Friday, July 29, 2022

Six Questions for Dylan Fritz, Co-Founder/Editor-in-Chief, Fish Barrel Review

Fish Barrel Review publishes poetry to two pages, fiction/non-fiction to 4,000 words, and artwork. “We are looking for dedicated, enthusiastic writers. Young, old, just starting out, or been at this for decades–we want to see the drive and passion that compels you to create.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Dylan Fritz: I started Fish Barrel Review with a friend after Peter LaBerge, founder of The Adroit Journal, visited our high school poetry class. He talked to us about the world of editing and publishing, and his experiences with founding Adroit when as a sophomore in high school. We were pretty amazed that he was able to do it, and I remember thinking, "Well, if he could, why couldn't I?" This aligned with a newfound interest of editing my peers' work, and I knew this was a project I could be passionate about. I've grown to love figuring out how and why writing can better relate to an audience, and what makes writing good. And being apart of a community of writers is really amazing too, I love emailing back and forth with contributors, and learning from other lit mag editors. It's all worked out better than I could've hoped!

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

DF: I'm always looking for originality--as much as I want a piece to be written beautifully, I'd much rather be surprised by something unlike anything I've read before. I think a lot of teens are taught that a certain type of writing is what's acceptable (flowery prose, deep metaphors, a lot of detail), and we think about it too hard. I just want to see that people aren't overthinking it, and just writing what feels like them. Don't worry about sounding like anyone else. 

The second thing has to be a good ending. So many great pieces get ruined at the very end because the author is thinking too hard about wrapping up all the loose ends, and the loose ends don't always need to be wrapped up. Although it's definitely a tricky balance, because when we ask for short stories, we want complete stories. This took a long time for me to understand, but "completeness" doesn't always mean a tight resolution. It can mean that things are starting to get better, or that someone has learned something. It's definitely a tricky balance to strike. 

And this is very poem-oriented, but I love a piece that follows its instincts and jumps from different associations. That's another sign of an author not being too far in their head, because they have the freedom to go with whatever they're thinking and just write it down because it feels right. The raw connections between objects and humans and memories are what makes up poems to me, so I'm always looking for poems that find those connections. 

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

DF: There are a lot of little things that bother me. Not following submission guidelines is a big one, because we have them all listed out. Although, as a writer, I know it can sometimes be difficult to organize when you're submitting to a lot of places in a short amount of time, so I get it. It also turns me off a lot when it feels like the writer takes themselves a bit too seriously, which you can tell from how a piece is written. Unnecessary description, thick paragraphs, long words, something that sounds pretty for the sake of sounding pretty. It reads as almost dishonest to me, and, as editors, we want to see something raw on the page. 

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

DF: I'm looking for something that surprises me a little bit. Something that doesn't seem right but works, or something that I need to know more about. Oftentimes it's not even the plot that catches me, it might just be the writing style of the author that's extra intriguing. We publish a lot of varying writing styles, which I'm a big fan of. 

SQF: Are there story ideas that you’d like to see more of in your submissions, or are there story ideas you receive too many of?

DF: I'd love to see more stories that go way outside the box, and are just super weird. That can be very tricky though, because a lot of times I'll have a story that's weird and I get to the end and I don't know what I just read. I like stories that are weird but use that as a tool to get something else across, something deeper than just weird, and I wish I saw more like that. 

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

DF: What's the most difficult part about running a lit mag?

There are so many difficult parts about running Fish Barrel, from staying organized to balancing it with other life responsibilities. Most small lit mag editors don't do this full-time, it's not exactly the most fruitful position in the world. I also hate sending out rejection letters for pieces I really like. Oftentimes I'll read a piece and get super excited about it, but the ending just doesn't work, or the plot didn't amount to anything (even though I can tell the writer is very talented). So it's difficult to have to say no. But all of it is very much worth it, because it's so fun and rewarding to see an issue of writing come together in real time. I love being able to give people a platform.

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


  1. Link to Fish Barrel Review didn't work

    1. The site is being updated. I'll publish the corrected link once I receive it.

    2. The site is back online.