Tell us a bit about Mslexia; history, ethos, aims, people involved
Mslexia is a national magazine for women writers that was founded in 1999 with National Lottery and Arts Council funding. The magazine combines information, debate and advice for writers with some of the best new poetry and fiction by women. Since 2002 we have been independent and currently survive on the income from magazine subscriptions, sales of our other publications, and entry fees for our writing competitions. But you don’t have to enter a competition to have a chance of being published in Mslexia; we have 12 other free-to-enter writing slots. Call 0191 204 8860 and ask for our contributors’ guideline, or vsit www.mslexia.co.uk.
What’s the history of the name?
Lexia is Greek for words; ms is a prefix signifying women. The link with dyslexia is intentional. Dyslexia is a problem with reading and writing that is more prevalent in men; mslexia is a problem with getting into print, which is more prevalent in women. Though women are twice as likely to study writing, to attend literary events, and to read fiction and poetry, they are far less likely to submit their creative work.
Who would be on your wishlist- writers alive or dead-and why?
At the risk of being annoying… the vast majority of women writers I admire have already appeared in Mslexia, either as contributors or as interviewees.
What three Mslexia achievements make you most proud?
Breaking through the 10,000 subscriptions barrier in 2007 (my first funding application had a target of 5,000). Knowing that many women who submit their writing to Mslexia have never submitted their writing anywhere else before. I’m proud that they feel we are a safe place to entrust their writing, where it will always be read with respect. I’m also proud of the status achieved by our women-only writing competitions. The winners and finalists of our novel competitions have gone on to sign lucrative book deals.
What excites you about a piece of writing- what keeps you interested?
I love writing that pushes at the boundaries of both style and subject matter. So I enjoy reading science fiction, in all its many guises; and magic realism, which amounts to the same thing in many cases; and writing set in the dim and distant past, in unfamiliar cultural settings, in extreme weather conditions; that explores taboo ideas and behaviours; that uses wonderful vocabulary and employs extraordinary metaphor and description…
-and what makes your heart sink?
Fiction that starts with someone waking up, or with a description of the weather, or the landscape. Dreams in fiction. Very long paragraphs. Dialogue that is punctuated with em-dashes instead of quote marks.
What makes the best short fiction?
An unusual character with an interesting voice exploring a strange obsession.
Favourite writers/writing and why?
In terms of style and subject matter, my favourites include any literary author who qualifies according to my ‘what excites you’ list above – so Margaret Atwood scores pretty well across the board. I am also incredibly fussy technically, so I also appreciate a really competent and engrossing piece of genre writing, but have no tolerance whatsoever for sloppy syntax, illogical plotting, lame dialogue.
Plans for the future?
We are currently expanding our publications list to include a series of ‘Mslexia minis’, which are short ebooks summarising a specific corner of the writing world. Our first two are ‘Poetic Forms’, a guide to the 15 main poetic forms (due out in April) and ‘Poetry First Principles’, a 12-part primer about writing contemporary poetry (due out in May). Details at www.mslexia.co.uk
. We are also planning a tour of writing workshops and ‘getting published’ events.