Lucy-Jane Walsh. Lucy-Jane Walsh is the editor of Sponge Magazine, and she says that she felt In New Zealand there aren't many avenues for publishing science fiction, particularly at the amateur level, and it occurred to her one day that she could do something to change that. That is how Sponge was born. Sponge is an online journal for science fiction and speculative fiction, based in the post-apocalpytic city of Christchurch, New Zealand.
Editor at Sponge
I was inspired to create Sponge as a writer of science fiction. In New Zealand, there aren't many avenues for publishing science fiction, particularly at the amateur level, and it occurred to me one day that I could do something to change that. Being an editor feels powerful and at the same time daunting. Writers are taking a risk when they send their work to you — it involves a level of trust and belief in your judgment. It can feel a bit like you are breaking that trust when you reject somebody's work. I try as much as I can to explain to writers why I have decided to publish or not to publish their work. It's my way of honouring their faith in me.
I don't wish to speak for other editors, but personally, I feel that the published journal is the only recognition I need. My goal when I started Sponge was to create a space for science fiction in New Zealand and the Pacific and I feel I get closer to that goal with each issue.
The most challenging thing for me has been time and burnout. There is a never-ending list of things that I could be doing to improve the journal or to market it, but I also have a full-time job and my own writing to focus on. Sometimes running the journal feels like a burden, but when a new issue comes out it's always worth it.
Embracing modern technology is so important. More and more, technology has become central to people's lives and they expect to be able to consume content on their phones and e-readers. Talking to writers, I find that they prefer nowadays to be published on a website than in a physical publication. A friend of mine commented that when she is published online, she can send that link out to her friends and family and they will actually read her story, whereas when she is published in a physical publication, she only gets one copy, and the readership is very limited.
I think what sets Sponge apart is both its geological focus and the diverse way in which it is published. Geographically speaking, Sponge is only open to writers from New Zealand and the Pacific and so it has a very unique flavour and perspective. I was interested to find that the ocean features very heavily in the stories that were submitted. As island nations, I think this makes sense. In terms of how Sponge is published, I was determined to make the journal as accessible as possible. The journal is not only available to read online but as a high-quality PDF and as a MOBI and ePUB, which can be loaded on a Kindle or any other eReader. Along with this, I ask the authors of each piece to record themselves reading it, and these audio files are also available for our readers to listen to or download.
The biggest piece of advice would be just to submit! Since we are so new, we are not getting a huge number of submissions yet so everyone who submits has a high chance of being published. More general advice about submitting also applies. If you edit your piece thoroughly and proofread, you will have a much higher chance of succeeding than if you submit the first draft. The other thing I would say is to think about your reader. What drives them to read your story? What will keep them hooked right to the end? Too often we receive stories that are self-indulgent — they seem as if they were written by somebody who had themselves in mind, rather than their reader. It can come across as wish fulfillment and it is the least interesting thing to read. Always think about your reader! I think that's the best advice I could give anyone who wants to be a writer.