Friday, March 3, 2023

Six Questions for Elou Carroll, Editor-in-Chief, Crow & Cross Keys

 Crow & Cross Keys publishes flash fiction to 1,000 words, short stories of 1,001 to 5, 000 words, and poetry. “In the tradition of oral folk tales, we want work that sounds as good when read aloud as it reads on the page.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Elou Carroll: I have always wanted to run my own literary venue, but I never quite had the time to do the initial set up. Then, the Year That Shall Not Be Named (aka 2020) rolled around and all of a sudden, I had a lot of time on my hands and it felt right. I wanted to create a beautiful place to house beautiful words—the kind of words I seek out and read over and over again—so I did! 

CCK began with a name, a vibe and a muted greyscale colour palette. I had no idea what to expect when I opened up submissions, but it bloomed quite spectacularly into something strange and lovely.

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


  1. Beautiful writing. This is the foundation that CCK is built upon. We don't just want good fiction and poetry, we also want it to be beautifully told. 

  2. Best fit. It's not in the best interest of the piece if we accept it, and it doesn't fit with the work we're already publishing. Fit is so important, it's how you manage reader expectations and how you reach the right readers for any particular piece. There are so many stories and poems that we absolutely love but cannot accept for this reason. We understand that not every writer can read every piece in every magazine, but understanding the fit of a venue is, in my opinion, one of the most valuable skills a writer can have when submitting. (That said, we love a surprise—but a surprise that fits.)

  3. A really good title. We've yelled about how much we love incredible titles on social media quite a lot, and we really do mean it. If your title makes me want to read your submission, I will already be excited before I even open the file. There really is no downplaying the importance of a good title. 

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

EC: If you've never read anything we've published, or even glanced beyond the submission guidelines, we can tell. Opening a submission and wondering why it's been sent to you is never a good feeling. (See Best fit above.)

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

EC: If you can wow us with your title or your first sentence, you're already on good footing. (We love an excellent title, and a long title.) How do you wow us? Be striking. Read your title/opening aloud and really listen to how it sounds—our preference for beautiful writing extends to lyricality too. Read your work aloud—we do. 

It's important, too, to bring us into the moment; stories with a lot of preamble are unlikely to be accepted.  

SQF: Submission guidelines can be—well—long and boring. Is it really necessary to read them?

EC: If nothing else, you should read the hard sells, the formatting instructions, and the word/poem count information before you submit to avoid your submission being returned unread or partially read. If it's in bold, it's important. Everything else is there to help, and to manage expectations. We do appreciate it when writers read the entire page though—we did spend a lot of time crafting it, after all.

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

EC: "What do you see too much of in your submission queue?"

Crows. We're not a themed venue, you do not need to send us your crow stories/poems. When it comes to pieces about corvids, you have to really surprise us. We read a lot of them. For a greater chance of success, send us something else. 

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

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