Short, Sharp Interview: Aldo Calcagno

What was the first zine you were involved with and when was that?

Powder Burn Flash was my first experience. It started three years ago when all of a sudden my favorite ezines and websites started to disappear such as Plots With Guns, Demolition and so forth. I wanted to keep alive a forum for writers to practice their craft and get feedback from readers on their stories. So, I started Powder Burn Flash.

Are you surprised by the success of Powder Burn Flash and DBD?

Quite a bit. Here I was just a reader who enjoyed all this writing and I was a neophyte writer trying to work out the kinks in my own writing fielding many queries. If started out in a rush and I learned along the way how to edit and provide feedback, but fortunately, many of the original submissions were near perfect finished pieces that required little or no editing on my part, or so I felt.

After about 6 months, I started getting feedback and requests from a different group of writers who needed more room to flesh out their stories. They wanted to submit something to PBF, but couldn’t shave it down to less than 1,000 words. Who am I to deny a writer a chance at publication, so I decided that I would open Darkest Before the Dawn and accept stories up to 10,000 words in any genre. I was blown away at the quantity and quality of stories.

A year later, I started working with Seth Harwood on producing the very successful CrimeWAV podcast. Out of this partnership, one of Seth’s webmasters contacted me about moving the site away from a blog format and into a ezine website. I owe a great deal of the explosive success to both sites to Jason Andrews who worked with me to develop the current sites. They have a more professional appeal and the quality of the submissions have risen above my expectation.

Doesn’t it sometimes seem like more work than it’s worth?

There are times when the real world gets in the way of doing what I enjoy. This is a true labor of love and my hope is at some point that I can make this a paying market so writers can earn something from their labors. For me, I really enjoy the interaction with the writers and the opportunity to help them develop their craft and have a forum for publishing their work.

It has also been fun working with Patti Abbott and Gerald So to organize and publish stories around Flash Challenges. When we get around to have one, usually quarterly, we generate a buzz that results in 15-25 stories being submitted around the theme. We all have a great deal of fun reading the work of all the participants.

One success that I would like to share is that the sites are generating some interest in the publishing world.

The highlight of the year came in December when Randy Rohn contacted me and said that Otto Penzler had been in contact with him and had selected a story that I published on Darkest for inclusion in the 2009 Best Short Stories.

Since then a few literary agents and major editors have contacted me regarding stories and authors who have been published.

Aldo Calcagno AKA Mystery Dog is the editor of Powder Burn Flash, Darkest Before The Dawn and CrimeWAV.