The View From Here Interview:
The Oddville Press
Interview by Paul
It leaves me despondent whenever I hear that a publishing house has shut its doors and stopped doing business, as if the world will be a lesser place without it, regardless of whether I’ve read any of their publications or not. It’s not something I’d feel if I heard that an armaments manufacturer had gone bust---not that I know of one which has. But the upside of this is that, for every publisher who shuts up shop, there seems to be another ready to open its doors and call for submissions. And then: “Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
The Oddville Press recently entered the publishing arena and is calling for submissions for a new e-zine, which it plans to release in September. I spoke to Steph (of the delightfully named blog Watch Your Steph), who’s on the editorial team at Oddville, and asked her about the company’s origins and what sort of writing they’re looking for.
It all started when Mike Coombes (fellow writer and reigning God of Oddville) made a post on a writing forum entitled “Looking for Talented Writers, Editors & Geeks.” The original plan was to give members of that writing forum a glimpse into the publishing world, as well as give the veterans a place to showcase their talent. In a matter of hours, quite a few of us (predominantly geeks like myself, I dare say) jumped on board and started setting things in motion.
In my opinion, one of the niftiest aspects to Oddville is the fact that all of us working together have never met in person, as far as I’m aware. We have staff members from all over the world doing their part without any major hitches to speak of, unless you count the extreme reluctance of some staff members to include a picture with their bio on our staff page. (The staff page is now bereft of pictures for that very reason.)
What are the short-term and long-term aims for The Oddville Press, and what sort of submissions are you seeking?
The plan in the beginning, as I mentioned above, was simply to give members of the writing forum an opportunity to break into print. However, since getting things rolling, we’ve already expanded on that. We accept submissions from any writer, regardless of their publishing history (or lack thereof), and we certainly don’t give special treatment to members of that forum. Our long-term goal would be to become one of the high-risers, so to speak. To be literally acclaimed and, in general, to be the zine every writer wants to submit to.
The kind of submissions we’re looking for vary as far as genre is concerned. In general, we want submissions that keep us riveted, that make us forget we have a sink full of dishes to wash or that our dog is peeing on the carpet. We don’t accept slash, erotica, fan fiction, Tolkienesque fantasy, ‘angst’ poetry, or previously published work—and besides, there are zines that cater specifically to those genres anyways. It’s just not our cup of tea.
What advice would you offer writers submitting their work to a publisher? What generally excites you about a piece of writing and what turns you off?
Be professional. Just the other day, some of us at Oddville were discussing the lack of cover letters in many of the submissions we receive. Granted, that won’t impact our decision on a story or poem if we like it, but it does start the relationship out on a bad foot. Also, speaking as a writer myself, I’ve had stories rejected simply for not double-spacing the file. You never know what’s going to push an editor’s buttons.
Writing that excites me generally has to have strong characters. (I can’t speak for poetry, though. We have poetry fanatics among us at Oddville—I’m just not one of them.) I prefer stories about people more than I care about what happens to those people. I don’t necessarily want a detailed run-down of every thought that passes through a character’s head, but I want the voice and tone of the story to make me feel as though I’m intimately connected with the characters—even if they’re a bit on the shady side. My guilty pleasure is a protagonist with a less-than-perfect view on morality.
Things I don’t like are teen oh-woe-is-me stories with nothing new to add against the insurmountable number of other such stories. The same goes for vampire and zombie stories. I approach these expecting not to like them, so it takes a large amount of creativity and compelling writing to break down my resistance.
Who are some of the favourite authors of the editorial team?
We’re a pretty diverse group of people when it comes to writing tastes, but some unanimous favourites are: Tom Clancy, Margaret Atwood, Dean Koontz and, from the poetry side, Richard Hugo.
You’ve embarked on writing a novel of your own. Has the process of reading other writers’ submissions affected the way you write or think about your own writing in any way? Have you discovered any other synergies from undertaking these different, but related tasks?
Absolutely. In order to reject a story, I have to pinpoint what it is about that story that I don’t like—be it purple prose, inconsistent voice, or a complete lack of coherent sentences. By thinking critically about writing in this way, it helps me to better recognize the strengths and weaknesses of my own writing.
Thanks, Steph, and good luck to The Oddville Press.
To visit The Oddville Press, click here.
To visit Steph’s Watch Your Steph blog, click here.