We held a Twitter chat in May to talk about becoming a paying market -- and anything else our readers wanted to know about all things Split Lip. If you missed it (or want a refresher...), enjoy this recap!
Why did you want to pay Split Lip contributors?
Maureen Langloss: I really hate the idea that so many people have that writing is a hobby. It takes so much blood, sweat, & tears. It is work. And it deserves payment. We writers should not have to write for free. Plus, we really want writers to have the money to buy more lit mags! Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice: So many reasons, but mainly because we want to show contributors that their work is important and their time matters. We also wanted to give writers some hope. So much of being a writer is misery. If we could spread a little joy, why wouldn't we?
What type of stories do you look for most often and which ones do you seem to get a lot of?
Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice: We like voice-driven work, which is impossible to define, I know! Writing with energy and a POV, something that could have only been written by the author. We like creative use of form and self-aware narrators. We love humor and wit. We get a lot of linear (as in a told chronologically) stories about domestic issues. We see too many satirical pieces that don't have an actual story with characters (though we love satire...just give us some depth). Also, there is an exception to literally every rule when it comes to writing!
Maureen Langloss: We are looking for variety! So there isn’t one type of story we look for. We do love stories with a strong voice, that make purposeful use of structure, play with language, have emotional resonance, are funny/dark. We love strong character development.
What is your favorite chain burrito?
Kelly Flynn: I’m unapologetically obsessed with @tacobell (specifically the cheesy bean and rice burrito). Sorry/not sorry. Maureen Langloss: A very important question. My family survives on Old El Paso—my children’s favorite. I know this isn’t a chain burrito but it’s as close as we get. (And no, Split Lip is not paying authors with Old El Paso ad dollars. And yes that’s my real cupboard) Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice: Chipotle ( I live in New England and this is honestly our best option!)
Ray Shea: Freebird's, if I can get it. My preference would be any random taqueria in the Mission in SF. I don't know what I'm gonna do when I move to Seattle.
How are you budgeting to pay contributors?
Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice: We've been saving for months and have a little nest egg! We keep our budget extra lean and have a good sense of our yearly expenses. We didn't want to start paying contributors until we were sure we could do it for at least a year.
What are some things, aside from the obvious of hate speech/misogyny/racism/etc., are you NOT into and seeing often in your poetry subs?
Marianne Chan: I hate telling writers what not to do, because if someone tells me I shouldn’t do something in poetry, my first reaction is to get annoyed. My second reaction is to see if I can prove them wrong. To give you a real answer: I think the things that annoy me about people are the same things that annoy me in poems. In addition to poems with hate speech/misogyny/racism, I get mad when a poem is too proud, if the writing is overly self-congratulatory.
Denise Weber: This is so true of cover letters, too. We've said before, we don't read blind. Reading long lists of pubs and awards is one of my pet peeves. Like congrats, but just pick the few you're most proud of.
Do you appreciate a simple “thank you” response from authors when you reject a submission but respond to it personally?
Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice: Definitely not required or necessary, though it is appreciated! I used to think it was a faux pas, but maybe that's because I still remember the pre-Submittable days. You never had interactions with submitters unless you were publishing them!
Maureen Langloss: It is completely unnecessary but much appreciated, especially if we have given any specific feedback. I am always worried how the comments landed & feel better when I know authors are OK! That said, negative replies are very much discouraged!
Ray Shea: Always always always appreciated, never required. I wish personal rejections were easier to write, esp for memoir when it feels like you are rejecting the author's life experiences.
How much does it really cost to run a lit mag?
Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice: Contrary to popular belief, a lit mag is not free to run! I don't know who decided internet journal = free, but I want to put that myth to rest. Our costs are: web hosting/email fees, Submittable fees ($72 per month), approx $1400 to pub our yearly print issue, $1k for AWP
Maureen Langloss: And this does not include the unpaid hours of labor volunteered by our editors & readers that totaled ~ 5000 hours in the last 12 months.
What's the School House Rock version of a submitted piece making its way through the editorial process to publication? (rhymes and animation not necessary)
Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice: Reader votes yes/maybe. Editor reads, votes yes/maybe. KAR reads. Lively discussion occurs via Slack. Things can get heated. We vote again. We sleep on it. We accept or we reject. We edit (sometimes a lot). Proof. Format for web or print. Show proof to author. Publish.
When a publication becomes paid, there seems to be a thought in writer land that the publication will become more choosy with what it publishes. How will this change impact how and what you chose to publish?
Ray Shea: There are still the same number of spots in our publishing schedule, so "we gotta pay this person" is not on my mind when I'm reading subs. I just really want to be blown away by the writing, as always.
Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice: As @rayjshea said, we still have the same number of spots. And we were already fairly picky since we publish only 4 pieces per month on the web, so I hope it hasn't impacted our decision-making at all.
What’s the most common mistake writers make when submitting?
Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice: 1. Not following our submission guidelines (e.g., submitting in more than one genre at once, going over word limit) 2. Summarizing the submission in a cover letter (You do not need to do this! Let your work speak for itself!) 3. Sending us a first draft ( we can tell)
Maureen Langloss: 1. Not enough tension in the story 2. Over-explanation & summarizing instead of being in a scene 3. Dialogue that is expository instead of character-revealing 4. Disappointing endings 5. Throat-clearing at the start 6. Male gaze
When you read a story, as an editor, what jumps out at you the most (positive and negative)?
Ray Shea: Voice. Really good pieces have this confidence to the writing voice that is hard to describe, and that you only get through practice. I also feel like there's such a thing as "new writer voice" which I can recognize because I used to write that way. :)
Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice: Voice. Throwing me right into a situation/problem. Creative use of language (not flowery or overly verbose). Fully-developed characters I've never seen before. Rhythm and sense of narrative timing.
Maureen Langloss: On the negative side: racism, violence against women, misogyny, homophobia pop up in our queue more than I like & it jumps out immediately. Instant rejection. Also, we see some stories that feel like first drafts. This stands out a lot too.
What kind of characters/POV/emotions do you wish you saw more of (or fewer of, if that’s easier) in fiction/flash?
Maureen Langloss: Such a good question! I’d love to see more points of view from POC!! More diversity please! Otherwise, nothing’s off limits & we want to see it all. It’s not a specific character or POV we are looking for so much as what you do with that character or POV.
What piece has just knocked your socks off? It was so good that you couldn’t believe you got to publish it.
Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice: Gahh! This is like having to choose my favorite child! I swear this is not cop-out. I love them all. Since we publish only 4 pieces per month and only a handful in our yearly print issue, we are extra intentional about what we publish.
Maureen Langloss: I LOVE every story we publish so much. Honestly, I feel lucky to have published them all. We are lucky to publish only what we TRULY LOVE. SL FAM all the way!!!! ️️️
So many litmag submission guidelines mention now welcoming/trying to prioritize voices and stories from marginalized communities. How does that mission affect and manifest in your reading & selection process?
Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice: Best question of the night. We don't read blind and we're actively looking for new and/or underrepresented voices. We have an active digital workspace (hey-o Slack) where editors have lively discussions about submissions to ensure we publish diverse work. We're all actively participating in the lit scene, which means we read and subscribe to a huge range of web + print journals. We share stories/poems/essays we love and think about soliciting work, particularly from underrepresented/marginalized groups. We try to be intentional about who and what we publish. It's an ongoing process and we are always learning.
Marianne Chan: I think a good magazine has dynamic range, and we can only have that if we publish writers with varying backgrounds and perspectives. So, we make a concerted effort to solicit work by writers from all walks of life, particularly those from marginalized groups
Besides money, what are some other ways lit mags can support their writers?
Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice: With a gif-heavy social media presence? (Kidding!) Seriously though. Payment is great, but if no one reads, so what? A lit mag has to support their writers in a variety of ways (social media, marketing, AWP etc). The relationship can't end after the piece is pubbed.
Maureen Langloss: ALL lit mags, whether they pay or not, MUST PROMOTE THEIR CONTRIBUTORS. It's a DUTY & an HONOR!! Online, word of mouth, public readings. We like to go the extra mile at SL. We keep up with our writer's new pubs, we promote the hell out of their successes, we ️ them.
Marianne Chan: YES! And Split Lip does other fun things to help motivate writers. For example, at AWP, we handed out post cards, asked people to write their addresses, and we sent the recipients Split Lip Inspiration.
Which authors do you find that people try to emulate too much? As far as style or voice or types of work.
Marianne Chan: I wish people would emulate more! Some suggestions of poets I'd like to see emulated more in my queue: Patricia Smith, Jericho Brown, Cathy Linh Che, G. Stein, Donald Revell, Frank O'Hara, Sappho, Eugene Gloria, Sandra Lim, Zachary Schomburg, John Ashbery, Kaveh Akbar
Maureen Langloss: Great question! I can't think of any examples. I think I might be too dumb to notice this if it is happening!
That's a wrap! And if you've got a burning question, you know where to find us!