Friday, July 1, 2022

Six Questions for Nathaniel Webb, Editor-in-Chief, Wyngraf

Wyngraf publishes flash fiction up to 1,001 words and short fiction 3,000 to 8,000 words long. Wyngraf is dedicated to cozy fantasy, stories that focus on relationships and growth rather than action and violence. Read our submission guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Nathanial Webb: In early 2021, I was recovering from a major surgery and burnt out on Covid isolation. I started looking for cozy fantasy to read—stories full of wonder, with comparatively low stakes and worlds I could get lost in. There was some of it out there, but it could be hard to find, especially because everyone has a different definition of "cozy." At the same time, though, there was clearly an unmet demand for this kind of story. The more I sought out cozy fantasy, the more I discovered just how many people were looking for it. So I was surprised to find it lacked both a central gathering place and a magazine of its own. In January 2022, after much uncertainty and nervousness, I started Wyngraf in hopes of providing both those things.

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

NW: Number one is a cozy feel that matches what our vision—the "Wyngraf vibe," as we call it. There are a few easy cuts: we don't want stories set on Earth, we don't want stories with modern technology, that sort of thing. We tend toward high fantasy. That's all laid out in our submission guidelines. After that, there's certainly wiggle room, but at its heart, the Wyngraf vision of cozy fantasy means personal stories, welcoming worlds, and an ending that leaves the reader uplifted. I've definitely rejected otherwise good stories because they had downer endings. We don't shy away from action and violence, but stories that are only about those things aren't a good fit. Stories starring unpleasant people aren't a good fit.

Next, we look for strong writing. There are a number of basic prose errors that we see time and again from newer authors, as well as a few stylistic choices that aren't technically errors, but make a story hard to engage with. We can usually tell when an author hasn't run their story by an editor, beta reader, or fellow writer for feedback. Sometimes it looks like the author just sent in their first draft without so much as a spellcheck! I've actually written a number of blog posts of tips for authors who want to sell to Wyngraf (and elsewhere), in the hopes of helping them tell the best version of their story. Those are all online at

Once a story makes it past the twin gates of a cozy feel and polished prose, things get a lot hazier. Often, what sells a Wyngraf story is the setting. Setting is a huge part of cozy fantasy. Our readers want worlds they can daydream about visiting. Think the Shire, Hogwarts, or Redwall Abbey. A story that brings an appealing setting to life is a big win.

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

NW: We get a surprising number of submissions from folks who clearly didn't bother to read our guidelines. We've tried to be clear about what we do and don't want—if you're asking us to take the time to read your story and you haven't even looked at our website, it's a bit insulting.

Assuming your story fits our guidelines and the prose is polished, the single thing most likely to sink it is probably sticking a ton of exposition up front. 99.9% of the time, the reader doesn't need all the backstory you think they do. Your story should be engaging on its own, without requiring a bunch of setup—or if that setup is really exciting, maybe you're starting your story in the wrong place. When exposition is needed, there's an art to delivering it so you're not just feeding the reader a bunch of facts. We have some good posts about this on the "What We Learned" blog I mentioned before, including a breakdown of a story we published and how it artfully handles exposition.

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

NW: Having kvetched about what we don't want... a great story almost always introduces the protagonist right away. More than that, the protagonist is doing something, not just sitting around thinking about life. Seeing a character in action tells us more about them, in fewer words, than reams of interior monologue. Looking at the stories in Wyngraf #1, we've got heroes setting off on journeys, working magic, receiving mysterious visitors, and arriving somewhere new, all in the first paragraph or two.

SQF: Are there certain genres/types of stories you’d like to see more of in your inbox?

NW: Back in January we put out the word for what we call "backpack fantasy," cozy fantasy about travels and journeys. Then we got a bunch of great backpack stories during our first submissions round, so now I'd love to read more stories that stay home! I'd also like to see more slice-of-life, truly low-stakes stuff like Travis Baldree's novel Legends & Lattes. And more halflings. And elves. And kobolds...

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

NW: You should have asked where readers can find cozy fantasy outside Wyngraf! For starters, we publish free flash fiction on our website every week. (Free to read—the authors still get paid!) We also have a list of fantasy novels people usually recommend as cozy—search "Appendix C" on the website. Other than us... right after I started Wyngraf, two awesome things happened. First, another cozy fantasy market launched! They're called Tales & Feathers, they ran a great Kickstarter, and they pay a lot more than we do. They're starting small, though, I think one flash story a month. The other big splash was a book I mentioned before, “Legends & Lattes” by Travis Baldree. He self-pubbed this novel in February and it became a monster hit—it's sold a jillion copies, it's stocked in physical bookstores, and Tor picked it up for a traditional print run. It's a fantastic book and Travis is a really good dude. Best of all, it's done a ton of good for our little subgenre, because we all suddenly have a hot new book we can point at and say "That's what we're doing!" Check 'em out!

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

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