Friday, November 3, 2023

Six Questions for Claire Guyton, Suzanne Farrell Smith, and Cheryl Wilder, Editors, Waterwheel Review

Waterwheel Review publishes three pieces of writing on the first of each month, without labeling by genre. We welcome a range of writing, which may include “a fiction that has no shape but feels complete and leaves a hole in your stomach; a nonfiction layered in obvious lies; a recipe that works like a poem.” We present the writing with other art forms, including photography, painting, sculpture, music, and film. Read the complete guidelines here -

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?


Waterwheel Review: We first came together as a team in 2012, when we co-created the essay series “7 Deadly Sins of the Writing Life” at Hunger Mountain, the literary journal published by the low-residency MFA program we all attended at Vermont College of Fine Arts. The writing community the three of us formed around that project has sustained our writing lives ever since, and gave birth to Waterwheel Review in 2020. We launched the magazine to bring something new to the literary landscape, a journal that ignores genre and celebrates connection among all forms of art. 


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



  • Shape: A form or frame that supports the central idea of the piece.

  • Coherence: All details, including smart asides or diversions, build on the core idea.

  • Originality: The voice is distinct and resonant, and the language is fresh.



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


WR: Pieces that have not been edited, rely on commonplace ideas and language, and/or do not meet our guidelines are sure to be rejected. 



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


WR: We look for a way in, something that signals this is fresh, compelling, and worth our reading time. 



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


WR: Sex for sex’s sake is definitely a hard sell, as is anything for its own sake: overwrought vocabulary, obscure references, overt violence, and so on. 



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


WR: “How do you put your issues together?”


We take great care with each issue, as we consider the combination of writing, companion pieces, and background images to be a piece of art itself. From our accepted pieces, we draw three that speak to each other and we order them deliberately. We look for themes and images in the writing and let our minds wander—within our community and beyond—with those themes and images until we hit upon something that feels familiar, something that deepens our understanding of the piece. Nothing is off limits—we’ve presented writing with a film of underwater sculptures, a medieval painting, the sound of frogs, a Nina Simone classic, a pas de deux, astronomic images, and so much more. 

Thank you Claire, Suzanne, and Cheryl. We all appreciate your taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

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