Friday, May 20, 2022

Six Questions for Stephen FitzGerald, Publisher/Editor, Alphabet Box

Alphabet Box publishes fiction, essays, and poetry to 900 words. “Alphabet Box is an international quarterly journal dedicated to featuring the best poetry, flash fiction, personal essays and short creative prose from emerging and seasoned writers. All voices are heard. Hate is not.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Stephen FitzGerald: Initially, for a somewhat selfish reason. I wanted to read original writing in shorter formats than book-length manuscripts. To explain, I butter my bread as a writing coach, reader and editor to aspiring and established book authors. After issue one—four will be next—I realized I was providing a service by publishing and promoting deserving writers who are featured on At the same time, I'm getting a near-daily dose of reading creative pieces from writers from around the world, of all ages and backgrounds.

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

SF: I would have to say that being able to tell a good story comes first, whether in a poem or short fiction or nonfiction piece.

There's a tie for the close second:  Writing has to be reasonably accessible reading. I appreciate experiential and mood pieces, but not if they're too abstract to confidently interpret. The other half is credibility, whether a fantasy poem or reflective essay.

My third criteria is original creativity. I appreciate writers and poets who turn a phrase, which can be excellent if done well. I more admire writers who are confident enough to coin or invent a relatable phrase!

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

SF: Not much. I try to be as open-minded as possible when judging submissions. I do have three pet peeves, but they're not deal-breakers. Two of them exist because I've been a word nerd since I was nine.

The word "nor" is one. It's often framed in a way that equals a double-negative meaning to a sentence or verse, thus the opposite of what writers intend. I also steer away from abbreviating "until" to "till" for at least three reasons. Again, they're not deal-breakers, but beware I may edit your writing if it's selected to feature.

The third can be a deal breaker... ignoring the submission guidelines on the website. 

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

SF: Nothing in particular. If I'm a hungry fish, you can hook me with any number of baits, except for something gimmicky, clichéd or overused. When opening a submission, I'm open to familiarity, discovery or whatever. 

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

SF: I haven't received any such submission yet. Again, I'm open-minded. I wouldn't publish anything that promotes hate or non-consensual sex. I can see myself publishing other erotica if it falls within the three criteria, the top three things I mentioned earlier.

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

SF: Yes: Why is FitzGerald spelled with a capital G?

Fitz is a surname prefix that derives from "son of" in Latin. So, son of Gerald. It was used in honor of a parent or ancestor, similar to Der, Mac, Mc and Van to name a few. You see it commonly in FitzHarris, FitzRoy and FitzPatrick. Fitz is debated to mean the illegitimate son of royalty or nobility by some etymologists. I can assure you I am of neither royalty OR nobility.

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

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