them light. Embrace archetypes. Rewrite old myths. Birth your own legends. Make us gasp. Give us chills. Gift us with the flesh of character. The bones of brooding tension. We want horror, magic, shadow, heartache, whimsy, dreams. We want to be broken. We want to be lifted.

Our bi-annual anthologies act like bookends; they mirror the light and shade of the human experience, much of what Hecate as a goddess represents. For our summer issue, we still invite darkness but with a euphoric edge. For our winter release, we want to be shaken to the core. 

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

TM: With set themes, we often receive many literal interpretations – but we’re looking for writers that bend truths. Who boldly invert our prompts. We’re also not particularly compelled to read retellings, unless they’re from a blinding angle. We seek word weavers who conjure alternate fairytales of their own. Who inject magic into the mundane – because we’re always hungry for spiritual undertones.

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

TM: You really don’t need to deliver a hook with your first line. For me, personally, I think that’s an over-egged misconception. I think a slow burn can work just as well. If a tone is set, an ambience created, and a point of view established, I’m a very happy reader. The obvious choice is not always the most compelling. And, in fact, it’s often a closing line that stays with me most.

SQF: What types of submissions would you like to see more of (e.g. poetry, memoir, flash fiction)?

TM: I love reading creative non-fiction. I have a very personal relationship with my own writing and there’s something so transporting, so transformative, when you read of another’s suffering or grief or joy and exultation. I’ve commented on this before, but it thrills me, the blurred line between truth and fantasy. Writing can be an incredibly healing and cathartic process, so reading these recounted memories – it’s almost like bearing witness.

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

TM: What do I admire most in other writers? And that’s an endless list, really – but I think the bravery behind what we do is often undervalued or dismissed or – actually - outright exploited. This relationship between writers and editors and readers is built on trust, in all directions. Creation relies almost entirely on holding space. In my mind, anyway. Words are powerful, and it never fails to move me – witnessing what other writers do with this gift.

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

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