What do you look for in a story you upvote for publication?
I look for characters who drive the plot with their wants, needs, and desires. Even in the shortest short story, at least one character must be motivated to attain a goal, and encounter conflict in pursuit of it. Stories need narrators that will elicit some sort of emotional reaction in the reader. Strong, consistent POV is a must. If the point of view is weak, confusing, or an omniscient narrator is telling the story, I lose interest.
What would you like to see more of in the submissions to Inlandia, and what would you like to see less?
I’d like to see more flash fiction (1500 words or fewer) and short stories whose protagonists come from marginalized communities like POC, LGBTQ, undocumented immigrants, or differently abled people.
What tips would you give unpublished writers who are trying to get their first story or group of poems published in a literary journal?
- Follow the submission guidelines. Editors and agents receive so many unsolicited manuscripts every day, they don’t have time to read anything that doesn’t meet their express parameters.
- Even short stories need a reader hook, an inciting incident, and a plot arc.
- Read and research the publication before you submit, to determine if your work is in line with their aesthetic.
- Learn your craft. Understand plot and character arcs, pacing, dialogue, setting, subtext, symbolism, punctuation, grammar, and all the rest.
- Gain an understanding about the publishing business. It’s ever-evolving and you need to know what you’re getting into.
- Go to writer’s conferences. They are a great way to meet other writers, agents, editors.
- Join a critique group. Feedback helps you improve.
What writing projects are you working on now?
I am working on two novels I’d categorize as contemporary fiction. I love protagonists who are forced to confront their worst nightmares in order to achieve their goals.
What else do you do that brings you joy?
When I’m not working on my own projects, I volunteer to judge Romance Writers of America chapter contests, watch TV, walk my dog, and spend time with my family.
What book(s) have you read recently that you think would be helpful to emergent writers?
John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story is excellent, as is Stephen King’s On Writing.