Tuesday, February 9, 2010
The story of a successful short fiction submission
Yes, today is Tuesday, so I should be posting about last night's Grub Street class. However, on Sunday night I got some excellent news that must preempt our regularly scheduled programming.
I am delighted to announce that I will have a (very) short fiction piece published in Boston Literary Magazine's upcoming Spring 2010 issue! Many, many thanks to editor Robin Stratton.
Walking on Eggshells is a drabble inspired in part by a writing exercise given in my Grub Street class last week (KL and Sue... thank you), and it should be online around mid-March or so. I will, of course, provide a link when the issue is live, and I highly recommend that you peruse the current issue and archives; I am delighted to be in this literary company.
So, how did I find BLM? First, I ran a search on Duotrope for markets that were seeking literary (genre) flash fiction (length) and accepted e-mail submissions (sub type). And yes, that returned an intimidating 735 primary matches. But I started clicking around anyway. I clicked on magazines with cool names. I clicked on magazines I knew from previous internet searches. When I found magazines with content that I liked, I carefully reviewed the sections at the bottom of these listings, entitled "Work submitted here was also submitted to..." and "Users accepted here also had work accepted by..." I treated these like recommendations and clicked through all of those. In all cases I clicked on the website as well as the Duotrope summary listing page.
I told my husband that it was like going on blind dates or speed dating.* Some markets were clearly bad matches at first glance: for example, I cannot abide websites with talking animation on the front page, and I wouldn't want my work associated with them (the date with bad hygiene you don't even want to be seen with). Some seemed promising, but ultimately had content that didn't move me (the "good on paper" date with no chemistry). Some markets with good content were temporarily closed to submissions (the hot date who will be going away on business for several months). Others had incompatible length requirements for the pieces I have in progress, or were otherwise not a fit for me (the date who has incompatible views on religion or number of kids). Some just seemed too unattainable (the date who's so sought-after that he/she can actually hold out for a super model brain surgeon... you know who you are, Ploughshares. Some day you will be mine, One Story.)
At some point, I stumbled across a magazine that was labeled as being among the "Most Personable Fiction Markets." That sounded promising, and I clicked that link. Apparently, "54 markets have a personal rejection to form rejection ratio of at least 90%" -- they provide actual feedback with their rejections. I clicked on some more titles that appealed to me, and saw that Boston Literary was also in Duotrope's 25 Swiftest Fiction Markets, with an average response time of under seven days. Immediate gratification AND an explanation if I was rejected? An excellent combination. I went to the website.
INSTANT CHEMISTRY. The website was aesthetically pleasing, and the fiction was breathtaking. Sometimes you recognize intellectually that a short story is well-crafted, but it doesn't really get to you emotionally; these stories were going right for my gut. I devoured the current issue. The Headache in the Cellar (flash fiction). A New Tattoo, Health Kick, Memoirs of Icarus, Pool of Narcissus, and Test Day (quick fiction). And then, The Drabble and The Dribble, stories of exactly 100 or 50 words, respectively. I'd never heard of these categories before (indeed, I thought they were categories belonging exclusively to this magazine), and I thought they were marvelous.
I immediately opened up a document and started drafting a short piece based on an idea I'd gotten in class a few days earlier. When the first revision put me at 100 words exactly without my even trying, I knew it was meant to be.
Yes, I did continue to revise after that. (There's fate, and then there's just being sloppy.) Several versions later, I once again hit 100 words without having to count words as part of my edits (I ran the word count function periodically and then revised merely with an eye to going higher or lower, but without actually trying to add or remove an exact number of words). I then reviewed the submission guidelines once more, and sent the story off.
I'm thrilled that the editor of Boston Literary also felt it was a match, but in some ways I'm not totally surprised. Writers and editors talk about literary "voice" all the time... the fiction in the magazine's current issue (and, as I later discovered, the archives as well) "spoke" to me. Maybe it was a mutual fit because we have the same kind of voice.
I'm sure I will submit to Boston Literary again -- it is now my goal to write a successful "dribble". But they say there's more than one Mr. or Mrs. "Right" for everyone. I'm going to keep playing the field. I'm going to see what other matches are out there for me.
DO YOU HAVE A "MR/S. RIGHT" AGENT, EDITOR, OR PUBLISHER YOU HOPE TO WIN ONE DAY?
* Husband: "When were you on a blind date?"
Me: "Never. It's a metaphor. You are SO missing the point, honey."