Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Sun Magazine: Looking for Pieces that Move the Heart and the Mind

As I mentioned yesterday, I learned a lot at the Sun conference myself—from the other presenters, the participants, and from the Sun staff. Here are my notes from managing editor Tim McKee’s comments in the “Over the Transom” panel, explaining the process the Sun goes through while evaluating manuscripts for publication (submission details are here).

This is what the magazine looks for in writing, Tim says:*

--Pieces that move the heart or mind…or both.

--Memorable characters.

--Pieces that are rich in settings and descriptions; pieces that evoke a time or place…but within limits. He warned against simply throwing in details, and suggested that the writer demonstrate discernment.

--Show, don’t tell. He thought that in the writing process, the first draft might be the “telling” draft, which is then shaped into the second draft, the “showing” draft.

--The writer should provide a thrilling but gentle ride for the reader, which means always being mindful of the reading experience. So, for example, be especially mindful of transitions and the beginning of the piece: be wary of too many names, themes, characters all dumped in the beginning.

--What makes a piece truly stand out is a remarkable self-awareness on the part of the writer. This is what shifts the personal to the universal. To help illuminate this principle, Tim mentioned this quotation from Cheryl Strayed, a writer whose work has appeared often in the Sun: “In writing, you get no points for the living. Extraordinary consciousness must be brought to bear on extraordinary events.”

*These are my scribbled notes, perhaps paraphrased, and should not be misconstrued as his exact words.

With standards like this, what are you waiting for? Check out the website, read some of the archived works, and then please SUBSCRIBE (if you don’t already)! It’s a magazine like no other.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.