Friday, September 22, 2023

Six Questions for Cristina Deptula, Executive Editor, Synchronized Chaos

Synchronized Chaos publishes “diverse work in a variety of styles – photo essays, travelogues, digital artwork, dance, theatre, formal and free verse poetry, short fiction and nonfiction, humor, memoir, and critical theory. We accept work of all styles from people around the world and then develop our monthly theme based on what we have received. That way, people come back to read the issue after they are published to see how their work fit into our theme! ” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Cristina Deptula: I launched Synchronized Chaos during the financial crisis of 2008, when many people were struggling. I wanted to see what I could do to help others during that time and found that many people were grateful for a place to be able to express their thoughts and be heard. We can't pay people and are simply offering them a platform, but we receive an overwhelming number of submissions each month from people of many countries and backgrounds and walks of life. I initially thought that another lit mag would be far down the list of things that the world needed, but people continue to submit and to read Synchronized Chaos, so it must be fulfilling a purpose. 

What makes us different is that we determine our semi-monthly theme after we've received the submissions. That way, we have a theme and aren't just a copy of the many other magazines that publish whatever the editors define as quality literature, but we don't have to turn away work we like simply because it doesn't fit a predetermined theme. 

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

CD: We look at work in context rather than simply looking at pieces in themselves. For example, we have a semi-regular contributor who's an Egyptian national and she reviews movies and TV shows from both the Western and Arab worlds. I find it fascinating what she identifies as worthy of review and commentary in Western culture, what resonates with her across the world. Another editor might go recruit someone with more experience or credentials, but I find the international cultural concept intriguing, educating me and the readers about the culture of different parts of the world as well as touching on the idea of what might have universal resonance. 

So as for three things we love? Some kind of interesting or unique context and awareness of not just what you're writing, but what it means that you're writing that particular piece at this particular time. 

Also, we appreciate attention to craft. Not in the sense of following someone else's standard, but of understanding of the piece you're trying to create and creating the best version possible of your own vision. We'll publish gumdrops as well as four course meals, but we love to see the best examples of both. 

And, we're about building community on our site and feedback for the writers and artists. So if you read the issues and comment on the published work, or even contact another writer and craft something in response to or in conversation with one of their pieces, that would definitely catch our attention. 

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

CD: We don't get turned off by much, honestly. I'm human and have my own artistic preferences, as does our co-editor Kahlil Crawford. But I figure that if something doesn't resonate with me, then perhaps it wasn't written for me. We're all in different places in our life journeys, and maybe something will resonate with someone else if it doesn't do much for me. 

We don't publish work that "punches down" or otherwise supports racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, or any other "ism" or that is straight up porn with no literary or artistic value. 

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

CD: Opening paragraphs? I'm a trained journalist so I always look for a hook to catch my attention, then an orientation to who/what/when/why/where/how. That may come more naturally for nonfiction than fiction, but even in fiction, too many nagging minor questions or plot holes can be distracting. 

However, we understand that different places have different writing conventions and we don't impose styles or craft on our contributors. I've been surprised by pieces that leave me wondering or go in unexpected directions. 

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

CD: Sexual content without a literary or artistic purpose would be a hard sell, not because I'm opposed to sex, but because that sort of work has a different purpose than what we intend. Would be the same thing if someone sent us a highly detailed advertisement for dental floss. If the advertisement were written in a clever way or designed with impressive artistic graphic design, great. However, we don't exist to sell either sex or dental floss. 

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

CD: Sure. I'd like to share what I'd do with a blank check of time as well as money. 

We'd love to provide writing coaching and basic/developmental editing for students and emerging authors from around the world. There are plenty of people who find their way to us who have interesting ideas or worthwhile things to say but don't have the craft or promotional support to reach a larger audience. We'd love to provide them with the support they need to learn their craft and get published without having to change their voice or style or point of view. 

Ideally people could contact each other through our site and offer to mentor each other, and we'd love to see people do that! But I'd love to become more intentional about that, set up some kind of connecting message board where people can ask for and volunteer and be matched with mentors in their genre. Being able to offer a stipend would enable many more non-wealthy talented writers around the world to be able to serve as mentors. 

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

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