Interview with Matthew Ward, Editor of Skive Magazine

Today’s interview is with Matthew Ward who edited Skive Magazine. Its last issue, FAREWELL,  appeared in November 2013.  

First, here’s some background on him:  

Matthew was born and resides in inner city Newcastle NSW Australia. He has operated Mockfrog Design since 1996, designing websites and books, and also editing fiction. Co-edited Heist! Magazine, 1998-2002 (printed, literature). Published insomAniac Magazine, 1999, Skive Magazine, 2003-2013 . From 2000-2014, published books through his small presses: Mockfrog Design Press, Skive Magazine Press, Lucky Guitar Press, and Mary Celeste Press. He also likes photography and playing guitar.

SARETT:   There are thousands of literary magazines-- and, to my chagrin, they come and go.  Did you have a specific goal with Skive?  
WARD:   It was all about my love for the short story. I co-edited Heist! Magazine from 1998-2002 with a colleague of mine from Newcastle Uni (NSW Australia). We created a literary mag like our Dads had read when they were lads growing up in the ‘40s / ‘50s. It was full of tales of adventure, danger, of sport, hunting, espionage, courting ladies in an innocent sort of way, and tongue-in-cheek, clich├ęd advertisements. We were sent hundreds of story submissions from all over the English-speaking world to our university P.O. Box. But we were also sent poetry, a lot of badly-written / pretentious poetry. To tell you the truth, when I started Skive in 2003 I didn’t want to publish *any* poetry. Short Story writers are more reasonable to deal with.
So, as I implied earlier, I wanted to create an online monthly short story magazine, with short stories that thrilled me, made me laugh out loud, made me weep. Great writing from those who maybe had not even been published before. (Poems were added later to the printed mag, at first as fillers but then as stars in their own right.)
SARETT:   Skive was a print publication -- but you’ve also published digital versions. Do you feel that reading online places special burdens on readers?
WARD:   Some of the Skive issues have had electronic versions, and sales have been poor. Print has always sold much better than electronic. That said, free promo copies - secured with password so they couldn’t be printed - were downloaded by the thousand.
Personally, I cannot read a large book on a Kindle / phone - I have to be able to cuddle up on a lounge with cushions, read a real book that way - old fashioned I guess, but then again a lot of readers are.

SARETT:   I’m amazed that editors can read as much as they do-- and you not only have a magazine, but a publishing company.  In your mind, what are the ingredients that make a good editor?  

WARD:   Atention to detail (you’ll notice I spelled ‘Attention’ incorrectly there for effect :-)
A love of the language.
To be a writer as well, and to write.
To allow a writer to have a style of their own, and not create a perfect (exact), robotic piece of writing.
Also use the finger as a guide when editing; plus read out loud. These are great backup techniques.

SARETT:   I’ve noticed that lots of magazines say that “flash fiction” is their sweet spot.  Is it something about flash, or is it simply easier for editor to get through?
WARD:   I like bite-sized stories. They are closer to poetry in form - not the stanzas, they are just more concentrated, less ‘wandering into the woods’ for no reason / padding out. The editor / publisher can also get through them very quickly, yes.  Some writers like the 5,000 word story, but the first page has to thrill me or I will pass. This is common with publishers apparently. We seldom read every word of every submission.

SARETT:   I’ve heard that some writers who are rejected write back and argue with editors?  Does that actually happen or is that a myth?  
WARD:   It does. And they get angry. One told me to ‘Get F*cked’. In an email rejection I had said that unfortunately I had to pass as so many people had sent me stories that month. But what can one say? I was trying to be nice, encouraging him to send something next time. His story didn’t suck, and it wasn’t at the top either. (He earned a place in the ‘Pains in the Ar*e’ file, writers publishers block and will never publish :-)

What I liked was writers who’d email me back, thanking me for the email, were polite, professional. Writers who ignored my rejection, I didn’t like that - it was rude. There wasn’t anything personal - it was just that one person didn’t like their work. I’m a writer, I’d been rejected, I know what that is like. Writers have to be mature about their work, about their craft.

SARETT:   You’re also a writer. Has the process of being an editor has changed the way you approach your writing?  How?
WARD:  Since becoming an editor, I am now particular with word choice / style. My book Jake was written in a Kerouac, beat generation style, where I used a few points and added to them ‘on the run’ in the spirit of “spontaneous bop-prosidy”, something I was fond in my university years - Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg, all those guys. That changed with the short story book a couple of years later where I started meticulously planning stories and then ‘adding the meat to the bones’ as I went along.
I was less likely to choose stories that were all over the place in my mag. Writers had a better chance of getting published if they planned carefully and the footsteps were brushed away’ as they say: A beginning, a crisis, crisis solved (or not), and ending (sudden or clean). Simple as that.

SARETT:   Would you ever think about a new magazine, or is it, been there, done that? Any projects you're working on?
WARD:   I am working with 2 business colleagues - one a publisher, the other an editor - on a Dominican Republic magazine / newspaper. My part with be the layout. For the time being that will suit me fine.
I want to finish a novel that started as a screenplay over 10 years ago and has been converted to novel form in part over the last few years. IF I can finish it, THEN I’ll have to find a major press to publish it. Those will be major tasks. I know some publishers, but I will still have to do the work, and write the bloody thing :-)

Blog Alert:  40% discount for limited time on Skive's Farewell Issue.  Limited time offer.

Find Matthew Online here:
‘Jake With a Snarly Smile on His Chops’ (novella, 2004, Independent Jones Press, Sydney)

‘Her Mouth Looked Like a Cat’s Bum’ (short stories, 2006, World Audience Publishers, New York) O.O.P.
‘Cats Creep the Fire To Art’ (poetry, 2008, World Audience Publishers, New York) O.O.P.
‘JFK Lives in the Future’ (short stories, 2010, World Audience Publishers, New York)

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