Chain reaction: Duotrope went paid, which means I've spent more time than I'd like reading through individual web sites of journals for their submission guidelines. (Not exactly a laugh riot, but better, I assume, than the days when you'd have no recourse but to sift through Writer's Market or go to the shelf and look at the back page of individual journal issues). For the most part, this stuff is so standardized that it would probably save journals time and effort if they just linked to one web site with a unified set of guidelines. Simultaneous submissions, check. Cover letter optional but encouraged, check. No genre, check.
There are always exceptions; the occasional journal that mixes things up by being particular strict or particularly open. (Tin House has annoying little requirements about how to format the manuscript--but then, they're Tin House, so they get to do that. PANK has no submission guidelines whatsoever, leaving it up to you to send them what you want). But in all my submission guideline travels, which are usually accompanied by a glass of whiskey and something brain-meltingly stupid on Netflix, the only journal whose guidelines have ever really surprised me---and I should give the little milquetoast reassurance that I like and admire the journal, blah blah blah--is Ploughshares. Check out their guidelines here. Anything strike you as...weird? I'm talking specifically about this:
Live on NANO Fiction today(ish), you can read a sort of craft essay I wrote for the publication's "State of Flash" series. I'm in a big debt to Sophie Rosenblum, NANO's web editor, for A) Inviting me to contribute to the feature, B) Being completely on board with my nigh sociopathic inability to make everything I write into some reflection on an aspect of pop culture, and C) Working with me to edit my first draft of the piece extensively, making it far better in the end product than it was in the initial execution. We also worked together on revisions of my flash fiction piece, "Dogs Playing Poker," which appeared on the site and in NANO's latest print issue late last year.
Honestly, working with an editor who is willing to push your work to the limit and make it better is not the nuisance it's often portrayed as in, I dunno, Brenda Starr comic strips? (Struggling for a popular representation of a reporter or writer on this early morning). In my experience, it always makes the work better, transforms it into something more than it was when it was just the undiluted product of a lonely mind. I've been working on New South issue 6.1 this week, and it's my third issue, and we've worked with fiction and essay writers to do more edits on this issue than ever before. (On my first issue, we did precious little of this, but it's only ramped up). I think this has without a doubt made the issues better. Hopefully the writers featured in the issue agree.
In any event, "The Flash!" is a piece about the imaginative potential of very short fiction, using The Flash's ability to jump from dimension-to-dimension as an extended metaphor. It is at least one product of an adolescence spent chastely reading comic books alone in my bedroom. You can read it here, featured on NANO's homepage for a time. Permalink here.
Matt Sailor puts words here.