Friday, January 14, 2022

Six Questions for Catherine McNamara, Pamela Hensley and Michael Aliprandini, Litro Magazine

Litro is a quarterly themed print magazine and an online platform with weekly offerings of short stories, flash fiction, essays, and book reviews plus occasional features and interviews. Litro is always open for online submissions and never charges for submissions. It does not accept unsolicited submissions of poetry. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: How did Litro Magazine come to be?

Litro has been publishing since 2005, with a specific mission: to be a unique literary platform with diversity at its core; to reach as wide and diverse an audience as possible; to nurture literary development and support the next generation of emerging writers and artists; and to document social and political movements while encouraging cross-cultural conversations.  

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

Catherine McNamara, Flash Fiction UK Editor: I love language, so I would have to say I go for original and understated language, and I look for a meaningful voice. I also appreciate the humanity that lies behind the story, its way of tying us to the wider universe.

Pamela Hensley, Story Sunday USA Editor: Voice, voice, voice. If you get the voice right, any plot, setting, theme, character can work. Voice is how I get lost in a story, how I get transported and submerged in another world and that’s what makes reading exciting.

Michael Aliprandini, Story Sunday UK Editor: I look for language that is neither banal nor inflated; an awareness of form; sentences that take syntactic risks; and fresh emotions, ideas, and situations—or fresh takes on them.

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

Catherine McNamara: Spelling mistakes, clichés, overwriting, pretension.

Pamela Hensley: If there’s one thing that sends a story straight to the bin for me, it’s being told what to think or feel. I like restraint and nuance. I like to reflect on what’s happening. If a character acts in a certain way, I want to decide for myself what it means.

Michael Aliprandini: I’m turned off by unnecessary or excessive world-building; clichéd or banal language and clichéd situations; and clunky narrative gambits.

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

Catherine McNamara: I look for the bones of the story, a significant voice. Perhaps an unusual word. Not confidence so much as awareness. And yet a touch of music and innocence.

Pamela Hensley: I suppose you might call it intrigue. Some editors will call it a hook, but it shouldn’t feel gimmicky. For example, I won’t keep reading just because the first line is shocking or scandalous or a paradox that doesn’t seem to make sense. I have the patience to give a story a little time (especially if the voice is strong) and to be taken along on a journey. Often it works to ground the reader by dispensing with the who, what, where and/or when in the opening paragraphs and spend the rest of the story on the how and/or why. 

Michael Aliprandini: I look for stories that start in the “right” place and an awareness of how a story unfolds from its first moves. In my experience, the second paragraph can be important, too. Some writers, after a strong first paragraph, lose momentum in the second paragraph, often because they use it to dump backstory. 

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

Catherine McNamara: Not so much a hard sell – rather unacceptable. For us that would be anything that is ethically unsound or racially unaware, or involving cultural appropriation. Personally, I do not go for politics or hard violence or heavy irony, and have no problem with sex or erotica.


Pamela Hensley: Litro is not interested in publishing stories that promote hatred or intolerance. We welcome underrepresented voices and encourage cross-cultural conversations from writers around the world.

Michael Aliprandini: Sex and violence, if they serve a purpose and are handled effectively, don’t turn me off. Any piece of writing that uses genre tropes and doesn’t transcend its genre is an instant turn-off.

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

Catherine McNamara: I might have asked how important titles are or a writer’s publication background. I would say that titles lure me in – not only the showy ones. And a stunning publication background will definitely impress but not necessarily lead to an acceptance.

Pamela Hensley: I always ask other editors and book lovers what they’re reading and about their latest “author crush.” Right now I’m reading Brian Hall’s The Stone Loves the World alongside several rereads: Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida, Michael Ondaatje’s Coming through Slaughter, and Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Blue Flower. A few years ago, I thought I’d never get over my Jenny Erpenbeck crush, but I have finally moved on. The new one is Claire-Louise Bennett. 

Michael Aliprandini: I might have asked where I stand on experimental writing, and I would have answered that every serious story is a kind of experiment, which doesn’t mean that it has to be abstract or difficult to follow or visibly experimental on the page. Rather, each story should aim to play with the elements of fiction and express its perfect, unique collaboration of form and content.

Thank you, Catherine, Pamela, and Michael. We all appreciate your taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

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