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A staff member of this incredible jack-of-all-trades lit journal took a moment to answer some of our questions, so please, meet McSweeney’s (if you haven’t already!):
CONTEST! Leave a comment on this blog post by August 30 to enter to win a FREE copy of McSweeney’s Issue 41 (pictured here!). This contest is now closed. Congratulations to Clyde, our winner. Thank you to all who participated!
1. Give us the lowdown on your journal’s mission.
Really, we just want to publish good writing. But beyond that most fundamental desire, we hope that we’re challenging the confines of traditional publishing. There are no rules. We publish what we find intriguing and hope that our readers will agree.
2. Describe your ideal submission in 15 words or less.
A captivating story, written with controlled language, which comes to a surprising conclusion, would be an ideal submission.
3. Tell us about a piece you recently published that got the staff really excited. Why did you love it? Why did it strike a chord? Can readers find it online?
I’m not saying this because I am supposed to; it’s just the honest truth. We get pretty excited about each Quarterly. Issue 41 is an assemblage of some exciting pieces: Aimee Bender, Deb Olin Unferth, Jess Walter, and Steven Millhauser—just to name a few. It’s an all-star lineup and a wolf created from photos of lightning graces the cover. So, we have a lightning wolf, and that’s about all you need to know about that.
4. Regarding submissions: What’s the most common turn-off that you encounter (in terms of craft)?
Submissions are our lifeblood. We want to love your stories, but too often a potentially good story is just sloppily constructed, and this seems to be a product of the writer hastily slapping a story together, overeager to submit. I get it. Being published is sort of addictive, to see your efforts validated and appreciated by others, all wanting to read your work. It’s an incredible feeling, but don’t rush it. Scrub, polish, massage. Repeat. I’ve read work from writers that I know are talented, but they submitted a piece that’s not up to par with their abilities. Take your time; wait until it’s ripe.
I also think that every creative writing workshop teaches its students the importance of hooking the reader with the first line. Essentially, this is true; but I’ve found that writers take this a bit too far and it’s just off-putting. There’s no need to shock us with irrelevant images and outrageous scenes. Begin with a regulated first paragraph. Sure, make it interesting, but harmonious is also paramount.
5. What’s the most common oversight (in terms of submission guidelines)?
Be familiar with the Quarterly before submitting. Most journals have a certain aesthetic. Make sure your story is somewhere in the vicinity of ours.
6. Why is your journal awesome?
If there’s a good idea, no matter how outlandish it may seem, we do it. I don’t think there are many publishers today that would give the OK to creating a journal in the shape of a box that looks like a man’s sweaty head (see Issue 36) or a Sunday-edition-sized newspaper (see Issue 33). If it’s remotely feasible, we make it happen. A lot of the folks contributing to the Quarterly are just downright brilliant and have an extraordinary capacity for creativity, and luckily, our staff is still naive enough to put our dedication to literature above turning a profit. We continuously surprise ourselves, and I daresay, I think we also surprise our subscribers—pleasantly, we hope.
7. Where can readers find your submission guidelines?
8. What prize (aka bribe) would you like to offer to one random U.S. reader who leaves a comment on our Lit Mag Spotlight?
A free copy of Issue 41!
Contest: Leave a comment by August 30 to enter to win a FREE copy of McSweeney’s latest, Issue 41! This contest is now closed.