Pigeon Review publishes short fiction to 3,000 words, flash fiction to 1,000 words, micro-fiction to 300 words, and art. “Sometimes the moments that impact us the most are the quiet ones. The ones we didn't realize were happening and didn't know had ended. These are the stories we want.“ Read the complete guidelines here.
SQF: How did you become involved with this magazine?
Nathaniel Mellor: I’m one of the co-creators, actually! My partner and I had the idea for a literary and art magazine years ago, but didn’t think we had the experience or knowledge to start one. Now that we’ve worked in galleries, been published, and had shows, we figured we could give it the proper time, respect, and knowledge it deserves.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
NM: (I’m writing this as if the question means “Top three things you look for in an accepted submission. If you mean in the submission itself, then I look for how long the story is, if the writer sent a bio, and if the story is written in English.) The unexpected. I personally like things in stories that are unexpected, whether it’s a theme, plot, ending, character, or some anachronistic device the writer has used. I don’t love twist endings, but when they’re done well, I’m happy to see it.
I also look for word usage. I enjoy stories that have a slightly peculiar word choice. I find that it slows me down in a good way, allowing me to better enjoy the story. We often see this with writers who don’t speak/read English as a first language.
The last thing I look at is the way the narrative is created. Is there any/too much implausibility in the story? Is it honest? Do the characters act in a consistent way? Is the story itself displaying a negative message? Does it promote violence/bigotry/supremacy even by accident (taking satire into account).
SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?
NM: I try to place the story over the quality of writing, mainly because we receive a number of stories from people who don’t speak or write English natively. It can be extremely difficult learning to speak a new language, but learning the complexities of the written language can often be harder, in my experience.
That being said, I won’t accept a story (even if the story itself is amazing), if the writing quality isn’t close to the quality already published.
I also won’t publish stories with outright misogyny (especially if the writer doesn’t seem to realize they’re being a misogynist), racism, intense trauma (sexual or physical), that doesn’t serve a purpose and is only there for shock value or to create a “powerful” backstory.
SQF: What do you look for in the opening paragraph(s) of a submission?
NM: How quickly the story grabs my attention, how quickly the writer is able to build a world, and how outright understandable the opening paragraph is. If it’s a paragraph I have to go back and read two or three times, it makes me wary of the clarity of the rest of the story.
SQF: If you could have dinner with three authors (living or dead), who would they be and why?
1st. Marcus Aurelias. (Although not a writer and only wrote one book which was published years after his death, I like to think he’d be a writer if born in more recent times.)
2nd. Simone Weil.
3rd. Truman Capote.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
NM: Do you enjoy what you’re doing?
A: When we began this journal, I wanted to grow it into something massive, and this was only four short months ago. My time involvement went from a few hours a month to more than sixty hours this past month. And as with nearly all literary journals, it doesn’t pay.
So this idea of enjoyment is something I think about often. Why do something if we don’t enjoy it? We go to a job we don’t enjoy because we need the money it offers. Sometimes we spend time with our family even if they drive us up a wall, sapping our enjoyment away.
Running a literary magazine has its ups and downs. Website work is always a headache. Remembering to tweet, usually at some point in the middle of the night, is a pain. And sending rejections is honestly heart-breaking because I’ve been on the other side many, many times, and I want to say “yes” to everyone.
At the end of the day, I find I do enjoy it. I enjoy creating this space for people to show their art and their stories. I enjoy being able to help people’s careers, whether they’re full-fledged writers or they’re just beginning. And I think I do it because in some small way I hope I’m making the world a better place, even if only slightly, by helping beautiful work see the light. And in a world like today’s, just a little more beauty is never a bad thing.
Thank you, Nathaniel. We all appreciate your taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.