Tuesday, 29 October 2013

These are a few of our favourite things

by Carlotta Eden - Editor

Editors are mothers. They cradle words in their ink-stained hands and rock them gently until they hiccup and burp and sleep without fidgeting. Sometimes they have to be strict, and tell words that they can’t play with that other word because that other word isn’t good for them. Sometimes they have to say no because that’s how stories get better. But mostly they love words and just want to see them grow into great, great stories that others point at and go, heck, I wish I’d written that.

So we’ve decided to write about what we like and what we don’t like in our submissions. And if you don’t like what we do like, then that’s fine. Maybe it’s just not meant to be. It’s important to remember that your submission absolutely doesn’t have to be perfect. We’re not expecting Shakespeare. If you bring us something that makes us coo we’ll tell you it makes us coo, and we’ll work with you to turn that extra o into an r so it makes us go corr.

We like poetry that howls from the rooftops. We don’t like poetry that shouts into a microphone. One commands, the other imposes rudely. We like modest poetry, poetry that tells us, actually, it’s pretty terrifying being human but y’know what? Here’s a puddle. Look at its rainbow.

We’re not particularly drawn to poetry that laments, or mourns, or talks about how much it misses its boyfriend. We don’t like poetry that feels sorry for itself.

We like poetry that talks to us like we’re humans, sometimes even friends, and poetry that goes bungee jumping and, if it’s not feeling up to it, puts its feet up and flicks through crappy TV channels. Not because it can’t be bothered, but because it’s honest. It doesn’t try hard. 

We like short stories that come to bed with you and kiss you somewhere you didn’t know you liked. We don’t like short stories that preach, or teach us a lesson, or politicise or talk about David Cameron, unless it’s about someone who performs plastic surgery on himself to make him look like David Cameron because, wow, what? We like short stories that make us go wow, what?

We like short stories that tease and don’t necessarily give us what we want. If there’s a word in your story that you have to think twice about, get rid of it. Get in and get out. We don’t like stodgy prose or long-winded narratives. We can tell if you’ve tried to be Mary Shelley. We really, really can.

We like short stories that say hey, babe, take a walk on the wide side. We like stories that take us on a Greyhound bus to Baton Rouge. We like stories that have been gunned down to the ground and come back fighting. We like short stories that question the minority that are questioning the majority without asking a direct question. We like short stories that are the beginnings of a knock knock joke but not the end. We don’t like sob stories, but we do like stories that whisper, I had to write this.

And if you still want to know what we like, we like Ian McEwan, Miranda Kerr, Adam Marek, Alice Munro, Kurt Vonnegut, Denis Johnson, Ben Brooks, Tobias Wolff and James Frey.

We like it even more when you read our submission guidelines. Please stick to our theme; we simply cannot accept your submission otherwise, no matter how wonderful. We only have a limited amount of space to design in the magazine, so submissions must stick to word limits. We just want to make your page look magnificent.

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