In celebration of our upcoming submission window, we solicited questions on Twitter. And we got some great ones! If you've ever wanted to know a little bit more about what we're looking for, this is your chance. We've included answers from all three of our senior editors. Shannon and Kelly select our fiction, and Helena selects our poetry.
What styles or forms do you particularly like?
We're pretty open to experimentation, as long as you do it with panache. I have a particular love for stories that speak between the lines (like Barthelme's Concerning the Bodyguard) and leave things unsaid.
Personally, I have a real love for second person. The language of a piece is important to me; I pay a lot of attention to the rhythms and texture of the prose.
I really love a straight-forward almost plain language style that nevertheless feels poetic. The kind of writing where you want to quote a line but never can find one that seems to capture the essence of the whole.
What are some hard sells?
First things first, there's nothing that's so hard a sell that we won't look at it, so don't self-reject! I find, though, that some topics seem to come up frequently in my to-read pile, and I can sometimes get a little burned-out on those. Last time, it was pregnancy stories and evil dolls. The time before, cancer and revenge stories. Stories that hinge on a pun or a punchline can be a bit of a hard sell for me, as well.
As Shannon mentioned, a hard sell in the fiction queue isn't an instant no. I've loved, and held, stories with elements that I'm about to mention. That said, there are some story elements and tropes that rarely connect with me. Drug trips and dream sequences tend to bore me, and they're particularly likely to lose me if they open the piece. I also have a thing about stories that hinge on simple miscommunication. If a conflict could be resolved by two characters having a five minute conversation, I tend not to see the point.
Rhyme schemes. And by hard sell, I mean impossible. Rigid rhyme scheme is the zombie to my Neil Clarke.
In your experience, what separates the truly excellent stories from the ones that are merely good or competent?
Voice! I know we talk about voice all the time, but it's absolutely vital for a Liminal story to have a spark and a life to its prose. For me, it's also important to have an ending that is emotionally resonant. If all your ending does is tie up the loose ends of your story, it's not doing enough work.
Shannon's hit the main one. Of every 100 stories we receive, about 75 of them are perfectly competent and probably publishable. 10 might be seriously flawed, requiring more work. The last 15, which we'll look more closely at, are set apart by their voice. The prose sings or crackles or snaps. They feel special.
Other than that, a willingness to give in completely to a concept, to be as brutal or as sweet as the idea requires, is important. Don't pull your punches, don't have the hard stuff happen off screen.
The ones that win you over despite the fact that you're tired and in a bitchy mood. These are also the poems that you think about the next day, or that one of the other editors randomly texts you about.
When a story is not quite there, and you realize there just might be an easy fix, do you meet the author half way? Or does that end in a rejection?
Shannon (with Kelly signing on in agreement)
The answer, of course, is: it depends on the story. In general, our policy is not to accept a story that we wouldn't be happy to run as-is -- we're both writers, and we appreciate a delicate editorial hand! However, we have offered one rewrite request for a story that we thought was strikingly original, but not quite there. In that case, the author accepted our request, and we published the story after two rounds of edits. It's not something we plan to do on a regular basis, however.
Rejection. If I'm not willing to publish it as-is, I won't buy it. This is mostly because poems are so short that any "easy fix" isn't something that's keeping me from buying it as is.
If you were to create a mix tape of songs that capture the essence of Liminal, what would be your top three songs to include.
I tried to answer this with three, but it was impossible (I'm a huge music nerd). So you get a nine track mix tape instead:
- Lavinia, The Veils
- Seven Months, Portishead
- Milk and Black Spiders, Foals
- Pyramid Song, Radiohead
- Low Halo, Lemolo
- Heavy Metal, White Rabbits
- Wolf Alice, Erin Tobey
- We Share Our Mothers' Health, The Knife
- Chemical Reaction, Whitney Monge'
I think I'm the least cool editor in terms of musical tastes. You'll have to forgive me.
- Country Feedback, REM
- The Beauty of the Rain, Dar Williams
- High Lonesome, Gaslight Anthem
- It Wasn't Me by Jenny Lewis
- So Long, Savannah by Eric Bacchman
- California All the Way, by Luna
What kinds of stories is Liminal looking to tell?
Liminal stories are often deeply weird, but they express an emotional truth. We are interested in things that are honest and difficult, in varied viewpoints and unheard voices. We are interested, in other words, in your story, the one that no one but you could tell.
I don't think I can say this better than Shannon already did. We want your strangest, most startling children. The ones that hurt to write, the ones that tell a truth you didn't even realize you know. While voice is important at Liminal, that doesn't mean a single, monolithic voice. We want stories from all over the world, from every perspective and experience.
Good ones? For me it's not about type or kind or subject matter, it's about feeling like someone is ripping into your stomach and rearranging your internal organs.