Welcome to our new Literary Mama blog series: Craft Talks. In this bi-monthly post, we’ll have a mini-interview with our own editors about craft, what they look for in submissions, and all things writing.
Today, I talked to Felicity Landa, Fiction Editor. She told me about Elizabeth Acevedo, the importance of the first sentence, and stories that feel cared for.
1. Tell us about yourself and your position at Literary Mama.
I’m a writer, editor, and screenwriter, and a mother of two young daughters. I’ve been with Literary Mama for about two years now, and I am one of two Fiction Editors. My co-editor and I select pieces for the fiction section of Literary Mama, and work with writers on developmental edits to get pieces ready for publication.
2. Is there a passage, sentence, or line of a poem that you absolutely adore? Why is it so good?
What first comes to mind is this passage from The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo:
She’s also little—like for real petite—
But carries herself big, know what I mean?
Like she’s used to shouldering her way
through any assumptions made about her.
This is a beautiful stanza in so many ways, and a master class in character development and writing. Acevedo utilizes slang and conversational language in the first two lines to engage her reader in an intimate way, and then moves seamlessly into two beautiful and poetic lines that are heavy with emotion and depth. Xiomara, the protagonist, is speaking here about her teacher, and not only does she reveal the teacher’s character in this stanza, but she also gives us a glimpse of what Xiomara herself values in others, and perhaps envies. Acevedo does all this in four lines, while also giving us an intense and hard-hitting image of a woman shouldering and fighting through obstacles meant to hold her down.
3. What do you look for in submissions? What type of writing grabs your attention?
I look for submissions that can grab my attention in the first sentence, whether it’s the writing or the premise. If a story makes me lean in to keep reading, I know it’s something really special. I also look for developed characters that feel wholly realized even in the context of a short piece, and images that can speak a greater depth of emotion to a story. Colleen and I are always looking for pieces that approach motherhood from a new angle. We recently published a piece called Guilt Free, that explores the emotions of a foster mother who dislikes her foster child. I had never read anything like it. It’s one of my favorite pieces we’ve published.
More than anything, stories that grab my attention are the stories that feel cared for. Readers can tell how much time and effort a writer has put into a work, and those are the stories that stay with me.
The Fiction department at Literary Mama seeks fiction under 5,000 words about all aspects of motherhood. We look for pieces with strong narrative structure, great characters, interesting settings, beautiful language, and complicated themes. See our submissions guidelines. For additional information, check out this blog post for tips on what we look for.
Read something you liked? Let us know in the comments!