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Six Questions

Six Questions For . . . Where editors and publishers discuss writing flash fiction, short stories, poetry, and novels.

  • Six Questions for Mark Westmoreland, producer/editor, Story and Grit
    by (Jim Harrington) on August 18, 2017 at 6:00 am

    "Story and Grit is a home for writers of Rough South fiction, crime lit, and horror. It’s a magazine that enjoys stories with a southern twist. Whether it’s short fiction that is about hillbillies stealing the copper from A/C units, crime on the streets of Atlanta or horrifies readers with scary tales from the Louisiana bayou – Story and Grit wants to read it all.” Stories should be between 700 and 4,000 words. Read the complete guidelines here.SQF: Why did you start this magazine?Mark Westmoreland: I started Story and Grit because I'd been submitting my short fiction to online magazines for at least two years, and didn't know of any that focused solely on Southern fiction. That was a hole in the market and someone needed to fill it.SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?MW: Story, story, story. Maybe that's a cliche answer but the story is more important than anything else. It's why people read. They want to be told an entertaining story that allows them to escape their daily lives. I can't think of a single person that's reading for the beautiful prose or the metaphors. Maybe a college professor is but no one cares what he's reading.SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?MW: Writing that reads like writing. It's usually stiff and boring and I quit reading a paragraph or two in. Every writer needs to remember Elmore Leonard's best piece of advice, "If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?MW: I include comments whenever I accept a story and whenever I reject a story. If I like a story I want the writer to know what I liked, and if I reject a story I want the writer to know what I enjoyed, and I want them to know why I rejected their story.SQF: What magazines/zines do you read on a “regular” basis?MW: Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter, Spelk, Horror Sleaze Trash, and Near to the Knuckle.SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?MW: I would say the best question to ask me would be: What's the surefire way to get your story published on Story and Grit?I would answer: Buy me some boiled peanuts.Thank you, Mark. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project. […]

  • Six Questions for Juli Min, Editor-in-Chief, The Shanghai Literary Review
    by (Jim Harrington) on August 15, 2017 at 6:00 am

    "The Shanghai Literary Review features quality creative work from or about Asia and introduces new voices to the critical conversation on world literature." The journal includes fiction of fewer than 5,000 words, poetry, non-fiction and essays of fewer than 5,000 words, flash fiction/non-fiction of fewer than 500 words, visual art, translation and book reviews. Read the complete guidelines here.SQF: Why did you start this magazine?Juli Min: When I came to Shanghai, there was no center to the English language literary community. This felt strange, because the expat population is so large ~200,000, and also because there are several large publications (TimeOut, for example) that have books and literature sections. What the literary community seemed to consist of was visiting talks and readings, one literary festival in Shanghai that is quite limited in terms of seating and pricing, and no English language literary journals or reviews. Given that Beijing and even Chengdu have English language journals, I thought that Shanghai was missing out on an opportunity to add her voice to the mix. I couldn't even find a decent open mic reading when I came. In the end, TSLR is here not just to produce a publication and introduce new voices to the world literature scene, but also our group supports writers and artists by putting together indie book festivals, monthly open mic nights, and other events.SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why? JM: Voice, artistry, originality. An interesting narrative voice, well done humor, or powerful prose style can really take a story far all on its own. Artistry tells me a writer cares about his or her craft, and it separates good stories from good and beautiful stories. I like to reward artists and writers taking risks with their craft. We're an indie journal and if we believe something is good, though unconventional, we want to help it get out into the world.SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?JM: Tired travelogue about poor but cute brown children, cliche stories about teaching English in AsiaSQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?JM: We occasionally provide comments.SQF: Your guidelines state there will be an end-of-year contest with cash prizes. Can you provide more details on this?JM: It's our first year, so we're going to nail down and announce the contest details closer to November. We will have several prizes, and winners will be chosen from our online and print pieces (Issues 1 & 2). In addition to running our own prizes, we're excited to nominate some of our writing for international writing prizes—we think some of the pieces deserve more attention, and we want to help them get it!SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?JM: What's on deck for your journal?We're super excited about Issue 2, and as our team is international (NYC and Shanghai) we plan to have two release parties for Issue 2 this winter, one in NYC and one in Shanghai. We also are looking forward to working on our special edition publication called CONCRETE, which will be a collection of personal essays about various cities in China, accompanied by photography. We're currently accepting submissions for this, as well as Issue 2, as well as art submissions for our Issue 2 cover art contest.Thank you, Juli. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project. […]

  • Six Questions for Alison Ross, Editor, Clockwise Cat
    by (Jim Harrington) on August 11, 2017 at 6:00 am

    Clockwise Cat is a progressive webzine that publishes poetry, polemics, satire, and reviews. Read the complete guidelines here.SQF: I first interviewed you in May 2010. Have there been any significant changes to Clockwise Cat since then?Alison Ross: The main change has been in aesthetics. We now have our own domain and publish our issues in magazine style, as opposed to blog-style. You can read it online for free and even purchase it, if you wish. We hired a graphics person to update our "look" on the front page. We have probably changed our guidelines a bit too, but they have not changed dramatically.SQF: In that interview, you listed "stunning evocative imagery, unusual juxtapositions, and wild innovations" as the three things you look for in a poem. Are these still at the top of you list? AR: Yes, pretty much. We look for poems that jolt our sensibilities, that are synesthetically sound, that are possessed of a vivid voice. We like our poems to be daringly dynamic. That could take many forms, of course, but when I reject something, it's likely because the piece was lackluster, pure and simple.SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?AR: When someone does not follow the damn guidelines! My guidelines are lengthy, but I write them in an entertaining way, and finally, there is NO excuse for not following them as closely as possible. It's careless and rude. If you want to be published in Clockwise Cat or elsewhere, FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES. Don't send 10 poems when the submissions call for two. How hard is it to familiarize yourself with the magazine you're submitting to? It boggles my brain that so many can be so dense with this.SQF: Are there any topics you would like to see more of in your submissions?AR: More Dada-esque poetry submissions. We get a fair amount of surrealism and experimental forms, but I hanker for the purely absurd.We also are continually seeking satire and polemics of the acidic, progressive type. We get a fair amount, but could use more. Note that this means ESSAYS, not polemical poems.We are anemic in the department of reviews. We get a few, but not enough. Book reviews, movie reviews, music reviews... you got 'em? We need.SQF: Who are some of your favorite authors?AR: Ursula K. LeGuin, Lenora Carrington, Joyce Mansour, Jayne Cortez, Jorge Borges, Sandra Cisneros, Tristan Tzara, Arthur Rimbaud. Etc. Etc. Etc.I also love these contemporary small press poets: Felino Soriano, Heller Levinson, Sheila MurphySQF: What magazines/zines do you read on a “regular” basis?AR: Surreal Poetics is my current favorite. I also love the chapbooks at Fowlpox Press. There are many magazines and presses that  I follow, but these are the two that I love the most.Thank you, Alison. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project. […]

  • SQF revisited - Juked
    by (Jim Harrington) on August 4, 2017 at 6:00 am

    Original post date: 2/1/2010.Editor's Note: Ryan Ridge is the current editor of Juked. However, the editorial philosophy remains the same. John W. Wang is now Editor-in-Chief and Fiction Editor for the  Potomac Review. The editorial philosophy stated here carries over to his current position.Juked accepts stories of any length as long as they fit the magazine's editorial style. Any author wishing to submit a work to Juked should read a few issues before sending a story. A note on the web site states that longer stories have been preferred by the editors.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a story and why?JW: I don’t think anyone goes into a story with a specific checklist of things they look for. Or maybe I should just speak for myself: I go into each story with as open a mind as I can. We publish a wide range of material.  Sometimes it’s more “experimental,” sometimes it’s more “traditional,” which I take to be mostly a categorization of form. I suppose the best thing a story can have going for it is a strong, compelling voice.  You look at all the rules being broken by various stories, and if they get away with what they’re doing, nearly all the time you can attribute it to voice. There’s a reason for that: a strong, compelling voice denotes sympathy and understanding for a major character, and if you have a complex and compelling character, we’re likely to follow and see where the story goes. That said, I do look for well-crafted sentences, something to suggest care was put into the actual writing. The language is our set of tools, after all, and it’s pretty apparent whether a writer has spent time working with it. I suppose related to both is the complexity of the writing, whether the sentences reveal nuance and aren’t just direct statements.Read the complete interview here. […]

  • Six Questions for R. L. Black, Editor-in-Chief, Unbroken
    by (Jim Harrington) on July 28, 2017 at 6:00 am

    Unbroken is a quarterly online journal that seeks to showcase poetic prose, the prose poem, and the haibun. Read the complete guidelines here.SQF: Why did you start this magazine?R. L. Black: Like so many journal editors, I am a writer myself. I started out writing flash fiction, and I looked into experimental forms to enhance my writing. Somewhere along the way, I was introduced to the prose poem, and also to the haibun, and it was love at first sight. I revisited some of my flash fiction pieces and turned them into prose poems and I was delighted with the result, but when I began to submit these pieces I found there were not a lot of markets out there for the prose poem or for the haibun. There were a few at that time, but not many. So, I saw a need that I wanted to help fill, and that is why I started Unbroken.SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?RLB: Compelling imagery and language: a prose poem is still a poem, and the best of them utilize poetic elements and techniques.Voice: I like quirky stuff, and I look for work that in some way surprises me or makes me look at something in a different way, something that I will remember for a long time after I read it. I want the work to resonate with me.Beyond that, I look for work that fits in with our journal, work that reads like it belongs there. Which is why it's important to read the journals you're submitting to.SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?RLB: A piece with lots of typos and grammar problems, it makes me feel like the author didn’t care enough to polish their work before sending it in. Doesn’t mean I won’t consider it, but it does kind of start things off on the wrong foot.Also, when it's obvious that the author didn't at least take the time to read the guidelines, or even familiarize themselves with what we publish. We do not publish flash fiction, for example, but we get a lot of it in our submissions.SQF: The pieces in your first issue are all short. Is there a maximum word count you prefer? RLB: I don’t have a maximum word count. I think prose poems and haibun tend to be shorter by default. That being said, I do love shorter, punchier pieces. I will, and have, published longer work, but if it goes over 500 words or so, it needs to be something I can't live without.SQF: If Unbroken had a theme song, what would it be and why?RLB: “Simply the Best” by Tina Turner, because for me, prose poetry is the best and, like the song says, "... I hang on every word ... "SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?RLB: Two, actually:What the heck is a prose poem? That’s been the subject of many a heated debate. Some even say there is no such thing as a prose poem. My answer is that a prose poem is a poem in prose form. It’s a poem disguised as prose. Peter Johnson defined it best when he said that, “…the prose poem plants one foot in prose, the other in poetry, both heels resting precariously on banana peels.” If I could go back, I would have named the journal Banana Peels. Prose poetry is not flash fiction. Flash fiction tells a complete story, prose poetry does not.What the heck is a haibun? It’s a prose poem, with a haiku at the end.Thank you, R. L. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project. […]

  • Six Questions for Masfi Khan, Editor-in-Chief, For the Sonorous
    by (Jim Harrington) on July 25, 2017 at 6:00 am

    For the Sonorous publishes prose of 300 to 3,000 words, poetry to 150 lines, and visual arts. The journal is "dedicated to empowering and publishing women of color and non-binary people of color.” Read the complete guidelines here.SQF: Why did you start this magazine?Masfi Khan: I started For the Sonorous to empower women of color and non-binary people of color. I noticed that marginalized groups were underrepresented in literature, and I felt that there should be a place to celebrate diverse writers and artists that expand the boundaries of language and art. For the Sonorous aims to give women and non-binary people of color the power to dictate their own narratives and amplify their voices. We seek to foster a supportive community for marginalized writers and artists.SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?MK: The top three things we look for in a submission are originality, an overarching theme, and a captivating voice. We like to see works that are experimental and use imagery, structure, and characters in refreshing ways. Submissions stand out to us when they shape their own directions. We feel that having a central theme offers pieces a framework for what they are trying to achieve and keeps them grounded and focused. We enjoy reading works in which the writer has a good grip on the speaker's voice since that controls the piece’s perspective and makes us remember the piece.SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?MK: We’re most turned off by submissions that have spelling or grammar errors, since it shows that the submitters did not proofread their work carefully. We also strongly advise interested submitters to read our guidelines before sending us their work. With that being said, we go into every submission with a clear mind and give it a few re-reads before making our final decision.SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?MK: Yes! In fact, we provide detailed feedback to all of the submissions that we receive. Even if the editors and I feel that a piece may not be a good fit for For the Sonorous, we still want the submitter to know how an audience may respond to it and give any suggestions we might have to strengthen it. On certain occasions, we may also wish to read a revised version of the work based on the feedback that we’ve given, which lets us work closely with the submitters to edit any structural or stylistic issues. We don’t believe that a piece is finished once it’s been accepted or rejected for publication, so we hope to encourage our submitters to continue honing their craft.SQF: If For the Sonorous had a theme song, what would it be and why?MK: It would definitely be “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys! I love that the song is like an anthem for women, celebrating how courageous, resilient, and unstoppable we are. And of course, Alicia Keys’ vocals are so strong and gripping!SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?MK: What are our upcoming projects?We are holding the 2017 Sonorous Summer Writing Workshop, an online mentorship program geared towards women of color and non-binary people of color in grades 6-12. This workshop will foster an informal and collaborative community for young writers to explore their craft and work closely with a prose/poetry mentor and fellow mentees. Workshop participants will receive feedback on their writing, engage in craft discussions, receive support and resources from the mentors, and have their work published in a special anthology. We’re open for mentee applications until August 1, and more information on the program can be found here.We are hoping to expand our blog by publishing more articles and essays by women and non-binary people of color on their experiences and opinions. We also want to highlight the works of inspirational women and non-binary people of color in our interviews, book reviews, and columns.Thank you, Masfi. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project. […]