Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Interview with Camille Gooderham Campbell of Every Day Fiction

We always like to feature editors of fine short story venues here at Write1Sub1, just in case you're looking for a great market to feature your work. Today, we're honored to welcome Camille Gooderham Campbell of Every Day Fiction for an insightful interview.

W1S1: First off, how would you describe your role(s) at Every Day Fiction?

Well, I do a bit of everything, but in terms of our editorial structure I have the final say on acceptance – so while some stories get rejected without my ever seeing them, at this point I am the only one who sends out acceptances. I also manage our editorial team’s recruitment and training (with assistance from my lovely editors J.C. Towler and Carol Clark). Then there’s correspondence and author payments, which duties I share with webmaster Steven Smethurst, and since we don’t currently have a copyeditor, I do the copyediting chores too. I also coordinate our print anthologies.

W1S1: What are the top three things you look for in a story?

First of all, competent prose is an absolute requirement – no amount of revision or editorial intervention is going to help if the prose itself is a problem. I’m not referring to occasional typos or awkward phrases, of course, as those can slip past anyone’s guard, but the prose overall needs to be both grammatically acceptable and appropriate to flash fiction (usually sparse and clean or lyrical and poetic or a combination of the two). That’s not to say lovely prose alone can make up for deficiencies of plot and character, but when someone can write well, most other problems are potentially fixable through revisions, so it’s a good place to start.

The next thing I look for is a story arc, or at least the suggestion of one. Part of the charm of flash fiction is that the story arc can be implied, hinted at or sketched in – readers don’t need every detail filled in and spelled out – but it is important to be able to make an educated guess at the basic plot elements.

Finally, I like to take something away from the story, to be able to identify an underlying theme or purpose to the story, whether it’s a just good laugh or a deep concept that sticks in my mind all day. I don’t tend to find pieces satisfying if I’m left wondering what the point of it all was (and why the author bothered to write something that seemed to say nothing). That said, I don’t enjoy stories where the moral is too much on the nose either; I don’t need to be hit over the head with it.

The best stories of all, though, make me forget all of that – forget I’m an editor – and just draw me in and grip me and make me read instead of analyzing.

W1S1: Typically, what makes the difference between a story's acceptance or rejection?

That’s really hard to say. Obviously there are some sure-fire winners that get the green light at every reading level and there’s just no question it’s a yes, and likewise some unfortunate stories that never even come close to making the cut. But for those in between…

Sometimes it’s a simple matter of spots we need to fill. The right genre, the right theme, the right bit of seasonally appropriate material might secure a spot for a story on the cusp. If I’m hunting around for two more humour pieces to fill Monday spots in an upcoming half-built calendar, say, any halfway-decent thing that makes me laugh will have a definite edge.

Sometimes it’s relative freshness – if there’s a writing prompt out there for turtles, fairy dust and a frying pan, and we suddenly get inundated with glittering fried turtles, we can only publish one or two of those at most, no matter how original and well-written they are. Long-term freshness can also be an issue when dealing with popular material such as zombies, post-apocalypse survivors, modernized Biblical figures, and unhappy people in failed or failing relationships.

And then sometimes it can be the smallest things. When a story is really truly right on the line and I’m having trouble coming to a decision, I only need a small excuse to write it off – if I know that I’m also dealing with an author with a history of ignoring guidelines and/or unprofessional correspondence, or if I see a lot of sloppy proofreading and other signs that the submission hasn’t been thoroughly polished to the best of the author’s ability, that can be enough of a negative for me. On the other hand, if the author is someone with a history of professional behaviour, who always submits his/her best work in as polished a condition as possible, I tend to be more inclined to give the piece another chance through a revision request, since I can feel confident the opportunity won’t be wasted.

W1S1: What fresh story ideas/themes/genres would you like to see submitted to Every Day Fiction this year?

What I’d really like to see is more themed submissions for holidays and occasions. I don’t know if it’s that everyone assumes the competition will be too fierce, or there’s just not a lot of interest in writing stories for a particular occasion, but we get far fewer of those targeted submissions than you’d think, and sometimes it’s a real struggle to find the right thing to place on a given day. For instance, with a month to go before we have to set our November calendar, we currently have only one Thanksgiving submission and one Remembrance Day/Veterans’ Day submission… it would be really nice to have a few more to choose from.

We’re always short of humour submissions, and speculative fiction is hard to do well at the flash fiction length so we tend to be short of it as well.

It would be nice to see more well-crafted romance submissions, and I’m always interested in historical pieces as long as they aren’t dependent on knowledge that makes them inaccessible to general readers.

W1S1: If you could change anything about the publishing industry today, what would it be?

I wish that I could wave a magic wand and stop the price-race-to-the-bottom that seems to be happening with the rise of the e-book. It’s well known that no one wins a race to the bottom, and while the top sellers might be getting rich off 99-cent e-books, the smaller fish have to undercut even that to get noticed, and then it’s a quick trip to giving the book away for free just to generate some interest, and good luck even making coffee money out of it. I’m frankly surprised that the writing community as a whole hasn’t gathered together and agreed that the work of creating a novel should be worth more than a handful of pennies – to have a full-length novel sold for less than the price of a Starbucks latte devalues the novel and the effort that went into creating it. I personally don’t buy 99-cent e-books because I find it hard to believe that anything priced so low could be any good and I refuse to contribute to the race to the bottom; as a reader, I will happily buy e-books in the $4.99 - $6.99 price range, and as a publisher, I believe that same price range is a healthy one for assigning solid value to the product but keeping it reasonably affordable.

W1S1: Good points, Camille. Thanks!

So for all of you Write1Sub1ers out there who just might have a flash-sized story to submit, go check out Every Day Fiction's submission guidelines here


  1. Great interview! Thanks, Camille and Milo.

    I've had a few stories published at EDF and I'm always thrilled to see my work up there. One of my favorite parts of EDF is the comments - both from the editorial team and from readers. Feedback like that is priceless. :)

  2. What a wonderful, thoughtful interview. My ears pricked up at the mention of seasonal stories.

  3. Thanks Camille. This is excellent, and I very much agree with your ebook stand. A race to the pricing bottom serves no one but the distribution channels.

  4. Thanks for the interview--very insightful.

  5. Great interview. This editor really explains the whole process...looking for story arcs etc. As a reader, I appreciate this kind of attention-to-detail because I don't know how many stories I've picked up that DON'T have a story arc. They're just about people going about stuff, and I get bored to tears.