Friday, September 16, 2022

Six Questions for Samantha Ng, Editor, Aôthen Magazine

Aôthen Magazine publishes flash fiction to 1,000 words, essays to 2,500 words, poetry, photography, art, and classical translation extracts to 1,000 words. “Aôthen Magazine (named after the Doric Greek term for the earliest dawn) is a magazine that is dedicated to all kinds of Graeco-Roman classics-inspired content.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Samantha Ng: For the most part, I started Aôthen because I wanted to make a publication solely focused on the classical world, which would allow works about more niche myths and histories to be published, when they might be rejected by other publications for referencing aspects of classics that are unfamiliar to the general public. I also wanted to create something that would allow people who haven’t been formally educated in classics to access the community and the knowledge, especially because I have personally experienced the struggle of trying to teach myself the subject. 

A more personal reason was so I could grow closer with the literary community. I’ve been reading and submitting to literary magazines since I was about twelve, and it’s always been a goal of mine to run a successful publication myself. Plus, more magazines means more opportunities for everyone!

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

SN: The three things are:

  • Something actually related to classics! In essence, anything to do with Ancient Greece, Rome, or Egypt. 

  • I really love pieces that approach myths through a new lens; anything with a modern twist, a new perspective, a reimagined ending, etc.

  • Poetry and prose that stretches the boundaries of their genre. Anything abstract or a little weird is always a good read and very refreshing. Poems or stories that are super short, have unique formatting, or take inspiration from artworks are very sought after here!

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

SN: I find that a lot of poetry about classics tends to be more “traditional”, in the sense that there’s a lot of purple language and rhyming. Since there’s a lot of writing like this in circulation, I don’t like to publish anything that has a strict rhyme or rhythm scheme. 

With prose, a hard to follow plot is a definite turn off, we’re looking for pieces that capture attention and don’t confuse readers by lingering too long on small details. Something that doesn’t pack a punch until the end is also not ideal, there’s a level of consistency that we’re looking for, since we don’t want readers to lose interest before the final paragraph.

In general, I really don’t like pieces that go into extreme depth about sex, assault, or any sort of violence. While these are definitely themes in classical myths and history, protecting readers comes first, and these things feel unnecessary when there are other ways to add impact to creative work.

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

SN: First, I make sure that everything fits the theme of the magazine, as we get a lot of off-topic submissions.

Afterwards, I usually look for anything that makes the submission stand out; are the characters unfamiliar? Is there interesting language or formatting? Has the topic of the submission been covered by a piece I’ve already read or accepted? Apart from these things, I also look at the writer’s style. I think about whether or not it sounds too formal, whether I can properly imagine scenes that they create, and whether the piece is visually appealing (eg. has appropriate paragraph and stanza lengths). 

One other thing I look for is technical skill. Of course, a stray spelling error or missed punctuation mark is no big deal, but it’s nice to see proper grammar and use of vocabulary. I also love it when people use em-dashes properly instead of hyphens! Many people tend to mix the two up.

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

SN: I would say cliched topics are quite hard sells for me, in particular, modern retellings of Narcissus. I’ve seen many pieces about Narcissus reimagined as a teenage girl, or as a modern man, and while these aren’t inherently bad concepts, it’s hard to make them stand out against the others.

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


SN: What are your future plans for Aôthen?

Aôthen has been running for 2 quarters, and I’ve started to think about how to expand and maintain the publication in the future. 

In the near future, I’m hoping to expand the team and take on some media volunteers as well as some copy editors to help make work more efficient. I also hope to release some merchandise to fund the printing and advertising costs for the magazine. 

Farther along the line, I want to continue improving the quality of Aôthen until I can get it shelved in bookstores or magazine stores–that’s really the end goal for the publication! 

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

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