Friday, July 28, 2023

Six Questions for Katherine McDaniel, Founder/Editor, Synkroniciti Magazine

 Synkroniciti Magazine publishes short stories, short plays, essays, flash fiction, poetry, visual art, and video. “Synkroniciti is a creative incubator for new art, performance, and learning. Based in Houston, Texas, we seek to weave together diverse elements, including visual art, literature, music, theatre, dance, and film.” Read the complete guidelines here.


SQF: Why did you start this magazine?


Katherine McDaniel: Synkroniciti’s larger goal is to incubate new art, performance, and learning. The magazine was the quickest way to do that and to build an artistic community. At the death of Maya Angelou, I remember talking to a friend about the lack of space for the development of important voices. She was worried that those voices are dying out; I was sure that they are not, but that popular culture makes it hard for them to be heard. I started the magazine in June 2019, but it didn’t take off until after the start of the pandemic. People had a lot to say and they had fewer options for expressing themselves.



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


KM: Originality, skill, and humanity, which I define as a combination of vulnerability and empathy.


As far as originality, there are many stories that don’t get told and images that don’t get seen in popular media, either because they feature things that are taboo or people that aren’t considered worthy of interest. We want those stories, particularly if they shine the light on social stigma or prejudice. If you are going to tell a more conventional story, then do so in a nonconventional way. If you can blend relatability with uniqueness, you’ll get my attention.


Skill is vital, but there are different sorts of skills. Do you know your form or medium and can you bend it to express yourself? In poetry, I am partial to imagery, assonance and alliteration and not as interested in rhyme or strict formality. I also love visual poems. For flash fiction, our newest addition, get it under 350 words so we can get it on a page; it should be like a skeleton—any flesh on the bones is distracting. In essays, short stories, or short plays, you need to tell a story in your unique voice and take your time . I don’t want just flesh, I want skin, hair, eyes, lips, teeth… Is there a musicality to your words or a playfulness in your technique? In the art world, I love color and texture—they read very well in digital medium—and I am partial to sculpture, collage and multi-media works. I love hybrid forms and genres. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t, but I have mad respect for anyone trying them.


Humanity is sort of the point for me—what do the arts tell us about being human? Openness and vulnerability paired with empathy and wonder. I love humor, but not when it is snide or cruel. We make too much space in society for meanness and superiority. Now if you want to poke fun at the system, go right ahead.



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


KM: Cliché, stereotyping, bad grammar, mixed metaphors, limericks, overuse of capitalization (I’m talking entire paragraphs), lack of coherence. Snide humor or meanness without a counter-narrative.


Be careful how you submit, too. Did you follow the guidelines and are you friendly and pleasant over email?



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


KM: First of all, I make it my business to read or view the entire piece. It takes a moment to get into someone’s world. I’m looking for something that catches my attention: something unique, maybe it’s the style or the humor, or a great story or point of view that I haven’t heard or considered. Maybe it’s the juxtaposition or the intensity of color. Maybe you catch my emotions in a visceral way or you get into my head.



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


KM: For me the hard sells are prejudice, bigotry, sexism, and indoctrination. I’m remarkably comfortable with ambiguity, but dogma gets right up my nose. I love cultures, religions, even traditions, until they get to the point of calling themselves the only way to Truth.


As far as sexuality, it amazes me that frankness about sex is less accepted than violence and cruelty. If there is sex in your piece, it needs to be part of the story, but it isn’t disqualifying. I feel the same about coarse language. If it’s authentic, I don’t mind it.



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


KM: How do you organize your issues and what impact does that have on selection?


Each issue has a theme, which is explored through the artworks selected. We try to find the synchronicities, connecting tissue between different artists and artworks. Certain ideas pop up more than once and sometimes they can be quite surprising. Anything from bougainvillea to Batman, snakes to seashells. Sometimes we have a perfectly good submission that doesn’t fit—either it covers something we already have covered or it is an outlier that doesn’t connect. If we like it enough, we may accept it for a future issue where it may even decide the theme.


We also have three contests per issue: one for the cover, one for poetry, and one that rotates through the other genres. Each pay a small honorarium.


Past issues have included “Curiosity,” “Wild,” “Home,” “Labyrinth,” “Empowered,” “Ritual” and “Flow,” among others.


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

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