Interview with Emily X.R. Pan and Nova Ren Suma, Creators of Foreshadow YA

Locating good YA short fiction online is easier said than done. While there are magazines that publish YA fiction, such as YARN, a reader or writer may have trouble finding works that speak to them, or reflect their experiences. Magazines close, sometimes permanently, while others never come to light. On top of that, it can be hard for writers to find payment for their fiction.

Emily X.R. Pan and Nova Ren Suma hope to change that. Both authors have published YA fiction and have veritable experience in the field; Pan released The Astonishing Color of After and Suma hit the New York Times bestseller list with The Walls Around Us. After recognizing the dearth of YA fiction channels, the duo launched a successful Indiegogo campaign for Foreshadow YA, a serial anthology that reached 141% of its initial goal for funding. Book Riot previously featured their campaign, and we are happy to talk with the magazine’s founding editors.

Foreshadow YAThe intent of FORESHADOW is to provide opportunities to publish YA short stories. What were your experiences trying to find those opportunities in other magazines or anthologies?

Nova Ren Suma: The decision to create a new publication for YA short stories, one open to completely new voices, came from a want on our parts (I know I used to wish there were such a place for my own work!) and a real need in the industry…Again and again, I was asked by fellow YA writers and my students where they could try publishing their young adult short stories. I could count the open venues on only one hand, if that. I kept saying I wished there were more opportunities…and then a magical conversation with Emily on a train ride to a writers conference got us both thinking. It wasn’t enough to just wish for something to exist. We needed to create it ourselves.

Emily X.R. Pan: That was how we decided to do a year-long project that would publish YA short stories serially, three stories a month, online and available for free to all. FORESHADOW: A Serial YA Anthology is now here as that opportunity for writers…but our mission is more than that. We wanted to show by example that a publishing platform can be so much more diverse than you typically see, on both sides of the curtain. I remember being a grad student, sending my stories out to a whole bunch of journals and noticing, of course, that the vast majority of the writers were white, and on top of the fears about whether my work was strong enough, I couldn’t help wondering if there even was a place for me. It didn’t really feel like there was.

What has been the most surprising facet of running FORESHADOW, from a writers’ perspective?

Emily: I guess this was both a surprise and not—the volume of story submissions in our inbox. We knew there was a gap we wanted to fill, but I think also neither of us were totally sure what kind of reception to expect from the YA book community.

Nova: It was hard to say whether the gap existed because people weren’t interested in having such a venue for YA short stories, or if it was something else. We were cautiously optimistic before we launched our debut Issue Zero and our fundraiser, but the enthusiasm has blown us away.

What are your thoughts on other anthologies and magazines opening and closing, such as CICADA from Cricket Media, or Shimmer Magazine? How can readers and writers alike keep publishing ventures thriving?

Nova: There will always be new projects—we’re an example of that. I think the lesson in this is that writers need to support publishing ventures like this by reading the work, sharing the links—text your friends about the stories you love. Talk about them on social media, so that more people find out about these platforms. Submit your own work, and donate to help them out. So much of these ventures are passion projects, which means most of the time the masthead is working entirely for free, and the money is hard to come by, and your extra few dollars can go a long way. We were just so thrilled by the response to our fundraiser, which made this dream project possible. And we hope other projects are supported, too.

Emily: Having worked on other magazines, I think it’s natural for a project to come to an end at some point, and while it might seem heartbreaking in the moment, my thought is always that the creators and team members behind that project might go on to do even bigger and more exciting things. I don’t think of it as the loss of a venue, because I think people who do this kind of work are drawn to it, and often can’t help but create something else. And with every new publication that starts up—great! Hopefully they’re adding seats to the table for new talent.

Describe your ideal submission.

Emily: We’re most excited when we see a dynamite story by a brand new, unpublished writer. A story that would grab me immediately would need to have an unforgettable voice and razor-sharp sentences. And I’ll love it to pieces if it has an ending that hits me like a punch to the gut. All the better if it’s a little weird!

Nova: We’re especially seeking stories from marginalized writers, new and published alike, and we’re interested in all genres so long as the story is YA. An ideal submission for me would be from a strong voice telling a story that sparks a fire in me. I want to be swept away. I like to laugh out loud or come away a little broken. But keep in mind we’re not the only ones choosing stories—we have a team of fiction editors who are all looking for that one story that sings to them and that they want to dig in and edit!

What do you hope teens and young adult readers will glean from the various issues?

Nova: We want to help people discover authors they’ve never read before. This obviously means our featured new voices—but we also hope to give people a taste of the work of published authors. It would be wonderful for someone to read a story and think: Where has this author been my whole life? Now I have to go read their books!

Emily: We also really hope they’ll come away feeling inspired to pick up the pen or laptop and write something of their own. Maybe a new writer will read knowing that we’re open to submissions, and they’ll think: Well, it might take me a long time to finish a whole book, but I can try my hand at a short story first.

What would be a hard sell, or an instant rejection?

Emily: All of our submissions go to a special submission inbox and are first organized and coded by our brilliant and hard-working editorial coordinator, Diane Telgen, who then coordinates rounds of reading and scoring by our readers. We do send some instant rejections, and it’s because, as it says all over our website and in our guidelines and FAQ, we publish only YA short stories. We regularly get submissions that are definitely not YA. These are stories solely about adult characters, or middle-grade fiction…stories by writers who didn’t read our guidelines, or maybe thought we’d change our minds.

Nova: Stories that get upvoted by our readers and then move on to rounds of reading by our editors, coordinated by our amazing and fantastically organized managing editor, Mara Delgado Sánchez, are ones by writers who have read our guidelines and know what we’re looking for, and they are also stories that have been adored and championed by our readers. When a story reaches me and Emily to be read, it has often been loved by many sets of eyes.

What can you tell us about upcoming issues and stories?

Emily: Issue #1 will be launching in January, and as we talk, our phenomenal fiction editors Sharyn November and Alexa Wejko and our amazing associate fiction editors Denise Conejo, Trisha Tobias, and Deeba Zargarpur are deep into edits and revisions on various pieces with some of our upcoming authors. We are keeping what will appear in Issue #1 a closely guarded secret for now, but what we can tell you is that we have some gorgeous, fearless, imaginative, and exciting work coming in our early issues from authors like Brandy Colbert, Malinda Lo, Stephanie Kuehn, Randy Ribay, and so many more…And there are still surprises that could pop up. Our readers are finding some real gems from new and published writers who’ve submitted stories to us. We’re pinching ourselves in excitement about all of this.

Nova: And just wait until you read some of our upcoming New Voices! Every issue of FORESHADOW will feature one story by a writer we’re calling a “New Voice”—this will be a writer who hasn’t published much, if at all, before. These stories are specially selected by superstar YA authors, such as Becky Albertalli, Laurie Halse Anderson, Jason Reynolds, Adam Silvera, Cynthia Leitich Smith…Some acceptance letters have gone out, and all I’ll say is there may be a few future FORESHADOW New Voices out there keeping a very gigantic secret right now.

The first issue of Foreshadow YA will be out in January 2019. Be sure to read Issue 0, live on the website now!

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