People often ask what we look for in a good submission. Here we look at the selection process for Polluto to shed a little light on how we work and what we’re looking for.
This article was written by Victoria Hooper when she was selecting for Polluto, Issue 6: Identity Theft and the Octopus Kid. Vicky wrote:
This was my favourite theme so far and a really great one for authors to get creative with. We had such a wonderful variety of exciting, moving, thoughtful and hilarious submissions. I’ve picked two of the more unusual stories, both of which are not presented in typical ‘story format’. This month, I’ve chosen to look at these less conventional submissions in order to show that a story does not always have to be told as a story, and that thinking outside the box (while being a very annoying and overused phrase) can lead to some interesting results.
First up: ‘Dear Derek’ by Alexander Hay. One disgruntled man’s correspondence with an uncaring MP, concerning the wormholes that have opened up in his neighbourhood and the flood of alien (some literally so) immigrants that have emerged from it. Alexander Hay explores this bizarre idea through a series of letters, mostly between Morris and his MP Derek, and in doing so plunges us straight into Morris’ world in a way that a conventional narrative could not achieve so thoroughly. By telling this idea through the medium of letters, the author has also avoided presenting this as a story at all. Rather he keeps the incredible events confined to the mundanity of a man writing to his MP. In doing so, the tedious and frustrating nature of government bureaucracy is accentuated by throwing it into sharp contrast with the crazy alien activities. Alexander Hay captures the hypocrisy of all the characters beautifully, and delivers his idea with a quick, dark humour. There are some very clever observations wrapped up in a piece that knows how to have fun.
How does it fit the theme? Hypocritical attitudes towards those who are different, fear of change and of the unknown, mutation, aliens, the integration of the bizarre into our own mundane world. Alexander Hay makes a number of careful and accurate observations about our society, without ever weighing the reader down with the need to ‘make a point’. Anyone who has dealt with immigration bureaucracy, or the hypocritical attitudes of those who fear change, will know that this story is closer to the truth than anyone would like to admit.
Next, ‘The June Parrott Scrapbook’ by Victoria Truslow. A freak rain of jellyfish mutilates and mutates the body of a famous model. How does the world react? With delicious intrigue and fascination, quickly followed by scandal and derision. Victoria Truslow dives into the fast-paced world of fashion and takes a look at the media and the public’s fascination with trends and celebrities. The story is presented in small excerpts—cuttings from magazines, a blog, interviews, etc—and perfectly captures the immediacy of the strange existence that is celebrity. The excerpts are brief, choppy, to the point, like hastily imparted gossip before moving onto the next big thing. June Parrott is a phenomenon, not a person, here for our entertainment, and quickly discarded once we get bored. The style of this piece works so well because it is so coldly presented—a whole person and her life summed up in a few short scraps of opinion. A traditional story told in the usual way would have been too focused, too personal.
How does it fit the theme? Mutation, freak rains of sea creatures, a look into the attitudes of and towards people who are different, who don’t fit the mould, who dare to defy. The end quote from Parrott herself is perfect. In fact, it sums up quite nicely the overriding theme of all the stories and poems featured in issue 6.
So, what did we like about these submissions? Originality, an interesting idea, a little black humour, the ability to present an idea in the format that works best for it, a writing style that fits the story, exploration of deeper issues and themes without becoming too heavy or bogged down by them, and a connection with the sentiments behind the issue title and the ethos of the magazine.
Issue 6: Identity Theft and the Octopus Kid is out now. Visit www.polluto.com for more information