Saturday, August 21, 2010

Five Questions for an Editor: Joseph A. W. Quintela

For our first "Five Questions for an Editor" installment, we've snagged Joseph A. W. Quintela, editor of the über-flash fiction and tiny poetry journal, Short, Fast, and Deadly. Let's see what he has to say...

1. You close your e-mails "In the future, 5 words will be a run-on sentence." Is that even possible?

Of course. Communication reflects society. We’re getting shorter. Text-ier. Concise information absorbed in volume. See. That was a run-on. Comparatively.

2. Your journal limits short stories to 420 characters for short stories (the length of a Facebook post) or 140 characters for poetry (the length of a Twitter message). What does extreme brevity do for writing?

Brevity is both a constraint and a device. Like meter or rhyme it forces the poet to consider language carefully, to choose words that have both form and function. Like plot or character if forces the writer to adhere to certain artifice in order to conjure a believable lie. The only difference here is that the artifice isn’t one of storytelling but rather one of society.

3. Are their any longer-winded authors or poets you're reading these days?

I’m an avid reader of the Modernists. Let’s face it: they were a bunch of wordy windbags. No exceptions. But their language fit the times: turbulent and explosive with new lines of thought running on and on in torrents. So it worked then. It doesn’t anymore. There are a few neo-modernists who I appreciate. Jeanette Winterson, for instance. But her style is much more spare. Anyone who writes long-winded poetry or prose these days will soon be forgotten. I’m not saying that the novel is dead. I’m saying that a novel must now read as quickly as comments appear on a pithy status update.

4. Your submission guidelines include (and I quote) "No Haiku! For the love of God. No Haiku" (Issue #27 aside). What do you see as the chief problem with most of the haiku you read?

When you have to read 1000 bad Haiku for every good one it just doesn’t seem worth the time. Would you play those odds at the poker table? Haiku is generally misunderstood. But I actually Haiku all the time. For fun. I have a friend with whom I only communicate in Haiku.

5. Writing flash pieces-- especially pieces as flashy as SFD pieces--requires a ton of editing. What are the top three things you'd like to see people edit out of their writing more often?

Let’s start with what not to edit out: Don’t edit out imagery. Don’t edit out character. Don’t edit out plot. You have to find a way to create all of these things, though some of them you may have to create by suggestion. So here are a few things you can edit out: flowery adjectives, excess articles, yourself. That third one is both a misdirection and the most important thing.

JOSEPH A. W. QUINTELA awoke at the stroke of midnight bathed in sweat scented faintly of pomegranate seed. He knows because he’s tasted both. His own sweat. Five pomegranate seeds. Spent a season or two in hell. Learned to love a man who held the balance of his life. Love is strange. It’s the worst kind of survival and the best kind of death. This is the thought that consistently reminds him of Clarissa Dalloway’s sweat. Which tasted nothing like pomegranates. He knows he loved it desperately but cannot call it to his tongue. And now she is gone.

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