Friday, February 17, 2017

Six Questions for Laura Hanna, Editor-in-Chief, These Fragile Lilacs Poetry Journal

These Fragile Lilacs is a biannual journal containing "poetry that's tightly constructed and for sharp poetry with strong metaphors, similes, and imagery.  We like poetry of any length and genre and like to publish both new and established poets." Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Laura Hanna: I started These Fragile Lilacs because I felt there were not enough journals that represented minority voices. I also thought it would be a fun experience to run my very own journal (so far it has been awesome)!


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

LH: When evaluating a submission, I look for surprising imagery, strong metaphors, and medium to short-length poetry (I will publish a long poem or two in each issue, but I prefer short to medium-length poems). I also get excited when I see poems dealing with social justice issues, but this is not a requirement. We publish poems on a wide range of topics. So, send us your best work!


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

LH: This is a difficult question to answer because I try to keep an open mind. I would say that clichés make me cringe a little bit (here is a link to some common poetry clichés). It's more surprising and rewarding to read poetry with strong, unique images.


SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?

LH: Since TFL receives so many submissions, it would become a full-time job to leave comments about why a submission was rejected.


SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?

LH: I've learned that you can write a poem about just about any topic. I've encountered poems about such a wide range of topics, and it's enjoyable to read it all.


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

LH: One question I wish you asked is, why is poetry important? My answer to that question would be that poetry is what keeps the soul alive and feeds the imagination and mind in ways that no other form of writing can. In the words of Percy Shelley, "Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world."

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


Friday, February 10, 2017

Six Questions for Michael McHenry and Cinda McHenry, Editors-in-Chief, Gathering Storm Magazine

Gathering Storm Magazine publishes fiction to 2,000 words, poetry, and comics. Issues are themed. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Gathering Storm Magazine: We started this literary project because it was a niche that needed to be filled.  All sorts of amazing magazines are out there that have their own concept, from writing the first sentence to submissions with less than 100 words.  We were sitting around one day and thought, “What about stories based on old sayings we’ve heard all our lives.  Surely these maxims mean something different to everyone.”  We also wanted to breathe life back into some material that we haven’t seen included in a literary magazine in a while, such as some interactive fiction (also remembered as “choose your own adventure”), amazing art that has some unique differences, etc.  By and large, we wanted something that readers can actually sit around and enjoy during their day and engage with.


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

GSM:

  • We want to laugh out loud, gasp, turn on the light, or raise our eyebrows within the first two sentences…
  • Hold us there…
  • Then let us take our next breath at the very end.


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

GSM: There are only two significant ways that usually get an immediate rejection: You didn’t read our Submission Guidelines and you didn’t follow any of the themes for that issue.  If you fail to follow instructions and just submit blindly, then that tells us you don’t want to be bothered with details on how to be successful with us.  Following our instructions, like most literary magazines puts you on the Golden Path To Oz where everything is in color, your wishes sometimes come true, and you inspire future generations to take your lead and write amazing stories.  If you don’t listen to Glenda the Good Witch, then you are sent back to Kansas in the midst of a tornado where the end is swift.


SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?

GSM: If the story is utterly amazing but just didn’t quite hit the mark for some reason, I will personally send you a rejection note and explain why (or ask you to resubmit in the next round of themes).  After a year of being a lead editor in two different publications, and sifting through over 1000 submissions, I have sent 10 personal rejection letters.


SQF: If Gathering Storm Magazine had a theme song, what would it be and why?

Our theme song is a collection of inspiring tunes created by Two Steps From Hell.  Pick one and tell us what divine journey it takes you on.


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

GSM: I can’t think of one :)


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


Friday, February 3, 2017

Six Questions for Andrew Mitchell, Editor-in-Chief, Outlook Springs Magazine

Outlook Springs publishes fiction to 7,500 words, poetry, and non-fiction tinged with strange. Learn more here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Andrew Mitchell: I started Outlook Springs for two reasons: one, I wanted to create a space for writers--both new and established--who experiment with form, language, and genre; two, I wanted to create a magazine that experimented right alongside its featured writers in terms of structure and design, a magazine that played with the idea of what it means to be a "literary journal." The first issue was centered around the fictional town of Outlook Springs. In addition to all the incredible fiction, poetry, and non-fiction we published, we included advertisements for fake businesses, articles about the comings and goings in town, etc. The second issue was modeled as an In-Flight magazine for a spaceship fleeing a post-apocalyptic earth. Design-wise, Outlook Springs strives to surprise, while still keeping the focus firmly on the writing we publish.


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

AM: I’ll focus my answers mostly on the fiction/non-fiction side of things, though in some ways I think the answers are applicable across the board:

1.) Language: Language--surprising language in particular--is the gateway into any piece of writing for us. We're looking for sentences that speak to a specific character and/or authorial consciousness. Even simple, familiar stories can be exalted by an emphasis on language at the sentence-by-sentence level. Often, this sort of hyper-attention to language can complicate narrative in interesting ways by, say, making a sad piece slightly funny or a funny piece slightly sad. That's one of the (billion, trillion) things writers like George Saunders and Kelly Link are so good at: using language as a means to propel the story in bizarre, fascinating ways.

2.) Stakes: This is especially important with fiction and non-fiction. What do the characters want? How do they go about getting (or not getting) it? Why is the story being told now? Etc.

3.) Risks: There are plenty of good, competent stories in which the writer follows some mental equation to move the reader through the story and toward an epiphany--a brief introduction, followed by backstory into some childhood trauma, followed by a lobster that becomes a metaphor for that trauma, etc.--but sometimes these stories sort of vanish from our minds after reading. Outlook Springs wants work that we can't quite shake, work that takes chances: language-wise, plot-wise, form-wise (heck, all three!).

The bottom line to all of this, of course, is that we often don't know what we want until we read it. That's part of the fun: discovering pieces that surprise us and show us fresh ways of telling a story.


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

AM: The biggest turn-off is a character with no stakes who is trapped in a story in which he/she thinks a lot about the world without acting on that world in any meaningful way. We get a lot of stories that give us an opening scene--three or four sentences--before moving directly into pages upon pages of backstory. For the most part, I want to stay with the characters in scene. Backstory can add a nice pressure to character decisions, but it shouldn't hijack the larger narrative.


SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?

AM: Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't. The truth is (and I know this an excuse a lot of places use, but it's true) we receive hundreds--thousands--of submissions, with more and more pouring in each Reading Period, and with our very small volunteer staff of editors and readers it's just not possible to comment on every story/poem/essay. That being said, we do make an effort to respond to writers whose work we like or find interesting. Everyone at Outlook Springs is a writer, so we know what a grind it can be to send submissions, wait wait wait, and then get a rejection. And I know we've missed some great work--work that's been snapped up quickly by other journals and gone on to win a bunch of awards, etc. We're learning as we go, too, and trying to get better. Our hope is that writers will keep submitting, so yes, we do our best to encourage that.


SQF: If Outlook Springs had a theme song, what would it be and why?

AM: "The Bottomless Hole" by The Handsome Family. It's a strange, funny, haunting song. And a bit sad, too. It's very much the aesthetic we strive for.


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

AM: Do you notice any patterns or trends in the submissions you receive?

Lots of the stories we receive take place in familiar haunts--bars, coffee shops, a therapist's office--which isn't necessarily a bad thing (those are all places real people go!) but which is noteworthy, I think, as these sorts of pieces run the risk of blurring together before they even get a chance to get going.

Also, we've received hundreds of stories hampered by what I'll call Dip-the-Foot-in-the-Water Syndrome: stories that sort of meander in the beginning before finding direction a couple pages down the line (though by then it's too late). I think this is just a matter of writers going back and revising the beginnings of their stories and really taking a hard look at things once a full draft is down on the page; however, this step seems to get skipped sometimes. Starting a story can be so difficult, so daunting, and as writers we often have no idea where the hell we're going, so we have our characters think and ponder for a couple paragraphs until we can figure out how to get them into a scene. Again, this is fine and natural, but we seek stories that hit the ground running. It doesn't need to be full of plotty fireworks--a bank robbery, an affair with a Martian, a bank robbery mid-affair with a Martian--but it does need to grab us by the collar right away and say, "Shut up and listen.”

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

Friday, January 27, 2017

Six Questions for John Sibley Williams, Co-Editor, The Inflectionist Review

The Inflectionist Review has a strong preference for non-linear work that carefully constructs ambiguity so that the reader can play an active role in the poem. In general, we commend the experimental, the worldly and universal, and eschew the inane, trendy, and overly personal. Work that reveals multiple layers with further readings. Though the editors have a special interest in shorter poems, we are open to longer works that adhere to our general philosophy. Multi-sectioned or thematically-linked poems are also accepted.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

John Sibley Williams: The Inflectionist Review was born from conversations between a few fellow poets, each believing that both extremes (overly narrative and overly experimental) carry the risk of being “poetry written more for the poet than the reader.” Of course, there are countless beautiful poems written in these styles, but there is a tendency for writers to write purely about themselves or to push boundaries in a way that exclude the reader. The middle ground is a place where each word means something to both writer and reader, where images can resonate across cultures, where interpretation is key. So TIR rather organically came together from these substantive talks.



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



JSW: Linguistic beauty, conceptual ambition, and emotional resonance. The best pieces amalgamate all three, with words that leap off or singe the edges of the page, ideas that speak to larger human concerns in unexpected ways, and images that carry me somewhere, that break me—into tears, into anger, into catharsis, into outright celebration.




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



JSW: Apart from obvious issues like sexism, racism, and other forms of prejudice, which one doesn’t see often in poetry but which sometimes rears its ugly head in subtle ways, the quickest way for work to be rejected is if it doesn’t conform to our rather straightforward guidelines. Strange fonts, incorrect number of poems, and submissions emailed rather than sent via our submission manager are all common issues. Also, as we read blindly, the poet’s name being included in the document is another telltale sign that he or she didn’t bother to read the guidelines. I hope this doesn’t sound like nitpicking, but publishing is based on mutual respect and appreciation. We hope submitters enjoy the journal, and we obviously love the work we publish. So when a submitter makes it obvious he or she did not read the guidelines, that presumed respect is broken.



SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?



JSW: If a submission comes close to publication, we often commend the poet and reference the piece that came closest. But, due to the number of submissions we receive, we usually don’t have the time to provide comments on rejected work.




SQF: Who are some of your favorite poets?



JSW: Oh boy, that’s always a question I fear. How does one list less than, say, fifty or a hundred? But if I narrow it down to poets whose collections came out in 2016, I’d say my favorites were Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds, Keith Leonard’s Ramshackle Ode, Safiya Sinclair’s Cannibal, Sjohnna McCray’s Rapture, Miriam Bird Greenberg’s In the Volcano's Mouth, Jamaal May’s The Big Book of Exit Strategies, and Francine J. Harris’ Play Dead.




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

JSW: Do you have any tips for poets interested in submitting to The Inflectionist Review? Glad you asked.

Although this may seem like clichéd advice, poets should definitely read sample issues before submitting to us. Many journals have broad tastes or rotating editors or panels of students whose personal preferences vary greatly and overlap in unexpected places. However, TIR has a tight focus and only two like-minded editors. Our mission statement is clear. Every issue we receive many hundreds of “shotgun” submissions from poets who obviously are not familiar with the work we publish. As a writer myself, I get that approach. One cannot read every journal out there. And it often works with the kinds of journals I referenced earlier. But not with The Inflectionist Review. Familiarity with the journal is usually evident within the first few lines or stanzas. So, apart from formatting to the guidelines, the most important tip I can give is to enjoy a past issue or two and see if your work’s themes, structures, and styles communicate with our vision.

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

Friday, January 20, 2017

Six Questions for A. Molotkov, Co-Editor, The Inflectionist Review

Inflectionist Review has a strong preference for non-linear work that carefully constructs ambiguity so that the reader can play an active role in the poem. In general, we commend the experimental, the worldly and universal, and eschew the inane, trendy, and overly personal. Work that reveals multiple layers with further readings. Though the editors have a special interest in shorter poems, we are open to longer works that adhere to our general philosophy. Multi-sectioned or thematically-linked poems are also accepted.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

A Molotkov: My co-editor John Sibley Williams and I felt that one’s role in the literary world need not be limited to writing. Much is to be said for supporting others and building connections. Many writers serve as editors, which helps foster an understanding between the two roles.

As a reader, I see much editorial consistency in some journals and almost none in others. John and I were motivated to support a particular aesthetic that we find vital and important, rather than trying to support the broader crowd of poets writing in English. In some way, it’s a magazine for poets who follow recipes that we believe in (as well as for poems that simply blow us over, no matter the recipe). www.inflectionist.com provides more detail about our aesthetic – and the five issues we’ve published so far.


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

AM: A spark – something unpredictable that breaks me, puzzles me, enlightens me. Emotion. Relevance to others.


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

AM: Typos or grammar errors, macho maleness, religious fervor, self-involvement, or a complete lack of understanding of contemporary poetry. John and I are generally not into names – place names, name names, mythological or historical names. (I’m curious, by the way, if his answers will be completely different from mine.) Our preference is for poems that stand on their own, unsupported by external references. Tasteful exceptions can be, of course, quite wonderful. Poems about writing poetry need an extra-special twist to sound fresh.


SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?



AM: We will do so occasionally if the poem almost makes it, or if the submitter is someone we know well. I don't think it’s productive to comment on all rejections, as so much of it comes down to taste. No one needs a lecture from a poet who writes in a style different from one’s own. 



SQF: Who are some of your favorite poets?



AM: Among the classics, Mikhail Lermontov, Evgeni Esenin and several other poets I admired in my youth back in Russia – also Paul Éluard, Paul Celan, W.S. Merwin, Mark Strand, William Stafford, Rumi. Among the contemporaries: Annie Lighthart, Beth Bachmann, Laura Kasischke, Ocean Vuong, Carl Adamshick, Sara Eliza Johnson, Nick Flynn and many, many more. I’m ashamed that I’m leaving out many I admire just as much. And of course, my co-editor, John Sibley Williams.




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

AM: First of all, Jim, thank you so much for this refreshing opportunity to think about editing a journal from these new angles. And thank you, reader, for sticking with us.

Perhaps the last question should be: how to deal with rejections? What does a rejection mean? Some friends confess that they give up after five or ten, while to me it’s normal procedure to keep sending the same story or poem to 150 journals. A checklist one might consider when rejections pile up:

1. Have you read 100 (poetry) books in the last 5 years, most of them contemporary?
2. Have you written consistently for at least 3-5 years?
3. Do you have a critique group?

If the answer to all of the above is Yes, then keep reading and writing and sending your work and revising and ignoring rejections. Many editors are picky, including these two. Still, we mean everyone well and appreciate the effort of all poets, even those who don't make it into Inflectionist Review. Creative connections are randomly made. Literary value is more subjective than many folks seem to expect. One fosters and projects one’s literary voice in a busy world bursting with language.

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