Stephanie Martinez-Beltran, Teen Editor-in-Chief

What do you look for in a prose submission you upvote for publication?

I look for a piece that is clear, concise, and creative. The author’s tone needs to be distinct throughout the piece for there to be a good flow in the storyline. I also look for unique topics and themes that I have never read before or unconventional plots. Most importantly, the characters in the storyline should be relatable and genuine. As long as I can sense the author’s passion for their story through its plot and characters, the piece will be a solid one. It’s essential to take the time to develop their stories to convey their message to the public better.  

What do you look for in a group of poems you upvote for publication?

I look for unique concepts and new uses of literary devices. I appreciate pieces that avoid clichés and overdramatic representations of romance or melancholy. Pieces that embed personal experiences in balance with nature and figurative language grasp my attention quickly. I especially enjoy reading poems that convey messages regarding problems that concern the author. Issues such as racism, poverty, and the struggles of parenthood interest me the most. Pieces that shed light on controversial topics while offering potential solutions are very compelling. Most importantly, if the imagery can explicitly convey that author’s passion for the subject they are discussing, then the piece is a winner in my eyes.

What would you like to see more of in the submissions to Inlandia, and what would you like to see less?

I would like to continue seeing genuine creative pieces that come straight from the authors’ hearts. I love when pieces reflect an essential part of the authors’ experiences. Honest pieces are rich in emotion and often capture my attention much quicker than a piece written out of obligation. I would like to see less “telling” and see more “showing.” I love when writers include vivid imagery that is balanced by the five senses. Avoiding clichés and awkward sentence structures are vital. Overall, I recommend for writers/artists to approach their pieces with purpose and to make sure that what their pieces represent is intentional and purposeful. I encourage future writers/artists to submit pieces that they are genuinely proud of. Pieces that showcase their growth, passions, and creativity while conveying a message make the best submissions.

What tips would you give unpublished writers who are trying to get their first story or group of poems published in a literary journal?

Never stop writing. Even if you feel that your piece is going nowhere, I guarantee that inspiration hits at the oddest of times. Do not simply abandon a piece that does not seem worthy of publishing. Take a break and leave it on pause because some of the best literary works were not published after their first drafts. Revision is key, and this is done best after you have had some time to think about your work. Do not be afraid to experiment and try different styles of writing. You will not know what you are passionate about unless you read and explore. Writing is supposed to be fun, so fully submerge yourself in the experience, collaborate with friends, and dream of the extraordinary. Write something that will leave you feeling proud. Write something that you would enjoy reading. Most importantly, never quit. Publishing should be secondary.

What writing projects are you working on now?

I am currently working on a series of fantasy poems. I plan to incorporate romantic and dramatic elements into each poem, which will read individually as its own story. However, the twist is that all poems will also contribute to a completely different story simultaneously. Each poem tells the story of an individual. Their stories include their humble beginnings, dreams, goals, and fears. Ultimately, what brings all of these poems together is the final destination of each character at the end of their piece. I do not want to give too much away, but all characters end up in the same destination by the end of their stories. For now, I only have a few drafts, but I am very excited about the final product.

What else do you do that brings you joy?

In my free time, I enjoy making jewelry, reading YA fantasy, listening to alternative music, gardening, and baking. Overall, I love spending time with my family and pets. I believe that every day is a new adventure, and one should make the most of it.

What book have you read recently that you think would be helpful to emergent writers? What book have you read recently that you love and are recommending to all your friends?

I recently read The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. I find this book to be one of my favorites since it demonstrates how powerful a plot-driven book can be. The most significant takeaway that I can emphasize to emergent writers is that you don’t need to stress on creating character-driven stories. If one feels that focusing too much on developing a character overshadows one’s story and exploits clichés, then avoid it. I wish I would have written this novel because it discusses the dissociation that one often develops when one transitions from childhood to adulthood. Themes of identity, coming of age, and friendship are natural and relatable topics that will forever be popular and interesting.  

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