What’s the Slush Pile Like, Anyway? – Part 1

I’ve intended to write a blog post about this for quite some time now but, as with all things, it’s taken me a bit to get around to it. As most of you likely know, I’m an editor at Goldfish Grimm’s Spicy Fiction Sushi. When we opened up to submissions back in February 2012, Matt and I were reading all the slush ourselves. And wow. Was that an experience!

slush pile editing

As the year rolled on (and after I had a baby), our response times got slower and slower. Was it the best idea to start a magazine the same year you get pregnant? Probably not. Still, we’re pretty proud of the thing anyway and happy to have been able to give a decent home to some fabulous stories along the way.

But that’s not what you want to know. No, you want to get a sneak peak into the slush pile. You want to know what it looks like from the editor’s perspective. While I can’t speak for editors at other publications, I can tell you what it looks like on our end: from file management to the stories themselves.

File Management System

Some of you may be interested in knowing how we manage files over here. We actually use DropBox to  keep track of everything. There’s a dedicated slush email address, of course, and we drop story attachments as they come in into the slush readers’ folders on DropBox. Stories are randomly assigned.

As the readers make a decision on each story, they drop them into the appropriate folder–Rejections or Second Round. If rejecting a story, the reader will then send out the appropriate email to the writer. While we have a form rejection template, readers can include personalized notes if the story warrants it. If the reader is moving a story onto the second round, they will send an email relating this news to the writer as well.

From there, Matt and I will read the second round stories and accept or reject them. That’s pretty much it in terms of file management.

The Stories

We have a small slush pile. That’s what happens when you run a token publication. We’ve accepted that we’re not people’s first choice to send submissions. That’s the way of things. However, we do get a good number of stories and they vary widely in terms of quality. We’ve had it pretty good so far. No threatening letters. No responses scribbled in crayon. Of course, we’re an online publication so if someone wanted to pen a crayon response, they’d have to write it out, scan it, then send it. Honestly, if that happened, I’d be impressed by their commitment.

[waits for someone to actually do this..]

The types of stories we get fall into three categories. No, I’m not talking about science fiction or fantasy here:

  1. Decent. That is, the story is engaging enough to get past the first few paragraphs. It hooks its fingers in. Then, as you approach the last page, a sinking feeling overwhelms. There aren’t enough words left to wrap this up. And then, the story ends. With no resolution. These stories piss me off because they’re well-written and have potential but don’t DO enough. They fall flat. I feel like I wasted my time by the time I get to “the end.” These stories get personal rejections because they have so much potential and could possibly be made better with a few tweaks. 
  2. Bad. This might sound mean, because I’m certain I’ve submitted some bad stories in my day. Not knowingly at the time, but still. It happens to the best of us. The bad stories may be poorly written, have no discernible plot, lack compelling characters, or lack clarity. They may be outright offensive or make no sense. It may be a combination of these factors that result in a form rejection.
  3. Good (and Great). These stories work. They capture our attention from the first line and don’t let go until the end. These stories get passed to the second round as quickly as our slush readers can click. While we can’t accept every good story we come across, these tales always get a personal rejection with notes about how great they are with the caveat that they just didn’t fit, we couldn’t find room for them, couldn’t find a complementary story, etc. Letting these ones go sucks, but such is the way of editing a magazine. Just like writers must kill their darlings, editors, too, must slaughter the slush–even the slush they’ve fallen in love with.

There are few kind of submitters we deal with as well. But I’m saving that for the next blog post. Stay tuned for part 2!

May Stories Up at Goldfish Grimm

It’s that time once again. The new issue of Goldfish Grimm’s Spicy Fiction Sushi is up and I’ve just got to spread the word.

Issue 3 breaks down like this:

“Through Bleached Bone” by Cate Gardner

“Twenty-Seven Rules for Coping” by Michael Haynes

As always, there are interviews with both authors on the site as well.

This issue is is considerably darker than our previous issues and really carries a cohesive theme. Matt and I are pretty pleased with it and I hope you’ll all stop by and read the stories and leave a comment. Also, isn’t Matt’s artwork awesome? It’s the first time he’s incorporated some subtle animation and I hope it’s something he continues. I like it!

April Stories Up at Goldfish Grimm

I’m seriously late posting this here, but better late than never, right?

Over at Goldfish Grimm’s Spicy Fiction Sushi, two new stories are up for the month of April.  It’s quite different than Issue 1 and contains stories that span the gamut of fiction from fairytale to post-apocalyptic. The table of contents includes:

“The Lady With An Ax” by Kurt Newton.

“Clank-Clank Nanny” by Jaym Gates

Head on over there to read the stories and leave a comment if you haven’t already. I’m sure the authors would appreciate it!

Busy Writer is Busy

Okay, so I should probably clarify the title of this post. “Busy Writer is Busy Doing Everything Except Writing.”

Sigh. It’s true. I haven’t been too productive the past two months. But I have good reasons, I promise. Well, sort of good reasons. There’s no good reason, is there? Oh well, just lie to me and tell they’re good enough.

My husband made this. He is awesome.

Back in January, my husband and I decided to start a magazine. It’s called Goldfish Grimm’s Spicy Fiction Sushi and it’s pretty awesome. However, while we were preparing to launch the submission guidelines we got some news: I’m pregnant.

We launched the magazine guidelines anyway, but ever since the middle of January, not a whole lot of creative writing has been getting done. Between doctor’s appointments, trying to figure out how in the hell we’re going to pay for all of this birthing stuff, and reading slush, there hasn’t been a lot of time to put pen to paper.

Some days I’m okay with that, other days I get mad at myself. Such is the nature of the writer’s mind. We all hate ourselves a little bit, don’t we? However, I feel like things are slowly turning around. I have a short story in progress. I need (NEED!!) to rewrite a story for a third time for the Bibliotheca Fantastica anthology. I have another short I need to edit and kick out the door. Plus, I got a rewrite request on a story the other day and I’m working on that, too. See? Progress!

And then maybe, just maybe, I can tackle edits on Dr. Fantastic. Finally. After much procrastination. I need to do it. Feel free to poke me about it, too. I need pushing sometimes.

This is my very loose plan of action, but I thought you all deserved an update. It’s been too long.