Interview Transcripts

Kathryn Carroll: Mysterical-E Editor: What Does The Editor Look For?



Legend:
Questions from the Audience are presented in red.
Answers by the Speaker are in black.
The Moderator's comments are in blue.

Mary Rosenblum

Ah, welcome all!

 

To our Professional Connection live interview.

 

Kathryn Carroll is the Senior Editor of Mysterical-E, http://mystericale.com a mystery e-zine, and Editor-in-Chief of Mysterical-E for Kids, launching in Spring 2006. Her stories have appeared in Woman's World, NEWN, Mystery Time and other publications. She has published children's non-fiction in Wee-Ones and has judged fiction in national contests. Just recently, Mysterical-E was named one of the top ten fiction markets by the Predators and Editors website.

 

Kathryn, welcome! And congratulations on your listing in the top ten Fiction Markets!

Kathryn Carroll

Hi, Mary. Hi, writers

 

Thanks for the congratulations. That's a big honor

 

for us.

Mary Rosenblum

That is so cool that Mysterical-E was listed! But your ezine is gorgeous!

Kathryn Carroll

Thanks, Mary. A lot of the look of our e-zine is due

 

to Gin Elf, our illustrator

Mary Rosenblum

Gin Elf is a VERY cool name

 

and I'm going to have to exercise GREAT self restraint not to use that name in my current urban fantasy novel! LOL

Kathryn Carroll

She's a cool gal.

Mary Rosenblum

She does a very nice job.

Kathryn Carroll

I think so too. I'm always impressed by the illustrations

 

she comes up with.

Mary Rosenblum

So how did you get to the role of Editor? Did you begin as a writer, or did editing grab you from the get go?

Kathryn Carroll

I've done almost every job there is in the writing field.

 

I started out doing direct marketing advertising and

 

went on to technical editing and then to proofreading

 

and freelance writing. I'm still writing as well as editing.

Mary Rosenblum

Interesting. You know, most of the top editors I’ve know...all of 'em as I come to think of it

 

came to editing with writing rather than starting as a writer and then switching over.

 

I think they're very different skill sets.

Kathryn Carroll

I think so too, and I think as an editor I have to set aside my preferences in writing to do a good job.

winona

Well, Kathryn, you are a woman of many talents. Impressive

Kathryn Carroll

Hi winona. Thanks

Mary Rosenblum

I agree. And I wonder if that's not part of what makes the really good editors good,

 

that they aren't committed to a preference...that they can see the potential in a wide variety of work?

Kathryn Carroll

I think that it helps to have been through all the stages of the process.

codeblue

What is or was the most rewarding???

Mary Rosenblum

What DO you like best about what you do?

Kathryn Carroll

As an editor, I like to find a really good story and get a good writer published. As a writer, of course, I like to be published, but I also love the actual writing.

Mary Rosenblum

So question...what does the editor do while the writer is writing? Can you shut her up or is every story a team effort from the start?

Kathryn Carroll

Do you mean the editor in me as I write?

Mary Rosenblum

Yes. Exactly.

Kathryn Carroll

That's a tough one. I've gotten better at just letting the writing come as it will at first and then going back to revise, but I often have several paragraphs of the same subject going at once.

Mary Rosenblum

I asked because so many novice writers have a terrible time just writing, and not bogging down in editing.

winona

I can vouch for that, as a beginner

Mary Rosenblum

You and many, winona!

Kathryn Carroll

I do know how that feels. I think though that the editing should come after the writing. I've gotten to the point where I really enjoy the revising process. I have a story I'm working on now and it's completely finished but a new first sentence just came to

 

me the other night and now I'm reworking the story to see if I like it better.

Mary Rosenblum

Cool.

 

And I'd like to go back to your answer...the first part of it

 

when you said you really like to find a good story and get a good writer published. I think that's how most editors feel, but it's

 

so hard not to see them as uncaring when you're collecting rejection slips! Can you

 

speak to what it means to find a good story by a new writer?

Kathryn Carroll

Sure. First i should tell you that at Mysterical-E and for the contests I have judged that we get many many stories--more all the time.

 

As I read through them, a good story will really shine through because the characters speak in a different voice or the details are compelling.

 

When I say a different voice, I don't mean that it has to be something I've never seen before, but a character that really knows what he or she is about and "speaks" confidently.

 

I think there are a lot of "new" writers out there that are very, very good and I know how frustrating it can be to get rejections when you know your work is good.

Mary Rosenblum

No kidding. So what you are saying is that it's not something 'unexpected'

 

that stands out, but rather something that is 'above the ordinary'?

Kathryn Carroll

Right. I think if the story is handled with confidence by the writer, that is if she really knows her setting, her characters, etc. it shows in the story. There's a kind of freedom, I think is a good word, that I as an editor see in the story and it

 

all flows together to make an excellent story.

winona

Rejections can be so defeating.

Mary Rosenblum

They sure can. :-) And they never end. Do you have time to make personal comments, Kathryn, or do you find you need to use a form?

Kathryn Carroll

I can make personal comments

Mary Rosenblum

Good for you!

codeblue

I would find editing easier than writing...How about you??

Kathryn Carroll

Hi codeblue. In some ways editing is easier, but I have to take into consideration the writer's story as I edit. I also do not like telling a writer that his story isn't right for our magazine.

dfitz

What prompted you to start a mystery e-zine as opposed to some other genre?

Kathryn Carroll

Actually, I got on board the magazine after it had been proposed by the editor-in-chief, Joe DeMarco. I was drawn to working for it, though, because I've always loved mysteries.

winona

How often have you published someone new?

Kathryn Carroll

Our first issue was mostly new writers. Since then we've attracted more published writers. But we publish many new writers and I honestly find that some of their work is better than the work by people who have said they are previously published.

Mary Rosenblum

You know the good Ezines are offering a way in for new writers as the main short fiction markets fade away. I'm very pleased with this rising new type of publishing.

Kathryn Carroll

I think that's very true. If only we can find ways to pay writers what they deserve e-zines will be well on their way.

janecj333

Can you tell us about your e-zine, and when you hope to offer payment to contributors?

Mary Rosenblum

That's a real issue.

 

Does your editor in chief have any ambitions for making this a paying venture?

 

This is such a NEW field.

Kathryn Carroll

Hi janecj333, Our editor-in-chief is looking into getting advertising, etc. that will help us to pay writers. At this point we pay the writers who win our contests

 

but the money actually comes out of his pocket.

Mary Rosenblum

I think everyone is trying to figure out how to make an Ezine a paying venture, right now. BUT...the good Ezines do gain a reputation

 

and that serves the author who is trying to break in. :-)

Kathryn Carroll

I think that's true too. As I surf the web, I see names of writers that we've published popping up on other sites. I also think that websites are good references in cover letters that you may send to hard-copy magazines.

Mary Rosenblum

They are indeed! I know many editors personally and they read the good Ezines, they keep an eye out for upcoming talent.

 

We're talking print-mag and book editors.

Kathryn Carroll

Right. I've published children's articles in the Ezine Wee Ones and that has served me well as I branch out.

dfitz

What would be the most significant advice you could give a new writer who wanted to write for your magazine?

Mary Rosenblum

Yes, what do you look for in a new writer's work?

 

More specifically, perhaps, than something beyond the usual

Kathryn Carroll

Hi dfitz. I would say to write the best story you can. Show your own personality.

 

Don't worry about what you think the editor is going to want. I would read an issue and see the diversity of stories that we publish. We have several editors and we all like different types of stories. I think we complement each other that way and it's

 

good for the writers too. At M-E all stories go through our editor-in-chief and he sends them to me and the other editors.

Mary Rosenblum

Do you each get a quota? How do you decide who gets to include which story in what issue?

Kathryn Carroll

Ultimately, Joe decides what goes in. We don't have a quota and each issue has run a different number of stories based on the length of the stories and what we've received.

 

So far it's worked well. We have published a couple of stories that I may have passed on, but I also realize there are a lot of varied tastes out there to satisfy.

Mary Rosenblum

Do you try to create a 'theme' for each issue? Or just go for diversity?

Kathryn Carroll

We don't have a theme for each issue, but each issue offers a contest that does have a theme. Mainly, though, we go for diversity.

geezer

How many submissions do you get a month?

Kathryn Carroll

Hi geezer, It's hard to say since Joe sends me scores of stories at a time to read. I'd say for any one issue we're getting around 70 stories.

Mary Rosenblum

Wow, you're really getting quite a bit of traffic! That alone says a lot for the way your name is circulating.

Kathryn Carroll

I think so too. M-E seems to have caught on quickly. I do think we have very good stories and the art work makes us stand out.

speckledorf

Is there a specific subgenre you prefer over the others?

Kathryn Carroll

Hi speckledorf. I don't think there really is any specific preference for our editors. If I had to name some for myself, I'd say I like humorous mysteries and cozies, but I also like the grittier ones too if they are well done.

Mary Rosenblum

For those of you who haven't checked out the Ezine, I suggest you look. Each story is illustrated in full color

 

and the winter issue seems to run to Christmas stories. J

 

Mysterical-E

 

You'll find their writers guidelines and contest guidelines there, too.

codeblue

How long are the stories??

Kathryn Carroll

Generally the stories run anywhere from short-shorts to about 4,000 words. We will serialize a longer story if we really like it.

winona

Can I make a short story from a story that wants to be a novel?

Mary Rosenblum

Ah, want to tackle this one, Kathryn?

Kathryn Carroll

Hi winona, If you can make the story complete within the form

 

then I'd say yes. We have gotten stories where it seems that the story is actually a precursor to a series the writer wants to write or is part of a longer work. Those stories seemed to have a "never ending" quality to them that made them too unwieldy

 

if you know what I mean. The story really needs to work as a short story.

Mary Rosenblum

And if the story is too big, doesn't the 'short' version read more like a summary than a real story?

Kathryn Carroll

Yes. The writer really needs to include all the details, evidence (if it's a mystery) characters, etc. that the story needs to make sense and be satisfying.

winona

Thanks, Kathryn.

 

Can a romance be part of a subplot in a crime/mystery?

Kathryn Carroll

Definitely, In fact I wouldn't mind seeing some more romantic mysteries. That's one type of story that we really don't get very much.

Mary Rosenblum

Aha...paying attention to this tip are you? :-)

 

So let's talk about editing, Kathryn. How much editing do you do on most stories? Do you often ask authors to make changes to plot or characters?

Kathryn Carroll

In the beginning we did more critiquing of plot, characters because we got some potentially very good stories that were just lacking strength in some area. Now, however, we don't seem to need to ask for those kinds of changes

 

and the editing takes the form more of cleaning up punctuation, some grammar and some sentence structure.

Mary Rosenblum

Do you have a line where you simply say 'too messy' and send it back, even if it's a good story?

Kathryn Carroll

Unfortunately that has been the case. There have been stories where there is virtually no punctuation or the structure is just not there and then it's hard to know what the writer is really trying to say.

 

If the story is really really good and I can see the potential and it seems as if the writer can fix the problems, then I'll send it back to him with some comments.

Mary Rosenblum

I appreciate you making that clear. I think some aspiring writers really feel that a good idea is everything

 

and how they write it up really doesn't matter.

Kathryn Carroll

I would say how they write it up is nearly everything. It's like the 99 percent perspiration saying. In fact you'd be amazed at how many "good ideas" are actually the same as someone else's idea

 

and the way it's written is what makes all the difference.

Mary Rosenblum

How does that saying go? One percent genius and 99% perspiration? Something like that?

Kathryn Carroll

Something like that. I can't remember what the one percent is either--that says something, too, don't you think!

Mary Rosenblum

LOL, it does! And that is so very true of writing. It's not the idea, it is what you do with your idea.

 

So I have a question? What is your favorite story in the Winter Issue of Mysterical-E and why?

Kathryn Carroll

Ahhhhh! Let me think.

 

I liked many of the stories, but the one that I'm thinking of now is Dead Man Flying. I liked it because it was set in the Bayou and the author did a good job of using vernacular language with one character. The plot was well thought out and the

 

characters were original.

Mary Rosenblum

Ah, thank you!

Kathryn Carroll

I also liked Double or Nothing because although I should have seen the ending coming, I was surprised.

ashton

When you first sit down to read someone's story...can you pretty much tell right away if the whole piece warrants further attention? What's the hook you look for on the first page?

Kathryn Carroll

Hi, ashton, I'm sure you've heard this before, but I really do look for an excellent first sentence or paragraph. Something that's going to set the tone for the story.

 

I do read the entire manuscript, though.

Mary Rosenblum

What will throw you out of a story and ensure a 'no thanks'?

Kathryn Carroll

I think characters or situations that are simply unbelievable. Dialogue that doesn't ring true. Also gratuitous violence or gore is a no go.

Mary Rosenblum

Tell us about your contest. That has a theme, right?

 

And it has a cash prize?

Kathryn Carroll

Right on both accounts. Right now our contest is "Babes, Beefcake and Bullets." One of our themes was "Blue Blood Cell." that one brought in some interesting stories.

Mary Rosenblum

Oh, I love Blue Blood Cell! And the illustration for Babes, Beefcake, and Bullets is great. :-)

 

You're going to get noir hardboileds, I'll bet!

Kathryn Carroll

I'm sure and those are very hard to pull off. I'm looking forward to reading the entries.

Mary Rosenblum

Well, they're hard to pull off if you don't want a Xerox of Sam Spade, at least! :-) I hope you get some good ones.

Kathryn Carroll

That's right. Hardly anyone goes around talking like Philip Marlowe. Did they ever?! I'm sure we'll get some good stories--we always do. J

Mary Rosenblum

So what advice would you give for our aspiring writers who are still on the far side of the 'published' barrier?

 

What do you feel are the most important things to work on?

Kathryn Carroll

I would say the most important thing to work on is your writing itself. Make each sentence the best it can be and create a dense, compelling story.

 

On the business side of things, it's important to do market research before you submit.

 

You don't want to wait all those agonizing months only to receive a rejection because the story didn't fit the magazine.

 

Be sure that your manuscript is neat and professional looking. Always respect your work and the process of publication.

 

I know it seems sometimes that writers and editors are adversaries, but that's not true. A good editor really wants to publish your work.

Mary Rosenblum

Thank you, Kathryn, I think that's very good advice!

 

So do you have anything coming out in other publications? I enjoyed your story of the parole-jumper on the website, by the way. J

Kathryn Carroll

Thanks, Mary. The only thing I know is coming out soon-ish (!) is a children's article in July. But I do have some work out right now hoping to find a home.

ashton

When you find a story...an author you like...do you keep mental notes of who they are for when their work pops up again? I have this mental image of post it notes slapped all around the monitor. J

Kathryn Carroll

I don't have post-it notes but I do have a bunch of supplies from a birthday party all around my computer J. I have a good memory for names and I will remember them when I see another story of theirs. Of course it's always good to remind an editor

 

that they've published you before. A simple thanks for

 

publishing my last story and the title gets those memory juices flowing.

Mary Rosenblum

Kathryn, you have been a delightful guest...even if I can't see you. :-) Thank you so much for coming onto the website to spend this evening with us.

 

I hope you come back again to visit!

sadie

Thank you for your advice tonight. These forums can be the shot in the arm I need to keep at it.

Kathryn Carroll

I would love to come back. I wish the best of luck to all you writers out there. I hope to see some of your stories.

 

Thanks, sadie. Keep writing!

Mary Rosenblum

I have a feeling you will. :-) I've sent some of my really strong mystery students your way.

 

Thank you so much for coming! And thank you all for joining us tonight!

ashton

Thanks for coming!

Kathryn Carroll

Good, I hope they mention you in there letters.

 

Thanks for asking questions, ashton.

Mary Rosenblum

I think you've done a nice job of making editors more human for a lot of people tonight!

 

Keep up the great work on the Ezine. It is one of the nicest fiction Ezines out there.

Kathryn Carroll

Thanks, Mary. We are actually real people! :-)

Mary Rosenblum

We'll let you rest your fingers! Thank you so much for coming, and good night!

 

Good night, all!

Kathryn Carroll

Good night!!

Mary Rosenblum

Have a great weekend, everyone.

 

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