Friday, October 20, 2023

Six Questions for Celeste Piercey, Publisher/Executive Editor, The Violet Hour

The Violet Hour publishes fiction and nonfiction to 500 words, poetry to 500 words, or a collection to a max of 5 pages, and art. The editors welcome submissions from all age groups. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Celeste Piercey: I started this magazine partly because I have always loved the arts and literature space, and wanted to take on an active role within it. Most especially though, I was thrilled at the opportunity to provide another platform for the work of new and experienced creatives alike.

As a writer and artist myself with only a handful of publishing credits to my name to-date, I know that it can be a tough space to break into, particularly for the less established. Though of course there are many publishing options out there these days thanks in no small part to the opportunities opened up by the internet, there’s still naturally a lot of competition within every publication’s slush pile, where it can be tough for one voice to stand out amid so many. I was eager to provide a place where a contributor’s resume doesn’t make their work any more or less likely to be considered above any other.

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

CP: The top three things myself and my senior editors look for in submissions are the following:

  1. clarity of purpose (where there is a clear intent in a written or visual narrative, even to an extent with more abstract works, rather than having something that looks pretty but is aimless)
  2. honesty of voice (with work that expresses your own voice and perspectives, rather than clearly recreating the ideas and tones of the latest industry trends or notable creators), and
  3. an ability to trim the fat while still being artistic (with work that creates a narrative that pulls people in, while avoiding excessive use words/visual elements that don’t add to the finished product, only bloating a piece that could stand stronger without them—less is more, nine times out of ten)

These things are our guiding lights; everything we have enjoyed tends to travel along those lines, while the quality of submissions that run counter to one or more of those points noticeably suffers

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

CP: The biggest things that turn us off to submissions could safely be categorized as the exact opposite of all of those top three things we’re looking for!

Apart from that, we usually have a hard time stomaching overuse of obvious and well-worn metaphors, but particularly, any submission that presents something shocking just to be shocking will sink itself pretty quickly. That’s part of why our guidelines warn against erotica or extreme violence—partly, we want to remain accessible to a wider age range of reader, but additionally, it’s just an incredible turn off when a creator throws lurid imagery at us with the only purpose clearly being to simply shock. All it does is come across as unnecessary and exploitative, in most cases.

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

CP: Set the stage for the story you want to tell us, with whatever combination of setting, action, sensory input, dialogue, monologue, or metaphor will give us the clearest first looks at what you’re aiming to deliver. Don’t worry so much about a more obvious hard-hitting “hook” that needs to be captivating within the first few words or sentences for us to keep paying attention. We have good attention spans (we promise!) and we want to come along on whatever journey you’re taking us on. Be as succinct as possible in getting there of course, but focus first on creating interesting and well-phrased momentum that the unfolding piece can build on.

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

CP: We are definitely not the venue for sex for sex’s sake, or violence/taboo topics for the sake of shock value. Don’t get us wrong: topics of sexuality and uncomfortable, frightening, or violent things are worthy subject matter. However, we won’t be the ones who are interested in material that wants to exploit shocking things just for the sake of being shocking, or because a creator wants to get credit or attention for pushing the envelope even though their pushing isn’t in the service of having anything of real creativity or substance to say in the process.

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

CP: The question that comes to mind is similar to the one that asked what we look for in the openings of submissions, just slightly expanded to “What will make my submission stand out?”

The answer there is that we have good news: there is no big secret to it! We read and review every single submission we receive, and they all receive equal consideration, regardless of genre, topic, or the person submitting. We have a great team with an enormous span of interests in the art and literature we each consume. 

Create work that is authentic to your voice and vision, and if it connects with us, the quality will speak for itself, no matter what approach you take.

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

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