Friday, December 23, 2022

Six Questions for Seb Reilly, Editor, Seaside Gothic

Seaside Gothic is a quarterly print magazine that publishes fiction, poetry, and nonfiction of up to 1,000 words in its namesake genre. An example of seaside gothic literature is The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. There are no submission fees and contributors are paid. Read the complete guidelines here.


SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Seb Reilly: As I imagine is often the response, I have always wanted to run a magazine. The concept itself came from my own writing, which I was struggling to classify. Eventually I settled on the descriptor of “seaside gothic” and the idea for the magazine came from there. For five years I was Editor-in-Chief of Thanet Writers, managing a team of six Editors and publishing new content daily. Although that was a great project to be part of, it was predominantly online. I wanted to make something tangible and so Seaside Gothic was born.


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

SR: Firstly, the piece needs to be within the word count. Secondly, it must meet the three criteria that define seaside gothic literature: be led by emotion, address duality, and connect to the edge. Thirdly, and most importantly, I need to fall in love with the piece. Ultimately this is what I look for in submissions.


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

SR: Often the reason I don’t accept a piece is that it says something I have read before. We often receive fiction submissions that tell the same stories: finding a mermaid washed up on the beach, a siren tempting someone towards the water, a character contemplating jumping from a cliff, a hermit upon an island, someone walking alone into the sea. In these cases, the story needs to be both exceptional and subvert the expectations of the standard pattern of the tale. Similarly, we receive fiction, poetry, and nonfiction which merely describes a place, or sometimes a character in a place. Without agency and tension fiction doesn’t work, without juxtaposition and contrast poetry feels hollow, and without evaluation and intonation nonfiction fails to captivate. Good writing is more than just good writing.


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

SR: I read every submission in its entirety and I am happy to be surprised by a piece up to and including the last line. I want an opening consistent with the rest of the piece.


SQF: You list three criteria that define seaside gothic literature—it is led by emotion, it addresses duality, and it connects to the edge. Can you provide N example of this?

SR: The example above of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea meets these three criteria. It is a tale of a poor old man who is friends with a young boy, and who cannot eat as he has not caught a fish in a long time. He travels out on his boat past the horizon to catch a big fish, which the townspeople find amusing, but then when he is at sea he indeed catches the biggest fish the town will have ever seen. He battles the fish, then sharks who try to eat it, then the sea and himself, until he returns victorious. Though the fish has been eaten, enough remains to show its size and the town finally takes care of him as he has earned their respect even though he did not bring back anything to eat. The story is about pride and honour, and it is character-driven and led by emotions instead of reason or logic. Throughout the tale duality is addressed, with contradictions and juxtapositions entrenched in the narrative. The town on the coast and the old man from the land out at sea connect the piece to the edge. The three criteria are also included figuratively, in that the themes the story addresses reflect them as well. Just like The Old Man and the Sea, every piece published by Seaside Gothic meets these three criteria in its own way.


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

SR: I often get asked whether a mistake in a submission will affect its chances. I can’t speak for every literary magazine, of course, but I’m not put off by the odd mistake, whether in the cover letter or the submission itself. I read the attachment first straight from the inbox, then only open the email once I’ve decided whether to accept or reject it, which might take several readings. We all make mistakes, and mistakes can be fixed, so the occasional spelling or grammar typo is never a problem. Once I've made a decision, if I then see an error in the cover letter I’m not going to be concerned as I’ll have already read the piece. The only real way to guarantee a rejection is to either send something that obviously doesn’t meet the guidelines, or to send something that has previously been published or posted online. As long as you read the submission terms and send something that you honestly believe meets the criteria, you have every chance of being accepted, paid, and published by Seaside Gothic.

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

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