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Editor Interview: Fictive Dream

Q: Describe what you publish in 25 characters or less.

A: Stories with a pulse.

Q: What other current publications (or publishers) do you admire most?

A: The Barcelona Review, The Stinging Fly, Granta Magazine, Pithead Chapel, Atticus Review—there are many admirable platforms, print and ezine, publishing good material.

Q: If you publish writing, who are your favorite writers? If you publish art, who are your favorite artists?

A: Lydia Davis, Raymond Carver, Flannery O’Connor, James Salter and Haruki Murakami for short stories in particular. In addition, Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan, Kobo Abe, Olga Tokarczuk. This list could go on and on.

Q: What sets your publication apart from others that publish similar material?

A: There are no fees, no themes, and no reading periods. In fact, we’re open for submissions 365 days per year. We feature two stories per week and only take a break from publishing for two weeks end December. We aim to keep our editorial standard consistently high. We form good relationships with our authors and have a high rate of authors who return to us. We respond to submissions within two to three weeks and, if we really want a story, much more quickly than that.

Q: What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to your publication?

A: Look at the Fictive Dream website, read some of the stories to get a feel for our eclectic tastes. We favour contemporary fiction that explores the human condition, and those moments that change people's lives—good and bad. Think about the story you would like to submit. Is it well-crafted? Does it offer an original treatment of the subject matter? Is it authentic, that is to say, is the fictive dream maintained throughout? Is the writing confident and natural? Is the language precise? This is the type of submission we aim to attract.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: Quite simply, the ideal submission is a story that engrosses us from the start. We're interested in fiction with a distinctive voice, that is well-crafted with clarity of thought and precision of language. It should fall within the broad category of literary fiction. Moreover, the ideal submission should be presented in a simple typeface with double spacing, page numbers and include word count, the story's title and author's name. It should have been proofread and be free of errors. Sloppy work is unlikely to be accepted.

Q: What do submitters most often get wrong about your submissions process?

A: Most commonly authors submit material that is not a good match for us. For example, we're not the right place for horror, fantasy and sci-fi. In addition, we frequently receive material that falls outside our word count of 500-2,500 words. That said, we're flexible, within reason, if the writing is very good. Where a submission has been declined, we ask authors to wait two months before submitting again. Because of the high volume of submissions, we really would appreciate authors' sticking to this one.

Q: How much do you want to know about the person submitting to you?

A: We definitely like to know something about the person who is submitting to us and we ask for a bio of up to 75 words. This should focus on current and forthcoming lit mag credits, books of fiction or poetry already published, and any other writing-related work. Also of interest are their social media details and links to their website. Information about a person's day job, where they're from, where they live, other artistic pursuits, etc., is also welcome. Authors who are starting out will not be able to produce a long list of credits. That's okay, we all have to has to start somewhere. A cover letter in itself is not necessary. Some authors send only an attachment of the story and bio. This is fine as long as we get the essential information: eg. full name, title of story, word count. Some authors confirm that their submission has never been published and whether or not it's a simultaneous submission.

Q: If you publish writing, how much of a piece do you read before making the decision to reject it?

A: The majority of submissions are read to the end and, indeed, read several times more before a final decision is made. However, it's true that in quite a number of cases, the first few paragraphs indicate that a submission isn't for us. In terms of the story, it's essential for the first couple of paragraphs to grab our attention and encourage us to read on. Sometimes, the opening paragraphs tells us that the submission falls outside our target genre in which case we don't continue reading. Similarly, a typescript that's difficult to read because of the intricate typeface, for example, or too many typos will deter us from reading to the end.

Q: What additional evaluations, if any, does a piece go through before it is accepted?

A: The majority of submissions are handled in-house. If we're really not sure about a story then we'll send it to a reader for an opinion.

Q: What is a day in the life of an editor like for you?

A: A day in the life of an editor is pretty varied and comprises reading submissions, editing, finding illustrations, communicating with authors, and planning social media. The actual reading process involves mentally classifying submissions into rejections, acceptances, and don't knows. When a gem lands in the inbox we don't waste time in making the author an offer. For most stories the decision to accept or not takes some time and, in these cases, I read and reread until I'm able to make a decision. If another opinion is needed, then a reader becomes involved. We aim to reply to authors within three weeks of submission. Once a story has been accepted I begin the process of preparing it for publication.Most importantly, editing suggestions and questions are sent to the author. At the same time I search for illustrations and often a shortlist of two to four images is sent to the author for them to make a choice. Also, we take the opportunity to ask for any revisions to the bio. Of course, all material is copy edited and proofread.

Q: How important do you feel it is for publishers to embrace modern technologies?

A: It’s very important for publishers to embrace modern technology not only for the submissions process, but also in the use of social media to promote the publication and the authors' work. At Fictive Dream all our submissions come to us via email. In terms of social media, every story that we post is promoted on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Threads and Mastodon. Traditional editing methods, however, are essential if the editorial standards are to remain high.

Q: How much do you edit an accepted piece prior to publication?

A: We don't do much substantive editing thanks to the standard of authors who submit to us. If we're keen on a submission which has a few issues, we'll deal with them in collaboration with the author. We do carry out line editing, copy editing and proofreading. Authors are always given the opportunity to approve any suggested changes to the text.

Q: Do you nominate work you've published for any national or international awards?

A: We nominate the best stories that we've published for the Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fictions, Best of the Net, BIFFY50, and Best Microfiction.