Friday, March 17, 2023

Six Questions for Skylar Burris, Editor, Ancient Paths Literary Magazine

Ancient Paths publishes poetry (12 to 60 lines), flash fiction (100 to 1,000 words), and art. “Most genres are acceptable, but literary fiction and contemporary, mainstream fiction will be given preference.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Skyler Burris: I founded Ancient Paths over two decades ago, in 1998. At the time, I thought there was a lack of quality markets for Christian-themed writing. Much of what was available often seemed heavily didactic, and I wanted to provide a forum where writers could explore spiritual themes in a more subtle and nuanced way. Although Ancient Paths contains predominantly Christian content, it publishes works from writers of all faiths and often explores universal spiritual themes.      

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


1. A great opening line (or two or three). This is most important when it comes to fiction submissions. After seeing hundreds of stories cross my desk, I need the first sentence or two of a story to hook me as a reader to propel me to keep reading.  

2. A smooth flow and a good "sound." In poetry, this means consistent meter or rhythm. In fiction, this means the prose should move along at a steady pace. In either case, the work should be enjoyable to read aloud.  

3. An emotional impact. Above all, I want to feel something when I read your poem or work of short fiction. Whether it moves me to think, ask deep questions, reflect nostalgically, laugh, or cry - a submission has a much greater chance of acceptance if it leaves a mark.     


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

SB: When it's clear the writer didn't bother to read the guidelines that are clearly posted and easy to access on the website. This is obvious when a writer sends a type of writing I don't publish at all, when a writer doesn't follow the format requested for submission, or when a writer sends a submission that is too long. An even worse turn-off is a cover letter that states, "I know your submission guidelines say ____, BUT...." 

The second thing that most turns me off is didacticism within a work. A work should communicate its theme or message without beating the reader over the head with it. 

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

SB: As I mentioned earlier, a line (or lines) that will make me want to keep reading. I want to get a sense that I'm going to care where the story (or its characters) end up.   When it comes to poetry, I want to know from the first line that the writing is going to show a solid grasp of "sound."   

SQF: What would you like readers to know about your editing and writing services?

SB: I provide detailed line editing services to authors who plan to self-publish or who are honing their manuscripts for submission to traditional publishers.  I offer a free sample edit to allow prospective clients to evaluate my services.  

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

SB: Maybe - What sorts of works do you avoid publishing? In my case, I would answer stream-of-conscious writings, stories with explicit sexual content, devotions, nonfiction pieces, and simple retellings of Bible stories.


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

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