NEW FOR 2006
HOW TO SUBMIT TO QWF
AND WHAT WEíRE LOOKING FOR
Now in its twelfth year, QWF is still the best literary short-story magazine around for women by women. This is because we are always actively seeking what we like to call Ďgrown-up stories for grown-up womení from female short-story writers throughout the world.
QWF also publishes articles on inspirational women for the Heroine Addicts column and short fillers about any novel you have loved or hated. Book reviews are always commissioned so donít send any on spec. We do not publish poetry or non-fiction other than that mentioned above.
So why do we only publish fiction written by women? Some might say this is an anachronism in the twenty-first century when it would appear that the gender war has been won. I am well aware that many women believe there isnít and shouldnít be any distinction and that writing is either good or bad and it makes no difference whether itís written by a man or a woman but I feel itís more complicated than that.
Of course both men and women share anxieties about love, money, family, illness, death and all the other delights life throws our way. But there are subtle differences in the way the two sexes interpret such things and they are what we want our stories to explore. What concerns most women on a day to day basis - letís say the smaller stuff - is often dismissed as trivia and not worth recording.
As the author, Janice Galloway, wrote in the ĎEdinburgh Reviewí and quoted in the 2005 Mslexia diary: Simply for a woman to write as a woman, to be honest about it as possible, is a statement; not falling into the conventions of assuming guy stuff is ďrealĒ stuff and weíre a frill, a fuck or a boring bit that does housework or raises the kids round the edge.
So everything a woman does, whether she wants to or not is important. Think about a young woman behind her trolley trying to decide whether to buy Birdís Eye or Tesco frozen peas. Two children bicker and whine at her ankles. Sheís worried one may be developing an ear-infection. Should she take him to the GP, a long journey through difficult traffic and thereís always a queue or should she wait and see? Then remembers sheís forgotten to post her mother-in-lawís birthday card and really she wants to go back to work but believes sheís not clever enough because she canít even remember where she parked the car. She rushes out having forgotten to get the peas which are the only vegetable her youngest will eat. Sheís in a state. She slaps both children and then bursts into tears. Is this a good subject for a short-story? Surely not, a man might say. Itís trivial and typical of women Ė getting into an emotional state over nothing. And whereís the drama? Whereís the deep serious intent, say, politics or war or football? Sorry about that last one; I couldnít resist it. Whereís the deep psychological insight? Okay, so these details are not matters of life or death. The woman will get over it and the children wonít be deeply scarred for life. But itís not trivial for that woman at that particular moment,although she may laugh about it afterwards. And that and other seemingly unimportant events from an ordinary life are not trivial to most women. Despite equality and women making up a large proportion of the work-place, women are more likely to be concerned with the small but time-consuming and wearying details of the domestic life. Men laugh about womenís Ďsilly pre-occupationsí, but such things loom large when you spend 90% of your time within the same four walls with little adult company, washing the same clothes and the same pots and pans day after day. Whether they want to or not, women always end up as the carers and the cement that binds families together. It is mainly women who look after their sick and elderly relatives or neighbours. And even women who hold down powerful jobs Ė or any kind of paid work Ė still do most of the housework, cooking and shopping and decide who to invite round for Christmas without having a nervous breakdown or World War Three breaking out.
The point is that women are different from men; their thoughts and concerns are different. And therefore their writing is different. Thatís what we want to showcase. We want to publish stories where womenís lives are centre-stage, however trivial, however boring and ordinary.
This doesnít mean, however, weíre willing to accept boring, ordinary and trivial writing. One can write about anything in a fascinating way. We are looking for Quality Womenís Fiction. But donít let that put you off. In fact we have published many writers for the first time. And whether a writer has published a hundred stories, or none, makes no difference. Itís the quality of the writing that counts with us.
As QWF prefers stories about womenís lives it follows that the main character is usually female. We have published and will publish stories where the main character is a man but they have to be about that manís relationship with the woman or women in his life. At the moment, we are not accepting stories where the main character is a child or a teenager, unless it says something about adults rather than just being about the trials of growing up. Itís not that we donít like such stories. We have published them but they have to say something new to be accepted now.
You may have noticed that most of the stories we publish are contemporary. This isnít a rule. Itís mainly because we are sent very little in the way of historical or fantasy/science fiction. Having said that, neither Jo nor I are great fantasy fans Ė unless itís either written stunningly or says something different about womenís experience. But we do love a bit of history. But youíd be surprised how many historical stories Iím sent are about the Pre-Raphaelites or the Bronte sisters and I donít know why. Clearly, they appeal to women but how about looking for stories set in other time periods?
What about erotica? We are not averse to something a bit racy but the story must be more than a quick turn-on. It must have all the ingredients of a good short story.
And that means strong characterisation and a plot. Characterisation is not a difficult concept to understand but the Ďpí word confuses many a writer. By plot I mean something must happen during the course of the story. I donít necessarily mean there has to be a high body count, car chases or violence. Thatís not what I mean. But there must be a shift either in the characterís world or the perception of the writer. Something must change, however subtly. There must be progression and movement even if itís only inside the head of your characters. The best way for this to happen is to create the sort of person who readers can empathise with and give them some sort of problem. How they solve it or whether they do is the Ďactioní of the story.
In addition, as Raymond Carver has written: ďThere has to be some tension, a sense that something is imminent, that certain things are in relentless motion, or else, most often, there wonít be a story. What creates tension in a piece of fiction is partly the way the concrete words are linked to make up the visible action of the story. But itís also the things that are left out, that are implied, the landscape just under the smooth (but sometimes broken and unsettled) surface of things.Ē
Donít feel you have to wrap everything up neatly with string at the end. Endings can be enigmatic; things can be seen to carry on much the same as before Ė but however open the ending, there must have been that progression and readers should be left thinking about the future of the story. There should be some sort of signpost as to what the future holds, even if the reader comes to a conclusion that the writer didnít envisage.
Itís a clichť, I know, but the old Ďshow, donít tellí advice should always be borne in mind when writing fiction. Allow the reader space to see, hear, smell and taste the world you are creating. No-one likes being told what to think. A good writer can still steer a reader along the path she has chosen, but it should be a voyage of discovery for both. Thatís what keeps a story fresh.
And please, please, no trick endings or twists in the tale. The very best twist stories can make for a satisfying read but usually they donít work because the twist is arbitrary and doesnít arise from character and character motivation. When Guy de Maupassant, and more recently Roald Dahl for example wrote stories with a twist in the tale, they never forgot that character is at the heart of a story. Make sure your characters, however ordinary on the surface, are interesting either in what they do or in the words you choose to write about them.
If I have any general criticisms of many of the manuscripts Iím sent, it is that much is first draft material. Iím not just talking about grammatical and spelling errors, I mean fundamental decisions like viewpoint, pacing and structure. I often get the impression that many writers get an idea, sit down and dash off a story, check quickly for spelling errors and then send it off.
This isnít the time and place to discuss the craft of pre-submission editing, so Iíve written a separate piece called How to Self-Edit Your Story Before Submission. Either click the link or navigate your way to it on the site.
So . . . . we come full circle. ĎGrown-up stories for grown-up women.í What exactly does that mean? Most of our subscribers are over twenty and have left the problems of puberty behind them. Even these days, women of all ages have to cope with many problems, sometimes at one and the same time. Sexual and emotional relationships, family, motherhood, divorce, coping with aging parents or adolescents, maybe, juggling work and home demands. But women climb the highest mountains, row across the oceans single-handedly, run big businesses. Look through the newspapers and see whatís going on but do exercise some imagination. Women who have chosen to stay at home with their children are not automatically bored, down-trodden and unfulfilled. Business-women are not always cold-hearted bitches with long red nails who eat men for breakfast. Couples who have been together for twenty, thirty, forty years arenít necessarily bored with each other and never have sex.
If this sounds too worthy, remember we love humour too. Unfortunately we rarely find it in the stories we are sent. Humour is difficult and whilst we all weep at the same things, what makes one person laugh can leave another cold. So if itís any help, I like my humour to raise a wry smile not instant belly laughs. And please no Benny Hill stereotypes. And donít think that knocking men for being men is funny. Itís as bad as mother-in-law jokes.
QWF celebrates women. So, please, not too many stories about women who are dying, abused, misunderstood and generally miserable. Iím not an ostrich. Bad things do happen to women but QWF wants to celebrate women and their infinite variety. For every Cleopatra, thereís a Portia. For every Titania, thereís a Helena. For every patient Penelope, thereís a Helen of Troy.
When I read a story I want the language to delight me first and foremost. Appropriate and original imagery; sharp dialogue; variety in pace and tone will win every time even if the plot is not all that original.
Jo and I are big fans of Helen Dunmore, Carol Shields, Alice Munro, Anita Shreve, Anne Tyler, Wendy Perriam, Kate Atkinson, Lorrie Moore, Rose Tremain and Helen Simpson, to name but a few. We have both recently discovered Maggie O'Farrell. We are also love Persephone books. (www.persephonebooks.co.uk
) These once-neglected books by women are a revelation. Perfectly delightful to handle as well as to read. Real grown-up books for grown-up women.
Now the technical bit/practicalities:
UK RESIDENTS: Please send your work by hard copy to:
Assistant Editor, QWF
18 Warwick Crescent
Please donít send work by email. However, if you have any questions prior to submission, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
and ask away.
If you wish me to reply by letter, then you must include an SAE. However, I am more than happy to give my decision by email, so if you donít include an SAE, donít forget your email address!
OVERSEAS RESIDENTS: (including Rep of Ireland.)
Because the IRC (International reply Coupon) is currently on the endangered species list, writers living overseas are requested to submit their stories by email to Sally at the above email address.
Please submit as an email attachment in Word or RTF. Make sure this attachment is set out as requested below, ie double-spaced with indented paragraphing and that your email is set out like a covering letter. And please virus-scan first. Please donít send it in the body of the email. This corrupts your settings and messes about with punctuation.
Please: only overseas writers can submit work by email.
IMPORTANT DETAILS FOR ALL WRITERS WISHING TO SUBMIT WORK
Up to 4,000 words. We donít accept anything longer even if it is the greatest story ever written. We havenít room. Most of our stories are between 2,000 and 3,500 words, but Ďfillersí of around 1,500 words are always useful, too. Even shorter pieces are accepted but the shorter the piece, the more stunning it has to be.
Double-spacing and indented paragraphs are a must.
Left-aligned. Donít justify.
12/14 pt. Arial or Times New Roman.
Pages must be numbered and feature title and author's name and be paper-clipped or stapled at top left:
Please include a cover sheet with title, word count, author's name, address, email, telephone even when emailing your story. Please make clear that First British Serial Rights (FBSR) are offered. If youíre not sure what that means, please email me. It has nothing to do with giving up your copyright. This remains yours at all times.
Please include a brief covering letter, but no synopsis. A bit about your writing history is useful but not essential. A short story should speak for itself.
Don't use Recorded or Registered Delivery.
A large self-addressed envelope with sufficient postage is essential if you want your manuscript returned. If you only want to be notified of acceptance or rejection either give your email address or enclose a small envelope.
If you require acknowledgement of receipt of your manuscript, please enclose a stamped postcard.
Can those submitting by email and email attachment, please make sure the title of their attachment is the same as the story?
Can I send multiple submissions?
No thank you. One story at a time, please.
If I submit a story, how long should I wait for a reply?
Usually a month: up to 3 months if workload is heavy. There are only two of us!
If you send your story to another magazine as well as QWF, please say you have done so. If another magazine accepts it before we have had a chance to reply, please let us know.
Do I get any feedback?
Indeed. As writers ourselves, Jo and I know how unhelpful a meaningless rejection slip can be. We always reasons for rejection. This consists of one or two paragraphs of what I hope is constructive advice. However, I donít shrink from plain-speaking and I donít flatter. That way, if I say nice things, you can really believe them. If you donít require this service or feel it might upset you (and it has been known) then say so and Iíll give you a straight yes or no.
if you want a more detailed appraisal, we do run a separate appraisal service. Click on the link.
If your story is rejected, please feel free to send in something new, but please donít send an edited version of the rejected story. Iíll tell you if Iíd like to see a re-write.
What happens if my story is accepted?
If your story is accepted for publication you will be sent an email from editor, Jo Good who will ask you to send in the story on disk - in Word or Rich Text Format or email story as an attachment. Along with a few biographical notes. You may have to wait a long time before you see your story in print. At present we publish quarterly. I look forward to reading your submissions.
© 2005, Jo Good
QWF has an intersting origin. Check it out