Friday, May 26, 2023

Six Questions for Kaitlynn McShea, Managing Editor-in-Chief, Heartland Society of Women Writers

Heartland Society of Women Writers publishes flash fiction to 1,000 words, short stories and narrative nonfiction of 1,000-3,000 words, poetry to 50 lines, and art. “Submissions are open to those who identify as women. We are inclusive of transgender women and nonbinary individuals who are comfortable in a women-centered environment.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine? 

Kaitlynn McShea (Managing Editor-In-Chief):

Myself, Paige Wyatt, and Tiffany Shull started this magazine back in 2020 at the height of the lockdown. We wanted an organization that encouraged us to write and allowed us to explore women-centered topics in a safe space. Since then, it has shifted from organization to a literary magazine. Our mission is to create an inclusive literary magazine that supports and uplifts the voices of all women.

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

KM: I look for work that is coherent, creative, and relevant. A writer's job is to translate what is going on in their head to putting it on the page. If your work is not fully developed and coherent, we cannot publish it. In addition, we are creative writers. The piece should feel like a creation of something and not just a rehearsal of work done by other writers. Finally, we are a literary magazine focused on women. I like to see pieces that might not fit in other magazines. 

Paige Wyatt (Co-Founder and Poetry/Nonfiction editor):

1. Fresh take on a relatable emotion. I need to read poems and nonfic that are relatable, emotional, but also unique. I appreciate anything “weird” or experimental, such as something that plays with structure or word choice or POV. It keeps the magazine unique and it offers a voice to writers who aren’t afraid to take risks. 

2. On theme. This seems really obvious, but our magazine has a theme. The second I realize that your piece isn’t on-theme, I stop reading it because I can’t recommend it for publication this time around. There are several pieces I have to reject that just don’t fit. 

3. Publishing-ready. I don’t mind sending an R&R if there are minor issues, such as grammar or punctuation, but I don’t have time to workshop your writing. I would love to be able to just hand your work over to our design editor and not have to worry about revision. 

Jennifer Delgadillo (Fiction/Art Editor)

Besides clarity and strong voice, I'm drawn to stories with complex weavings and turns that feel artful. I like stories that feel like they are saying something new about life.

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

KM: I absolutely detest when there is a typo on the first page. We once received a submission that had a typo in the title and in the first line. When we rejected it, the writer asked why. If you are submitting work, please be self-aware about the editing and revising required to submit! Although we might request some editing, I will not accept a piece that has an oversight in the title or the first line. 

PW: Anything racist/homophobic/transphobic/misogynistic/

anti-Semitic is immediately rejected. Anything too gratuitously violent or sexual. Anything that I’ve read before—meaning something that mimics another author so closely that it could fit into their novels or books. Be yourself. Embrace what makes YOU unique. I want to read your experiences in your style. Don’t try to imitate Rupi Kaur or Kate Baer. 

JD: Lack of self-awareness. In general, I think as artists we all struggle with ego and our own vision of how art should be, but in writing this can really get in the way of showing an understanding of how humans interact with one another. So, similarly to an over-curated Instagram page, I will sometimes run into stories that feel so curated they feel like they are about the vanity of the writer, and that's not fun to read. It's not relatable.

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

KM: Besides being typo-free, I want a first line that makes me want to read the second, and so on and so forth.

PW: A line that begins with action or has a beautiful, unique diction always catches my eye. I know it can take a moment to “stretch” into a piece, but if you can give me a first paragraph or stanza with some action or a unique metaphor, I’m hooked. 

JD: A complete, well revised story should have the flavor of what the reader is in for in that first paragraph.

ASQF: What is HLWW’s 12 Months of Writing Challenge? 

The goal of the 12 Months of Writing Challenge is to end the year with 12 pieces of new writing. We have a private Facebook group where writers are given a monthly writing theme with examples. The challenge is reduced to only $12.00 total for the remainder of the year. Sign up here.

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

KM: Why are literary magazines important? 

Literary magazines are the crossroads between creative writing, artwork, and social justice. In a world where it becomes increasingly harder to get traditionally published and to have a thirty-year career in the field, literary magazines offer access to having an audience for one's writing. We need literary magazines to fight censorship and gatekeeping within the literary world, and I am proud to offer that with HLWW.

Thank you, Kaitlynn, Paige, and Jennifer. We all appreciate your taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

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