April 12, 2016

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Six Questions for... Expanded Version

Looking for advice on publishing with small presses and lit mags? Check out Jim Harrington's insightful blog, "Six Questions for..."

Twice a week, Jim poses six questions to an editor. My interview in my role as editor of Little Patuxent Review went up yesterday.
Our most recent issue: Audacity, Summer, 2012.
The six questions are:
  1. What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
  2. What are the top three reasons a submission is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to the above question and why?
  3. Which of the following statements is true and why? Plot is more important than character. Character is more important than plot. Plot and character are equally important.
  4. What advice can you offer new authors hoping to publish their first submission?
  5. Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?
  6. What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?  
My favorite question was #5. I appreciate that Jim recognized I am a working writer, as well as an editor, and that the experience of editing has helped me grow as a writer.

You can read Jim's post and my answers at his blog.

It's been a few months since we did the actual interview, so I'd like to expand on a few things.

Laura's Editorial Pet Peeves:

Overly used and smarty-pants words. I see the word "cerulean" way too much. Can you honestly say you know what makes a blue "cerulean?"
This is what "cerulean" looks like,
according to the Pantone color system.

The overuse of words like "cerulean" -- an editor/poet friend said her pet peeve word is "shards" -- can be a red flag. Is the author trying to impress with fancy vocabulary when a simple word would do? Overly verbose writing often comes across as amateurish. An author who trusts his or her voice knows how and when to use S.A.T. words. More directly, I don't want to see the word "cerulean" unless your character is an artist and has a reason to use that very specific word. And I don't want to see "shattered cerulean shards" unless they are part of a stained glass window in your poem or story.
Cerulean stained glass.

FYI: One of my favorite poets, Kay Ryan, excels at using simple language. She might include one or two high-vocabulary words in her short poems. This practice adds emphasis to the heightened language when and if it appears. Instead of being buried in a barrage of unusual, rich language, the every day words buoy and highlight a word or phrase that's less familiar.

Jumping on the theme wagon. Take a look at author Rus VanWestervelt's take on this issue. He compares his NaNoWriMo project to preparing a piece for Little Patuxent Review. What I responded to was Rus' realization that writing a new piece just to fit a journal's theme (in other words, writing something with the sole aim of seeing it published) is a bit backwards. An author who does this is not writing for herself, so the work won't feel authentic, and she is probably rushing the process.

Ideally, the poems, essays and short stories that are submitted to LPR would be pieces that  you -- the potential contributor -- have been working on for some time. You have taken the piece from initial draft through several revisions, shared it with your critique group, worked with their feedback. Then, you saw LPR's call for submissions. "Oh -- they are doing an issue on Music. [Note: We are. Submissions open December 1.] I have a perfect piece for that!" Check out a back-issue of the journal to get a sense of what we publish. Give your piece one more polish and send it in.


Jen said...

Yes, there does seem to be a delicate balance between an eloquent choice of words and being esoteric. In the same vein, I also find it irritating (as a reader) when an author tries too hard to be humorous. As it stands-- my biggest pet peeve word-choice is "tongue" when it accompanies anything to do with fire. Really, is that the best we can do? Regardless, thank you for the follow-up on your interview! Very illuminating- but not like a tongue of fire, more like a LED camp lantern.

Author Amok said...

Hi, Jen! Is the trick to make the language feel effortless? I'm not sure. Good point about humor and cliche (like tongues of flame). I'm glad the interview shed a non-fiery light for you!