Jim Harrington’s blog project “Six Questions For...” asks the editors of independent literary magazines six questions that might interest potential contributors and other writers. Three members of SAND’s editorial team weighed in on our own interests and preferences. Here are two of the questions:
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
Florian Duijsens, fiction editor: I look for three things: surprise (not in terms of twist endings, but in terms of surprising voices, observations, textures, and also surprising choices in where stories start and stop), confidence (a cohesive, effective style, conscious stylistic/linguistic/narrative decisions), and truth (characters and settings that not only feel true to life, but also true to themselves; not necessarily likable, or even realistic, but alive and singular). So anything but the cliché, the wishy-washy, and the fake, basically.
SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?
Andrew Scheinman, nonfiction editor: A story of any sort needs a raison d'être—not a moral, not necessarily even a delineated plotline—but some searching or wandering, some exploration that occurs or is at least suggested between the beginning, middle, and end. Too many memoirs, essays, and the like proclaim their meaning from the get-go, delivering something akin to a news lede, and then elucidate the details as a matter of course. But literary writing is narrative—exciting only when it entertains or perplexes throughout the reading process, factuality notwithstanding. A simple record of events, however true or profound to the author her/himself, does not a good story make. Good nonfiction should be more about seeking than finding and should take the reader along for the ride.