Friday, January 13, 2017

Six Questions for Eric Cline, Founder/Editor-in-Chief, Calamus Journal

Calamus Journal publishes flash fiction to 600 words and poetry. The journal has "a particular interest in showcasing work from members of marginalized groups, as well as showcasing work that might be considered experimental, surreal, or even eccentric.” Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Eric Cline: Back when I was in high school, I served on my school's literary magazine staff. I had a great time reading through all of our submissions, as well as helping to design the magazine. In the years since graduating high school, I often noted how much I missed editing, but for one reason or another I always decided I was too busy. This year, after having put a lot of effort and time into my own writing career, I decided that I wanted a change of pace, and to go back to editing. I love experiencing other people's work and publishing it. As someone who reads literary magazines on a regular basis, I wanted to create a quality journal that others could read and enjoy. From this mission came Calamus Journal. In defining what the journal sought to publish, I aimed to provide a space where innovation in form and experimentation in style would be welcomed. I also wanted the journal to provide space for poems pertaining to important social issues and personal experiences.


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

EC: Trevor (the assistant editor) and I look for work that feels personal and authentic. We really enjoy work that deals with emotion in an artful way, work that finds just the right image or phrase to convey a feeling. I think it's fair to say we prefer emotionally-invested works over poems and stories that just kind of describe scenes without achieving much payoff.

We also love non-standard formatting. We're not inherently opposed to poems written in traditional forms, but we really like work that plays with white space or feels uniquely interactive in the way it is constructed.

Third, I would say th at we look for really specific images. That's not to say that every aspect of a poem needs to be defined in extreme detail, but we don't care for poems that deal only in abstract concepts (i.e. "love" or "pain") but do nothing to show how those concepts manifest.


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

EC: Submissions that do not follow our guidelines. We take time out of our days to read through people's work, and we believe the least a submitter can do is read through a short series of guidelines before sending their work. It's a matter of respect and professional courtesy.

Beyond that, we don't generally care for poems that are overly vague. We also don't care for work that is misogynistic, racist, etc. We love writing that confronts these issues and describes people's experiences, but we don't want to read pieces that just reinforce negative stereotypes about groups of people, or that reeks of a hatred for women on the author's part.


SQF: Who are some of your favorite authors of short fiction and poetry?

EC: Some poets we love are Andrea Gibson, Sappho, Walt Whitman, and Langston Hughes. Our tastes in fiction are pretty broad, from more literary authors to horror and sci-fi, but we tend to like work that is in some way or other "weird." What weird means can vary, of course, but perhaps its worth pointing out that we particularly like magical realism and stories in which the implausible becomes plausible.


SQF: You recently published your second issue. What has you most excited about this adventure?

EC: We're excited to share the great work we receive with our readers, and to provide our authors with a platform. I love the feeling I get when we receive a submission that we immediately know we want to publish, and I love sharing such great pieces with our audience. I want Calamus to continue to be a place where lovers of poetry and short fiction can find quality work, and I'm excited for Calamus to continue to publish more issues and showcase more writers, more voices, more styles.


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

EC: Where does the name "Calamus Journal" come from?

Calamus, besides being a type of plant, is the title of a series of male-male love poems from Whitman's Leaves of Grass. I've always loved those poems' use of imagery to convey deep emotion, and I would like to think we publish emotionally impactful work as well. It also establishes a connection between the journal's name and the history of same-sex romantic subject matter in poetry. I felt that this was fitting due to our particular interest in showcasing work by LGBT people, along with members of other traditionally marginalized groups.

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

Friday, January 6, 2017

Six Questions for Molly Hill, Editor, Blue Marble Review

Blue Marble Review is a quarterly online journal for young writers ages 13-20. The magazine publishes fiction and non-fiction to 2,500 words, poetry and art. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Molly Hill: I started Blue Marble Review with the belief that writing is for everyone and to encourage young writers both novice and experienced to submit good work. My intent for Blue Marble was to showcase the creative talent of these young artists and writers and to let them know that submissions are welcome even if they don’t have a long list of publication credits. We’re proudly small time and big hearted.


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

MH: There are a lot of factors that make for a quality submission but some that stand out are originality—a fresh take on a familiar topic, authentic voice, and what I’d call inventive use of language, or good sentence building. This sentence building encompasses things like word choice and clarity, but we’re also impressed by skillful story telling. We read a lot of submissions and writing that’s original, authentic and creatively constructed rises to the top of the pile.


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

MH: Gratuitous violence that seems unnecessary to the story.


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

MH: Usually not, unless the writer asks us too. Sometimes if we really love the writing but it’s too long or maybe a bit confusing, we’ll let the author know how much we like it and invite them to take another look at revising the work. Other times we’ll mention what parts might have been highlights for us as readers. We don’t correct or critique unless specifically asked, and even then, our goal is to encourage future submissions.


SQF: You’ve published four issues to date. What has surprised/excited/elated you the most?

MH: We’ve been impressed by the quality work from our submitters, and elated about the reach of our online journal—we get submissions from all over the world. It’s an absolute highlight to read submissions and correspond with these young writers and artists via email. Another happy surprise is the support we’ve received via grants and gifts from generous donors that enables us to keep paying our contributors.


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

MH: I wish you’d asked us about our plans for the year ahead:

We’re still exploring additional sources of funding but likely will increase payments to individual writers from $20 per published piece to $25 in 2017 if funding sources come through. We also hope to expand into the community both locally and beyond, ‘spotlighting’ groups of young writers from specific schools, clubs, community and arts organizations. We want to hear from a diverse group of contributors and continue encouraging and showcasing their creative work.

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



Friday, December 30, 2016

Six Questions for Michelle Tudor, Editor, WILDNESS

WILDNESS is an online literary journal that seeks to promote contemporary fiction (to 2,500 words), poetry (to 80 lines) and non-fiction that evokes the unknown. Founded in 2015, each thoughtfully compiled issue strives to unearth the works of both established and up-and-coming writers. Read the complete guidelines here.


SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Michelle Tudor: To put it simply, we wanted to create an environment that was open to anyone who wanted to be a part of it.

We are turning 1 this year (in December), and at first we were only publishing books through our indie press, Platypus Press. It was only after a few months of doing that that we decided that we’d really enjoy the day-to-day creation of a journal and the experience of finding and sharing work more instantly.


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

MT: Beauty of language is very important—the way a sentence flows upon the page.

Also, the way a piece makes me feel is crucial. If it leaves me feeling nothing, then I can’t choose it. So, a piece that might mean everything to the author might leave me cold, and I think that’s okay, because there will be another editor or another journal who it will resonate with.

The third thing is less to do with the work and more the actual submission. We want people who read the guidelines as it shows they’ve visited the site and made an effort to engage with what we’re about.


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

MT: Thematically anything with excessive violence or erotica. Also, it should go without saying, but anything racist, sexist, homophobic or ableist will automatically be rejected.

Again, related to the submission, things that turn us off: work that is pasted directly into the email, fonts that are hard to read, a submission with no introduction or bio and ultimately, submissions where it’s clear they haven’t even looked at the guidelines.


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

MT: Unfortunately, due to the amount of submissions (a common response I’m sure), real life work and running our press, we just don’t have the time to provide comments for people we’ve rejected.


SQF: I often read or hear authors say, “Gee, I wish I’d written that.” What stories or poems have evoked this thought from you?

MT: From our issues, I absolutely love the writing of Gen Del Raye and one of his pieces that was published in Wyvern Lit, That California Light, is beautifully written and I always admire authors that can really bring words off the page.

From the wider literary world, I love Joan Didion’s words.


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

MT: What’s next for WILDNESS?

A: Next year we are beginning a daily section called the Wilds in which five contributing editors will share pieces of work they have found and think are important. We are also hoping to do a print anthology at the end of our second year.

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


Friday, December 23, 2016

Six Questions for Richard Thomas, Editor-in-Chief, Gamut Magazine

Gamut Magazine publishes neo-noir, speculative fiction (500-5,000 words) and poetry with a literary bent. Learn more here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Richard Thomas: I wanted to feature the kind of writing that I enjoy, the kind of stories I write, edit, publish, and teach. I did a Kickstarter last February, to gauge the interest, and we raised $55,000. So far, we've gotten a lot of interest, blowing out our 300 submission maximum each month in less than a day. I'm also eager to publish online, so that we can appeal to people all over the world, and publish a wide range of fiction. We have 800+ backers from dozens of cities and countries. Obviously the USA is the largest, but also UK, Canada, Australia, Spain, Italy, Japan, China, Germany, Belgium, Brazil, Ireland, etc. It's also important to us to be diverse—so whatever your sex, orientation, country of origin, language, current city, experience, age, etc.—we want to see your work.


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

RT:
1. Originality. The neo-noir (new-black) we mention hints at that—new, contemporary dark fiction, with a literary bent. Nothing formulaic, cliché, old school, classical, or expected.
2. Diversity. As mentioned, I'd love to see new mythologies, cultures, stories, histories, monsters, and protagonists.
3. Emotion. I need the story to make me feel something. If I don't care about the characters, if you don't hook me, and have a powerful impact at the end, then it's not going to work. Dig deep and really leave it all on the page.


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

RT: I don't like excessive, pointless gore. I will tolerate it if it works, if it's essential to the story, and is earned. I also don't like misogyny. We will not take stories that show hatred toward women (or anybody, based on sex, race, etc.). Way too many vengeance stories. And we really have a hard time with rape, molestation, and pedophiles—it will have to be an incredibly compelling story that includes justice, but that's going to be a really hard sell.


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

RT: That you can't just tell a story, move people around, follow the script. It has to be very personal, you have to dig deep, and it has to succeed on three levels—on the surface, with the plot and action, actually moving and doing things, entertaining; down below, emotionally, in the gut, making us feel something, with symbolism, metaphor, and imagery; and up above, intellectually, with thought, and insight, causing us to pause and think.


SQF: If you could have dinner with three authors, who would they be and why?

RT: I was lucky enough to hang out with Chuck Palahniuk and Irvine Welsh last summer, so those two are checked off. Stephen King, for sure, big fan of his, my entire life. Will Christopher Baer is a lesser-known author, but a neo-noir voice that really resonates with me. Mary Gaitskill—because what she does with sex, and sensuality, and the power inherent in these dynamics, and dysfunctions—it's so impressive.


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

RT: Okay, here's an easy one—the last three books you read, gave somebody, or encouraged somebody to read. For me, it was Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer; Bird Box by Josh Malerman; Perdido Street Station by China Mieville; and All the Beautiful Sinners by Stephen Graham Jones. (Okay, I listed four.)

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

Friday, December 16, 2016

Six Questions for Marcus Clayton and AJ Urquidi, Executive Editors, indicia

indicia publishes poetry (up to 6 poems) to 10 pages, flash fiction (up to 3 stories) to 750 words, and visual art up to 5 pieces. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Editors: We wanted to read more upcoming writers and artists from our generation who are into the same aesthetics we are, something we weren’t really seeing in bigger-name journals. We experimented with starting a previous magazine during grad school, but there were certain bugs that we wanted to fix. After moving away from that magazine, we set our sights on making a journal the way we felt it should be. We were sick of reading the same types of general-consumption work streamlined for writing conference book fairs and presentations, and we also noticed that a lot of journals and writing contests seemed to be publishing and praising the same few people consistently without many fresh names coming up, a mutual admiration society that we wanted to avoid in our own search for emerging artists.


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

Editors: First, for an unoriginal answer, we like inventiveness. We want the subject matter, the word choice, the form, and the way we feel after exposure to all stink of inventiveness. Our editors are picky when it comes to clichés, and they are not easily duped. If it’s already been written before or tackled better by someone else, then to quote Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Second, for an elitist answer, we like to see some demonstration of skill. We like poems that know what they’re trying to do because the submitter has been moved by great influences, tries to write with the best of those influences’ skills, and does it all in the submitter’s own distinct voice (though naturally uninfluenced, inherent skill is sure to present itself as well, and we’ll take that too). We like stories that understand the correct amount of nonrevelation or anticlimax that should go into a piece. We prefer visual art that shows the artist has an affinity for how color, lighting, technique, purpose, and all that good stuff works, rather than a basic MFA exercise or a half-assed doodle. To quote a man who once had his daughter temporarily taken, we want to see “a very particular set of skills; skills [you] have acquired over a very long [or blossoming] career. Skills that make [you] a [non]nightmare for people like [us].”

Third, for a touchy-feely answer, we really like to know the artist cares about what they sent. We can tell whether they put care into their submission or not. This could even be seen in the cover letter if they mention something they read about us, or some pieces they liked in a previous issue, or how they had found out about indicia through one of the editors’ other writings, or by following all the guidelines with care. It should seem like they care to know us, because we spend a lot of time with and become close with the work we put in the journal, and that’s going to feel like unrequited love if there’s no reciprocation. On that note, to quote Billy Corgan, “The world is a vampire…”


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

Editors: As other editors have said in these interviews or under their breath wading through slush piles, our guidelines mean the world to us. We sharpened them to the point where we felt they were covering pretty much everything important. Thus, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” to quote a wonderful Aretha. It pains us to see at least 40% of submissions not following the guidelines, which reeks of writers and artists feeling entitled to having their work looked at and not caring which journal is looking.


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

Editors: That idea sounds pretty cool—but nope. To quote ourselves quoting Sweet Brown, “to quote Sweet Brown, ‘Ain’t nobody got time for that.’” At this point, at least.


SQF: If you could have dinner with one author (living or dead), who would it be and what would be your first question?

Marcus: I would want to have dinner with Kurt Vonnegut and ask him everything about comedy. Meaning, what kind of stand-up does he listen to and what TV shows does he watch (or movies)? I admire the satire and wit in his writing so much and KNOW it can't all come solely from literature. I like there to be some ounce of fun in writing while still retaining a certain level of seriousness to balance it out. Good writing needs both, and influences don't always have to come from lateral sources. I've heard musicians say movies influence their music, so I'd ask Vonnegut, “Who makes you laugh the most?”

AJ: Tough choice, because meeting my idols has often resulted in deflating my view of their prowess, but I would dine alongside the magnificent late Russell Edson, preferably at the Maoz vegetarian falafel shop in NYC’s Union Square (goshdarnit, I miss their food so much). Every time I read one of his proses/poems I have a billion questions that I don’t really need the answer to, so I would just ask him with my head cocked like a confused puppy, “? ? ?”


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

Editors: “How do you pronounce indicia, and what does it mean?”

Well, we’re glad you asked. Often we hear people refer to us as INDICA, which is marijuana-related rather than journal production-related. Our name, to quote our site, is pronounced “in-DISH-ee-yuh” or sometimes just “in-DISH-yuh.” This term refers to surface-level matter in the beginning of a published work (like the copyright page stuff/publisher logos), also postal information on mail in lieu of a stamp, or just markings in general. We think the surface level is a great place to start looking for meaning, as the little forgettable aspects of daily life often slip past us, casting no impressions. We like to publish such things, especially when their weirdness is able to catch us off-guard.

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