Friday, October 21, 2011

The trouble with shorts

Since my novel is still going nowhere fast, I've been giving short story writing another go. I know I blogged on this genre before and lamented about how damn hard it is, but I had an idea kicking around and some free time so I just dove back in. I've managed to write a short story that actually works. And I have no idea how it happened.

Now herein lies the rub: what literary journals should I submit to? So many journals have very specific requirements. Descant, for instance, assigns themes for each issue and Brick doesn't accept any unsolicited works of short fiction. Many other Canadian literary journals have loooong waiting lists, often up to one year. And here's my other concern: I want to be published in a journal that agents and editors actually read (or at least skim). I'm not that familiar with the literary journal world and while I've done some online research, I have no idea what journals are tops. The only one I subscribe to is Glimmer Train, which is beautifully produced and awesome, but is it an influential journal? I have no idea.

Writing contests are super, I've been told. The CBC short story contest, Canada Writes, is always kicking around, but the word count is far too short for me at 1500. (My story is twice that.) The option that I'm seriously considering is the Vanderbilt-Exile Short Fiction Competition. I'm not sure why Anderson Cooper's denim-designing mother co-sponsors this contest but it sounds like the most appropriate place for my story. (Perhaps her deceased son was a writer? Anyone?) I am a bit concerned, however, that my story could be viewed as a tad bit anti-American and therefore booted out of consideration. (It's satire, but still...)

If anyone out there has any recommendations for high-quality literary journals that I can submit to, they would be much appreciated. I'd love to turn this short story into a novel, so a journal that agents/editors read would be amazing.

8 comments:

  1. Here's the question: Is there a limit to how many literary journals you can submit to? Why wouldn't you just submit to, well, all of them?

    I knew a guy in high school - good guy, but not the best looking, and didn't always have the best luck with girls. In his mid-twenties he all of a sudden had a different girl coming home with him every night he was out at the bar. When we asked him what was up, he just said "for every twenty girls you ask, ONE of them will come home with you".

    Literary journals are your drunk bar whores, Emily. QED.

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  2. Matt: Literary journals are my drunk bar whores -- you're so right. Much like drunk whore-related activities, however, submitting to lots of journals can be risky. (Some, like the Exile contest, require exclusivity. And what if two journals say "yes" at the same time?) But you're right -- I might as well try as many as I'm able to... and deal with the sores and lesions later.

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  3. I enjoy this nifty online journal of short fiction: http://www.joylandmagazine.com/

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  4. Thanks Amandar (if that's your real name). I've never heard of that journal before. Love the regional way they organize themselves.

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  5. Glimmer Train is good. There are many good ones. Indiana Review, Agni, Ploughshares, Paris Review, Crazy Horse, Tin House, Fiction, Mississippi Review, Kenyon Review, Black Clock. I think some agents subscribe to a good deal of lit mags, as two of my friends have had work solicited by agents based on publishing in small journals. Thanks for checking out my blog!

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  6. Also, I should add that at the L.A. reading Eugenides said the Virgin Suicides was not his first book. He had written two (or was it three?) others first. I read elsewhere that he was rejected from the Paris Review something like 13 times before they published the first chapter of Virgin. I think from there his road to success was paved, but he was well into his thirties and not on his first book.

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  7. Thanks for the suggestions, Franzine. All good ones!

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  8. Eugenides struggled? Wow, Franzine I had no idea. So that means that I'm just as good as he is! Yes! That's the only possible way of applying that information! Woo hoo!

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