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Read all the editors' answers to Duotrope's interview question: Describe the ideal submission. Learn more.
Here is a small sampling from our recent Editor Interviews. We have interviewed over 1,825 editors.
Q: Describe the ideal submission.
A: The ideal submission surprises us, or makes us laugh, or brings tears, or helps us experience the world in a way we hadn't thought possible.
A: Something that resonates, that hasn't been put forth in the same way dozens of times before. Something that makes us laugh, cry, laugh and cry, think, forget, remember....well, you get the picture. There should be something below the surface; there should be there there.
A: Fiction: A mold-breaking piece that surprises us in terms of form and substance and that doesn't feel like other stuff that's out there. Humor goes a long with us as opposed to darkness. We frown on blood and guts and gratuitous profanity.
Poetry: Work that explores the language in ways that sneak up on the reader, with bold experimentation in form, structure, and sound.
Essays and Faux Forms & Genres: A short piece that plays with the personal essay with exaggeration and absurdity, aiming to get the reader to a new level of understanding without adhering to the usual rules. Parodies are encouraged.
A: It's a piece that knows its layers, that has been worked by the writer without showing the effort. The piece is quirky and sharp so to better highlight the talent in voice, the description, the plot development, the meaning. It reads as if the writer has been possessed by the art, and in response, so then will be the reader. (This makes great writing sound like magic, but we know it is hard work and smarts...it just sometimes reads like magic)
A: I love submissions that don't adhere to the tropes we often see on TV and in movies. We don't need to feel sorry for your characters because they have chronic illness. We don't need to be inspired by them or view them as "brave." There doesn't need to be a cure or happy ending.
A: An article of 1,500-2,500 words, submitted by Google docs, with pictures already inserted and links to scholarly articles.
A: Clearly intentional. Moving beyond beautiful language or mastery of writing conventions to raise tough questions, highlight ambiguities, or reframe the everyday in a new light.
A: A place I've never heard of, a trend that I didn't recognize, with a well written long narrative and excellent photos, like that Thomas Wolfe boyhood home story. Or a feature on a place like Transnistria, or Uruguay, or Kentucky, about a place we don't know much about. Interesting festivals are also great submissions.
A: It is a poem of 24 or less lines, no more than 50 characters to a line. No artwork or shape poems allowed.
In addition there is a line for 1. the title, 2. poet's name, 3. city and state of residence (country is outside of USA)
A different theme is announced each year. Only one poem may be submitted or three Haiku may be submitted.
The poem needs to appeal to a wide audience that may include school age students.
A: First, creative in its subject matter, telling a fresh story with sharp characters, voice, setting, or structure. The piece itself is thoughtful about grammar, style, punctuation, consistency, and layout and does not require excessive editing to bring it into our high editorial standards. The ideal submission will also include all information requested, such as the writer's bio and email address. The submission adheres to all guidelines for formatting, file name, etc. But first, it surprises us with a new voice.
A: The ideal submission is a poem, since that is our main focus. This poem can be short or long, but if it's over a page it should be for a good reason, not because the poet is repeating herself or rambling. This poem is edited to its marrow--every word is crucial; there are no unnecessarily "show-off" words like incandescence. Moreover, this poem shows mastery of lineation. Lines are not simply centered on the page as if it were a Hallmark card, and one-word lines are used rarely and effectively. The perfect poem will use empty space just as well as filled space, using line breaks and stanza breaks (and other kinds of spacing) to achieve meaning. This poem also ends in a "wow" line. The last line must make the whole poem meaningful.
A: A self-contained short story of less than 1500 words which elicits emotions in our editors.