things I’m tired of seeing in lit mag submissions

As a reader for two different magazines and an indie book publisher…I couldn’t agree more with Bartleby Snopes editor Nathaniel Tower. If you’re a writer and/or editor, definitely give this a read.

freeze frame fiction

Guest post by Bartleby Snopes Literary Magazine managing editor Nathaniel Tower

An editor of a literary magazine has to put up with a fair amount. Among the struggles we must face on our daily quest for literary greatness is repetition. I’m not simply talking about the monotony of reading submissions. Rather, I’m referring to the fact that, at times, it feels like every submission is exactly the same.

When lit mag editors are asked what frustrates them the most about submissions, the responses are typically the same: submissions that don’t follow guidelines, submissions riddled with typos, submissions with a blatant disregard for the aesthetic (whatever the hell that means) of the lit mag in question.

As a lit mag editor, these aren’t the things that bother me the most. Writers who don’t follow guidelines are the easiest to reject. They waste the least amount of my time. What, you didn’t use the…

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Interview with George Filipovic, Co-editor of “One Throne Magazine”

“Literary fiction isn’t always dull, SFF can be poetic, and poetry doesn’t have to be impenetrable. There are so many cliques in literature, and each seems to make wildly inaccurate assumptions about the other. I want to run a different kind of literary magazine and open people’s eyes.”

–George Filipovic, Co-Editor of One Throne Magazine

 

Check out this terrific interview with One Throne editor, George Filipovic. There’s not only a lot of useful/enlightening information here about a young, strong (free!) literary magazine, but also some great arguments for reading beyond our regional biases and checking out authors we might not have considered before.

Great post, Geosi Reads, and thank you!

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Geosi Reads

Photo: George Filipovic Photo: George Filipovic

Brief Biography:

George Filipovic is the co-editor of One Throne Magazine, which he founded at Dawson City, Yukon in 2014. The magazine publishes all genres and writers from all nationalities. In its first year, two of One Throne’s stories were named “Notable” by two Best American anthologies (Best American Essays and Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy). Another story was subsequently made the first chapter of a novel that was bought by HarperCollins India. The magazine has published short fiction written by a 2014 Caine Prize finalist, other short fiction by a 2014 Shirley Jackson Award finalist, and poems from each of the joint-winners of the 2015 Brunel African Poetry Prize. One Throne prides itself on probably being the most diverse literary magazine on the planet. Most issues carry writing from at least three continents, with women and minority groups equitably represented.

Geosi Gyasi: You practiced law in your hometown, Toronto, before leaving for the…

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5 Fabulous Author Interviews

As an author, one of my most favorite things to read are author interviews. Not only is it a terrific way to engage with the larger writing community, but it’s also a chance to learn about new reads to dig into, to discover new writing processes, and, of course, to fantasize about being interviewed myself. Here are five of my favorite, more recent author interviews (in no particular order):

author awesome

  1. Brian Beglin’s interview with Aimee Bender, The Missouri Review

I think that’s where a workshop can truly help—we can show the writer the work, in a way. We can say, “Look this is good, and that other part ain’t so good, even though it’s clear you think it’s brilliant.” I find that usually the parts I think are brilliant end up seeming strained to other people. Which is both humbling and liberating at the same time.

–AB

I’ve loved writing and reading all my life, but Aimee Bender’s is definitely the first voice I ever truly fell in love with — her stories are utterly transportive and I find myself reading them over and over again trying to figure out how she did it.

2. Justin Meckes’ interview with Anna Lea Jancewicz, Writer Blog

Above my desk, I have three framed photos, of Ursula K. Le Guin, Margaret Atwood, and Kelly Link. Those three women make me want to write.

–ALJ

I definitely need a photo of Jancewicz to hang above my desk. If you haven’t checked her out yet…what are you still doing here? Her website: https://annajancewicz.com/

3. NPR’s interview with Kelly Link

…it’s a lot of fun to write a story in which everybody in the story already feels at ease with the strangeness — I think there’s a kind of useful dissonance, reading a world in which the people in that world are used to that place. And that’s because that’s true of real life; you often come into situations where everybody already knows what’s going on, and you have to sort of piece it together.

–KL

The first time I ever read Link’s short story “Stone Animals” (from her collection Magic for Beginners) I threw the book down and wanted to rant and write and cry and hug her all at the same time. It drove me crazy knowing that someone so talented was out there in the world and that I didn’t know them, that I wasn’t them, that they were writing the stories I’d always wanted to write. Jealousy quickly abates; immense admiration endures.

4. Juliet Escoria‘s interview with xTx, Electric Lit

At this point, yes, it bothers me that I haven’t been able to merge my ‘selves’ to the people that matter in my life. I’ve printed out select stories and given them to my mom to read and she loves them but it’s a small fraction of my work. She knows nothing about my books or the story award I received last year. Nobody does. I just feel like I’ve created work that I can be proud of and nobody in my life really knows about any of it. It’s stupid and I’m working on changing things.

–xTx

I first discovered xTx’s work while reading H.L. Nelson and Joanne Merriam’s anthology, Choose Wisely: 35 Women Up to No Good, and it’s been a complete googly-eyed fan-love affair ever since. She’s creepy, tough, funny, tragic, sincere, delicious.

5. Emily Pohl-Weary’s interview with Helen Oyeyemi, Hazlitt

I do not outline. I find it very difficult to write when I know what’s going to happen. I feel a bit trapped. In one of my other novels, White Is for Witching, the story is basically circular, so it begins with a disappearance and ends with a disappearance. It was very difficult and sad for me to write, knowing exactly what was going to happen to the heroine. It felt like I was trapping her, and I wanted my character to go free.

–HO

Stuart Evers, writing for The Independent, says it best: “[Helen Oyeyemi] cares not a fig for convention or the whims of critics or readers, just for the pleasures of writing something unexpected and astonishing.”

Check out these authors and their works now! Seriously — now!

Happy Writing & Reading!

Keep Reading Weird

A big thank you to Keep Reading Weird! for just plain existing.

I love these posts, reading lists, book clubs, and recommendations—the whole shebang, in other words. For everyone out there in love with the literary weird (like me!), this is absolutely a blog to follow, read, love, and send good vibes to (money, also? I’m sure they’d accept checks. Maybe also stories. Maybe also freshly killed mice if you happen to be of the alley cat-persuasion).

Read Weird

I may not want Meredith Alling to cook dinner for me anytime soon, but she can write me a story any day.

In “Ancient Ham,” a delectable morsel of flash fiction, Alling tells the story of a magic ham with predictive powers.  “Once a year,” we’re told, “the Ancient Ham crawls out of the sewer to sit on a curb and answer questions.”

People flock to the Ancient Ham to ask it yes or no questions.  How, you might ask, does a ham answer such questions?  Well, one simply pokes the Ancient Ham with sewing needles laden with offerings, and then the Ancient Ham bobs left for no, right for yes.

“Ancient Ham” is especially brilliant in the way the story’s heart emerges in the last few lines.  I won’t spoil the ending for you, but just know that it has me bobbing to the right, just like the Ancient Ham.

Yes, you…

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Novelist, Poet, Short Story Writer?

First, the good news (because Fridays should always start with good news): My flash fiction piece “Zebra Skin” has just been accepted for publication with Fiction Southeast! I couldn’t be happier about this–both because I happen to especially love this story and because I’ve been hankering for a spot in Fiction Southeast for…forever? Definitely ever since I learned that Aimee Bender was among their ranks.

Now, on to the meat and potatoes (or, if you’re a veggie like me, the cabbage and potatoes):

This past May, I hired on the tremendous Seattle-based editor Tara Weaver to help me tackle the monster novel that I’ve been working on for a few years now, (working title) The Fire Eaters. Not only was Weaver basically incredible (professional, kind, straightforward, sincere, creative, timely, and many other equally wondrous things), but she also helped something crucial finally click into place for me: I am not a novelist. I am a short story writer.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I’ll never write a novel — I’ve already written several rather dreadful ones, in fact — but it does mean that, at least for now, short story writing is where my heart lies. It’s where I boogie. And it’s all thanks to Weaver asking me a deceptively simple question: Katie, did you enjoy writing this novel?

I had no idea of how to respond. Of course! I wanted to say. Of course I enjoyed it–I love my job, don’t I? This is what I do!

And yet there was that little voice in my head: But did you, Katie? Did you actually enjoy writing this novel?

I ask, she told me, because it was clear to me as a reader when you stopped enjoying the writing of this book. In your short stories, though, there’s never a moment where I feel as though you stopped enjoying the process or the project.

It took a while for me to really know what to do with this information. I’m a writer. Of course I write short stories–I have no skill for poetry, and how else would I build up a resume to finally write and sell a novel one day? (Right?)

But then I had to ask myself: Well, would it be so bad if you were a short story writer instead of a novelist?

Novels sell. Short stories don’t. –This is the mantra I grew up hearing, reading, encountering again and again. But on the other hand, it’s not like my novels are anything worth selling at this point, unlike my short fiction.

So, next question: Well, what kinds of books do you most enjoy reading?

Short story collections. Hands down. Always. Whenever I have an author recommended to me, I always seek out their short fiction first and, if I can’t find any, more often than not, I’ll usually ignore the recommendation and move on to someone else.

This is a habit that I know not many readers share with me, but it’s one that’s served me well time and again. If you don’t have a short story for me, there’s little chance that I’m going to trust you with the amount of time that a novel demands of its consumers. Also, short stories are those blissful dives into the moment, into the now, whereas novels so often seek to drag me into the past with flashbacks, backstory, stock characters, and on and on. Or, as Katey Schultz so beautifully says in her article “What is Flash Fiction?“:

In an era of bombardment … we’re hungry for precise details and a widening of the moment. We’re anxious for an excuse to hold time and look closely.

–And this is an urgent, pivotal job of the short story, of flash fiction, of prose poetry.

Of course, this isn’t to say that short stories are somehow better than novels, but simply that they are different (albeit closely related) artforms, and thus demand different skills and serve different purposes.

So why this hesitation on my part? Why all this pressure to write a novel when they aren’t even my preferred go-to as a reader?

Well, here’s one reason–as Amber Sparks so tragically points out in her articleLet Us Now Praise Famous Short Story Writers (And Demand They Write a Novel“:

Most people really don’t like short stories. And that includes lots of critics, who often seem to regard short story collections as a warm-up for the real thing.

“The real thing” — aye, there’s the rub. In today’s world, short stories are still often looked down on as somehow lesser, somehow not as professional, not as artistic, not as meaningful, not as powerful, not as important as the grand Novel. And I played right into their hands by letting this slop infect my perspective.

I know I also often fall into a similar trap when discussing my writing career in general. As a full-time creative writer, I’m often made to feel badly about my career. As if writing was nothing more than glorified unemployment. When people learn that I’m a writer, their follow-up questions usually tend toward these paths:

But do you also edit? Are you planning to be a teacher? What’s your day job? Have you ever considered self-publishing?

To dodge these kinds of well-meant yet soul-chewing questions, I often simply avoid telling people I’m a writer at all. –But this cannot be the answer. We writers must stand up for ourselves. We cannot allow the misconceptions of others to define who we are or what our work-lives mean, just like I must also now proudly stand up for the short story as an artform that’s every bit as vital and meaningful as the novel.

As Kara Cochran says in her (tremendous!) article “A ‘Real’ Job: The Legitimacy of Creative Writing“:

Unfortunately, writers often perpetuate the stereotypes they fight against. … We often fail (or refuse) to define what it is that we do …. Maybe we feel guilty for our gifts, for having the means to pursue something for love over money, for having found something that makes us happy. …

The problem is this: all of this is self-perpetuating. Because convention tells us to accompany writing with a ‘real job,’ writers struggle to make writing a real job.

C’mon, fellow writers, let’s make this a real job.

I’m a short story writer. I love what I do and I’m proud of it. Whether you’re a novelist, short story writer, poet, a triple threat–own it. Love what you do and be proud of it. Own it–for art’s sake!

 

 

 

Fresh Summer Reads

You guessed it! The latest issue of Cleaver Magazine is out in style. Issue 14 is one of my personal favorites so far with some very odd, off-the-wall pieces that leave me pumped full of energy.

Here are just a few highlights to get you warmed-up:

First, Judith Schaechter’s glass art (see featured image above for an example from this issue) is basically some of the coolest, creepiest, most painfully lovely work I’ve seen in a long, long time. Check out more of her art in “The Stigma of Beauty, The Stain of Glass.” LOVE! –Also, her essay discussing her work is just freaking awesome:

I am fairly certain that many people experience my pieces kind of like this: Judith Schaechter is an artist who makes images in stained glass of anguished women set against highly decorative backgrounds. People often see my works all at once as a group — presented in a show or reproduced in an article — but to me, each piece is vastly different and each one arose over long periods of time. But yeah, I get it: anguished women and lush, decorative backgrounds. …


BIRCH WATERS
by Meg Pendoley

(short story; emerging artist; the characters here just rock)

The three older women are buckled into the bench seat under a fleece blanket printed with howling wolves. Jess is in the driver’s seat, smoking out the window. Davi walks up next to Beth. Jess’s black hair is buzzed short and she’s got one heavy boot braced against the dashboard behind the steering wheel, her knee cocked halfway out the window. The truck is already covered in dirt, so it doesn’t really matter that she’s stamping mud all over the broken vent. Jess is wearing tan cut-off overalls and one nipple keeps nudging out. …


IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE END
by Evan Anderson

(flash fiction; love, love, love this author’s work–so glad we landed this piece!)

No one really expected the world to end like this. For one thing, it took too damn long. People want bad things to happen like a pulled-off Band-Aid rather than the slow pushing of a knife. Instead, this is how it happened …


THE WHOLE DAMN LOVELY THING
by Melissa Goode

(short story)

Hannah made a cherry pie, and it relaxed her. Only when she was carrying the pie from her house to the neighbor’s, still warm in its tin, did she think it might be inappropriate for a barbecue. She should have brought a six-pack of beer, or some cheese and crackers, because a barbecue probably did not even make it to dessert. In any case, it was too late. Amy had come to her front door to let in a couple of people and spotted Hannah walking up the drive. …


HOMMAGE À MACK SENNETT
by Kathleen Rooney

(flash fiction)

The nightgown in the painting crosses genres: detective and farce. It has a partial body—breasts—but not a face. You could say it’s peekaboo. You could say it’s diaphanous. Either way, it reminds Georgette of how her husband uses recurring motifs to create a story, or at least a semi-story, for a story full of holes is a story full of mystery, a mystery like lace. …


ANGELS HAVE CORDONED OFF SECTIONS OF MOUNT SINAI
by John Harvey

(poem; LOVE this piece!)

Say nothing of this to the doctors of Geneva,
to the folks who rock back and forth
on front porches down in Key West,
or the old woman dreaming of Palestine …

Happy Reading! Happy Writing!

Literary Magazines with Fast Response Times

Here’s a short list of literary magazines who have stellar, super-fast response times to submissions:

Betwixt Magazine

Submission Period: April 1st – May 31st

Genres Accepted: Speculative Fiction

Response Rate: They don’t accept simultaneous or multiple submissions, but they are dedicated to getting back to their submitters within 2 weeks.

Nightmare Magazine

Submission Period: June 1st – June 15th

Genres Accepted: Horror & Dark Fantasy

Response Rate: They don’t accept simultaneous or multiple submissions, but they do promise to get back to you between 2 days to 2 weeks.

Bartleby Snopes

Submission Period: Rolling

Genres Accepted: Fiction

Response Rate: They accept simultaneous submissions, but not multiple submissions (you must wait at least 30 days before submitting a new piece to them). They get back to their submitters between 3-7 days.

One Throne

Submission Period: Rolling

Genres Accepted: Fiction

Response Rate: They don’t accept simultaneous or multiple submissions (you must wait at least 30 days before submitting a new piece to them). However, they do get back to their submitters within a week.

Shimmer Magazine

Submission Period: Closed to submission until September 3rd

Genres Accepted: Speculative Fiction (no poetry)

Response Rate: They don’t accept simultaneous or multiple submissions, but they are dedicated to getting back to their submitters within 2 weeks.

Apex Magazine

Submission Period: Currently open

Genres Accepted: SF&F, Horror, and Speculative (prose and poetry)

Response Rate: They don’t accept simultaneous or multiple submissions, but they get back to their writers within a month.

Threepenny Review

Submission Period: Open January – June

Genres Accepted: Literary Fiction

Response Rate: They don’t accept simultaneous or multiple submissions, but they strive to get back to their submitters within a week.

Adroit Magazine

Submission Period: Currently open, until August 11th

Genres Accepted: Fiction & Poetry

Response Rate: They accept simultaneous and multiple submissions, and promise to get back to their submitters within a month.

Blue Monday Review

Submission Period: Currently open, until July 31st

Genres Accepted: Fiction (style inspired by Kurt Vonnegut)

Response Rate: If you’re willing to pay $8 for an expedited submission (as well as some very useful, professional feedback on any submissions that aren’t accepted), they’ll get back to you within 2 weeks.

Palooka

Submission Period: Currently Open

Genres Accepted: Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction, & Graphic Narratives

Response Rate: They accept simultaneous and multiple submissions, and they’re dedicated to get back to their submitters within 2 weeks.

Cease, Cows

Submission Period: Closed for the Summer

Genres Accepted: Flash Fiction

Response Rate: If you’re willing to pay $5 for an expedited submission, they accept simultaneous and multiple submissions, and will get back to their paying submitters within a week.

 

 

A strange journey through the worlds of writing and publishing

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