This month in the Inspiration and Perspiration series, I caught up with Amy Robinson, editor of Apparition Literary Magazine. Amy is an incredible renaissance woman with a quirky and giving soul. She also speaks 20% in science fiction and B-horror movie references. So it’s no wonder she’s a kickass editor for a spec fic magazine! Read on for her wisdoms and to get excited about the upcoming edition of Apparition Lit.
Apparition Lit is a quarterly literary magazine with a focus on showcasing speculative fiction in a number of forms—short stories, flash fiction, poetry, even artwork. First, what is speculative fiction and why should readers be excited about it?
Speculative Fiction (Spec Fic for short) is fiction with a bit of magic to it. It encompasses a ton of genre writing, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror and also has invaded Literary Fiction. As an example, Kazuo Ishiguro, who won the Nobel prize in literature this year, has several novels that are seen as Literary Fiction, but Never Let Me Go is about clones, and his most recent novel The Buried Giant, is a fantasy set in post-Arthurian Britain. A majority of the short stories LeVar Burton reads on his podcast are Speculative Fiction. (I HIGHLY Recommend the Ken Liu story, The Paper Menagerie. Try to get out of that one without crying.)
What I love about Spec Fiction is relatable characters that, even though they may be in magical or otherworldly situations, still reach into the human experience and do what all great literature does; make you feel! Spec Fic just adds a little extra magical interest on top. We can all use a little magic.
My co-editor, Rebecca Bennett, wrote an excellent article on our blog about this whole thing: https://www.apparitionlit.com/spec-fic-a-wolf-in-sheeps-clothing/
Tell us about the founding of the magazine. What inspired its creation?
The main inspiration is a love of nerdy, geeky, lovely stories, and mad respect for anybody writing them. Supporting our fellow creatives is the underlying current of our writing group, and a huge reason we’re giving writers another platform to get their works into the world.
The magazine is a collaboration from a writing group of five women that I’ve been a part of for nearly five years. We met in an online Speculative Fiction 8-week short story class. The group has stuck together for bi-weekly crit sessions, submission encouragement & support, and the occasional Netflix Movie watching party. Our International Girl Squad (one of members is Canadian) became a place to bounce story ideas, perfect final drafts, console each other when submissions were rejected, and celebrate publication. We hangout online, drink together, and have become friends.
Every meeting, one of us would say, “We should start our own literary magazine!” The volatile state of the world right now pushed us to say, “Let’s just do it!’ So that’s what we did, purchased the domain name the same night and had a website up in a few weeks.
It was crazy easy to come up with the name and an outline for what we were looking to publish.
Paying writers was the BIG THING that we wanted to focus on (even if it comes out of our collective pockets). Writing is hard work, painful work, joyful work, but it is WORK and the worker should be paid. We’re starting out with semi-pro rates (1 cent a word) but hoping we can grow to pro rates soon!
You’ve begun receiving submissions for the first issue. Can you give us a peek behind the curtain as to what’s exciting you?
We have a few stories that have knocked my socks off. We haven’t sent out any final notices yet, so I can’t give anything away, but holy crap! We have the happy problem of choosing between a few handfuls of stellar stories and poems.
I can tell you that I’m not an easier crier, but one of the poems we received, just a few short lines, made my eyes rain like onion-cutting ninjas had snuck up on me. It was so good. The other editors agreed.
How do you make decisions on which stories make the cut for publication?
At least 2 editors read each story before we decide to decline it or hold it. (Sometimes a third reader will have to make the call on a split decision.) It’s funny how much we talk to each other. I feel like I’m hanging out with these women every day because of how many times we IM each other to talk about a story!
All of our issues will be themed. The first issue theme is Apparition. We read with that in mind. Any story we accept will include that theme as part of the plot/character/thread.
The stories we plan to publish are stories that stay with you, even after a few days, even after you’ve read 20 other stories. Those are the pieces I’m looking forward to sharing with our audience, stories that change the way you see the world and think about life.
In terms of stories that don’t make the cut, anything that advocates harm of children, animals, or sexual violence is usually a non-starter with us. Now that I’ve been reading submissions for a few weeks, I just want to emphasize, again, we are not looking for erotica.
Basically we’re looking for outstanding writing in our quarterly theme. So far we’ve exclaimed “OMG! YES!” at least once. Which is always an exciting feeling.
We’ll link to the submission guidelines below, but aside from that, do you have any advice for those interested in submitting?
Take a look at your piece and determine if it fits the theme before sending. That’s the big one! If it does send it over! We’re writers like you and we love reading.
We are super interested in hearing from women writers, WOC/POC, and nonbinary writers. If you have zero publication credits or have won 17 Hugo awards, it doesn’t matter. We want to see your writing! I honestly don’t look at the credits until after I’ve read the submission.
Loads of people self-reject, meaning you think your writing isn’t good enough to submit. I’m guilty of this, most writers I know are. If it fits the theme, give it a shot. The worst that could happen is a fairly kind letter from us, telling you we’re not publishing it. The best is that Hugo Award, a major studio reading it and giving you a movie contract, creative immortality, and all that good stuff.
The guidelines are actually there to guide you! Read them, follow the formatting rules, pay attention to the word count restrictions. Following the guidelines makes things go a lot smoother on our end. We read your work with the same attention and respect that you’ve given our guides.
Also, don’t be overly concerned with your greeting! We all read the emails, so a simple “Dear Editors” works perfectly.
Sure! Stinky Jr is where I get to create weird t-shirts & prints & mugs with my husband. It really is a labor of love and an outlet to be strange and attempt to be funny. Our cat, Ling Ling, was a super stinky kitten and I called her Stinky Jr (There is no Stinky Sr. That is my story and I’m sticking to it.) She is also called Stinkerbelle, but that doesn’t have the same ring, and could possibly catch the attention and cease-and-desist from a major entertainment syndicate.
Artphoric is the classier side of things. We sell & rent art reproductions. I have always loved fine art. When I first moved to Chicago and didn’t even have enough money for bus fair, I would walk 4 miles down to The Art Institute of Chicago on free days and just wander. That place is magical. (And I just got an idea for a story prompt…)
My husband and I finally decided to turn our passion for art into a business. Our reproductions are made in one of the highest quality giclée print shops in America. Everything is made to order, not mass-produced, because we sincerely want to make everything in the U.S.A.
The art we have available is curated with exclusive licensing contracts with a few select artists. The main artist, Bob Peak, painted movie posters for Apocalypse Now, My Fair Lady, Star Trek and a gazillion other movies, PLUS he was one of the original Mad Men artists. His work is easily recognized, even if you don’t know the name. It wasn’t available anywhere outside of old posters and expensive original pieces. We decided to offer that nostalgic work, reproduced with the highest quality materials, at a price point where his fans could own a piece of something they loved.
You’re also building a non-profit to provide interview clothing to those in need and you, yourself, are a writer. For those of us out there who struggle with finding the inspiration to be creative after a day of working even just one job (or other responsibilities), do you have any advice?
And I don’t drink caffeine! My advice would be to surround yourself with cats. No, wait, that’s actually quite distracting.
Ok, my real advice is to make a list of everything you want to be, everything you want to have in your life and then select the things you absolutely, 100% need.
I was dancing with a hula troupe in 2016. It was a hobby that I absolutely loved, and I loved the people I was dancing with, but it didn’t push me toward my ultimate goal of being successful in the writing community, or helping out the less fortunate, or building my company so that it can support my family. So I had to cut that little luxury out of my life. Yoga also has a strong pull for me and I would love to be a part of that community, but with all these other things going on, I have to settle for 30 minutes of basic yoga in my living room.
Everyday, I make a list of the top 3 things I need to focus on each day to get me to those goals. It is so easy to get distracted by the 100 things that are interesting, and things that are easy, like Facebook scrolling and crappy TV. Checking in with myself daily helps me focus.
As for writing, I am trying to dedicate sacred, unmovable, time to that pursuit. It’s hard to sit and create after a long day of paycheck job, small business work, reading submissions, and getting some exercise in. The excuse of being tired is way to easy, and I’ve used it before…a lot. But, if I wait until I’m not tired to get stuff done, well I imagine those particular cows are never going to find their way home. The only way to get writing done is to sit, regularly, and write. Some days it’s easy, some days it sucks., and some days it doesn’t happen. Taking a little walk between job and writing helps, so does a short meditation.
The writing group is good motivation too. Watching these talented women write great stories, and submit them around, kicks my butt into getting some writing and editing done every day.
If you had to describe what inspires you in one word, what would it be and why?
I have a LOT more than one word, but if I have to pick just one (you’re so bossy!) it would be humor. The world is a hard place. Life is short and then it’s over (my other word choice would have been Mortality). I would prefer to make something that brings beauty and humor to the world. When you make somebody laugh, chuckle, or just roll their eyes at your oddness, you add light.
Submission Guidelines: https://www.apparitionlit.com/submission-guidelines/
Podcast of The Paper Menagerie (ep 11) http://www.levarburtonpodcast.com
Stinky Jr. https://stinkyjr.com
If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy:
Interview with Sarah Buchanan, Author of “That Book I Wrote about Me” (Category: Inspiration and Perspiration)
Turning Interviews into Kids’ Books with Erica Swallow (Category: Inspiration and Perspiration)
3 Writers Try Painting With Bob Ross…. (Categories: LOL and Tell me a Story)
What Is It Like to Try to Get a Novel Published? (Category: Inspiration and Perspiration)
For more interviews and posts about creative people doing awesome things, check out the “Inspiration and Perspiration” category for more in this series.