March #SLFAQ Recap!
Hey Split Lip editors—how was the process of putting together the new print issue different from putting together the first?
Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice, Editor-in-Chief: We knew what we were doing! Kidding. Kinda. This year was easier from a logistical standpoint, but harder because we knew what worked and didn't. For example, it was important for us to have tightly curated print issue that felt very thoughtful.
This takes tons of time, because you can't just randomly select work. You have to think of the issue like a cohesive whole and watch certain themes come to light. It's the most time-consuming yet rewarding part of the process.
Maureen Langloss, flash editor: I actually found putting the flash together to feel very very similar because both times I LOVED the work we got to publish so damn much. The quality of the writing & the authors’ commitment to editing to perfection made it an inspirational process 2 years in a row.
Any panels you're particularly excited about at #AWP19?
Kaitlyn: Yessss! Normally I get sucked into the book fair vortex and forget to leave/eat lunch, but I do plan to attend "A Flash of Difference: Diversity and Inclusion in Flash Fiction" on 3/28!
Also looking forward to seeing our own memoir editor Matt Young during "My Memoir’s First Year: Lessons Learned by New Authors of Creative Nonfiction"
Amy Rossi, managing editor: definitely recommend checking out S276. Changing of the Guard: Editors on Inclusion and Diversity in Literary Journals! (Note: our editor Kaitlyn will be on this panel!)
Marianne Chan, poetry editor: Sarabande Books is hosting an awesome panel called "Crafting the Short Form" on Thursday at 12:00pm, which sounds awesome. This panel is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about flash fiction, short essays, poetry chapbooks, and more.
I also really want to attend "Information to Astonishment—Research as Creative Process in Nonfiction & Poetry" on Friday, March 29th at 9am.
What makes you decide something belongs in the print issue rather than a web issue?
Kaitlyn: This is so hard to answer. Sometimes it's a feeling where I just know I want to experience the work on the page. Sometimes it's logistical due to the formatting constraints of our web site. Sometimes it's length. Longer stories, for example, don't usually do well online.
It's also often about theme. Once we start to see a thread running through the print issue, we start looking for specific types of work to expand that theme.
Matt Young, memoir editor: We’re editing a memoir right now for the next print issue potentially because it doesn’t feel like a standalone piece and would work better with complimentary work.
Kaitlyn: Yes! This is a great point. Because we publish only four pieces per issue on the web (1 piece per genre), the piece must be able to stand on its own. A print issue can be more like a concert with every piece playing their own instrument, all adding up to a big crescendo.
Marianne: When a poem stands alone, the reading experience is different from reading a poem that stands with other poems. I think about it this way: our online poems are soloists, while print issue poems work as an ensemble.
And what I mean here is: For the print issue, we want to make sure the poems are working together in harmony, even though all the voices are unique and varied and diverse.
Maureen: It’s partly a matter of timing. In the spring & summer, all accepted flash is considered for print. Some pieces really lend themselves to the visual of the page, like Rachel Mans McKenny’s story this year, which is a play. We also look to balance the issue with an array of styles & voices.
Anna Vangala Jones, editorial assistant: Agree with Kaitlyn on length for fiction. There is something about curling up with a print journal & words on the page that make you more excited for the longer short story. Easier than when you’re clicking on a link at work to read online during a lunch break.
We've been thinking a lot about short stories vs. flash fiction lately. Any specific thoughts?
Maureen: I write in both categories & for me it’s just a question of what can I do with 300-1000 words versus 3000-5000? Some stories want more time to develop. Others will not be improved by more words. I believe the story itself tells you where it’s supposed to sit.
Anna: Yes, so true. Some stories are improved by more enigma, by all that lives in the unsaid—and those lend themselves beautifully to flash—while other stories benefit from more scenes, more dialogue, more time to linger with the characters and their decisions.
Almost all of us on the editing team write in varying lengths, so no bias for one over another. But yes, sometimes we are searching for more development, movement, or a traceable arc of some kind in the short stories, whatever that might mean for the author.
Kaitlyn: We've seen a handful of stories lately hovering just above the flash word count range, where the story is light on plot but heavy on language (in a good way), and we always ask ourselves: Should this be shorter? Does this want to be flash?
When we look for stories to accept, we're really looking for plot. Sorry to say it, but something must happen! There must be movement, change. Not saying there needs to be a hero who overcomes his flaws + fights off dragons, but we must feel like we went from A to B.
Flash has more leeway on plot, but recently we've had convos about flash subs we loved where not much happened. And even though we enjoyed the ride, we still wanted more story. We want writing to amaze and entertain. We want people to read. Plot helps.
Maureen: I would love a cool dragon story, #SLFAQ. You have me thinking of Mark Galarrita’s “My Sad Werewolf,” which is a great example of subtle plot and movement in very few words. God, I love this story.
What can we expect at the IRxSL After Dark reading at #AWP19?
Kaitlyn: A festive fete featuring a truly amazing line-up! Free snacks. Cash bar. Adorable (covered! heated!) patio. Special edition swag in honor of our collab with Indiana Review. Overly excited editors from both SL and IR. Other things I can't yet share.
Amy: I mean, you see that lineup, right?? You can expect incredible writers reading incredible work in a relaxed but celebratory atmosphere. It's a reading AND a party, so we're looking forward to hanging out! Also: FREE SNACKS!!!
What about poetry or memoir? Anything we're looking for in particular right now? Any trends we're seeing?
Matt: I see a lot of second person right now but that form doesn’t always work. Like if you’re writing an epistolary essay or a choose your own adventure or some kind of form that uses second? Cool. Might work. But if not? It creates distance between reader and author.
I always look forward to diverse writers in my queue. We want to publish myriad experiences and voices. I love seeing first-time authors in the queue as well.
Also, send your experimental form work to me! I wrote an experimental memoir and I love weird forms. I’d love the form to also inform content and vice versa as well.
Kaitlyn: We are legitimately asking you to tend us stories in all their weird forms. Think: receipts, ads, songs, scripts, plays, commercials, robot's love notes, diagrams, ANYTHING.
Marianne: I too love weird forms! We want to see more diversity in terms of voice, style, background, etc. We want voices that don't resemble other voices we've published. We want a cacophony. Send us your wildest, dreamiest, tastiest work.
What is something you see often in a short story that's an immediate rejection?
Anna: For me, bigotry would be the only cause for that. Otherwise I always try to read first with an open mind and an eye towards what the author was trying to do with the piece before I start thinking about whether it’s successful at it or not.
Kaitlyn: We read everything until the end, but anything racist, sexist, xenophobic, ableist, homophobic, misogynistic gets a no.
Matt: For sure. Same w/memoir. Like you can have shitty experiences and you can write about them (you can even have been shitty person and write about it) but for me to want to publish you, you need to have reflective ability and demonstrate emotional intelligence.
What is your favorite Gwendolyn Brooks poem?
Marianne: Of course, "We Real Cool" is the shit.
Also, I love "An Aspect of Love." How can you not swoon at the lines:
There is a moment in Camaraderie
when interruption is not to be understood.
I cannot bear an interruption.
This is the shining joy;
the time of not-to-end.
What line of poetry haunts you?
Becky Robison, social media and marketing coordinator: “she crushed/the tonnage/of consciousness/congealed to phrases/to extract/a radium of the word” - from Mina Loy’s poem “Gertrude Stein.” Read it in grad school and wrote a flash inspired by it
Marianne: If being haunted is a positive thing, I've always loved these lines from the Adrienne Rich poem:
I dreamed you were a poem,
I say, a poem I wanted to show someone . . .
Also, one more. From Zachary Schomburg's Book of Joshua:
"I didn't feel like living in a thing not shaped like me anymore."
Anna: Too many, but this recently by Victoria Chang:
“I don’t know if the tomatoes are the new form of his language or if they’re
simply for eating. I can’t ask him
because on the other side, there are no words.”
Matt: “Say, It doesn't matter. Say, That would be/enough. Say you'd still want this: us alive,/right here, feeling lucky.” Ada Limon's “The Conditional” from Bright Dead Things (I know. It’s 3 lines.)
What's an editor's thoughts on writers borrowing from other writers? Ideas or specific lines taken from an older novel maybe. I know it happens but wanted to see from more from a critic's viewpoint.
Matt: We get a lot of epigraphs. I don’t mind them. But honestly I tend not to read them. I haven’t found a lot of people using other work in their memoirs—at least not stuff I recognize.
Kaitlyn: I guess it depends on how you're using it? I think getting inspiration from writers you love and doing your own thing isn't necessarily wrong. Any kind of quoting needs proper credit.
How many submissions do you receive a month on average?
Kaitlyn: 500-1000+, depending on whether we're open for free submissions.
Any general AWP advice?
Amy: hydrate. try to keep a snack with you or eat when you can. don't schedule yourself down to the last minute but also show up for the events of the people who matter to you.
if (and only if, AWP is expensive) you are in the financial position to do so, buy a beverage or some food at offsite readings. the venue is taking a risk on turning the profit they'd normally expect that night.
Marianne: Don't stress. Go do the things you want to do. Take a hike in the mountains. In the midst of all the business, don't forget to write. Also, if you a need a hug, I'll give them out for free.
Also, don't drink too much.
Amy: related: make time for dinner!!!
Kaitlyn: Also lunch. Also bring Advil.
Be a human first. Don't try to network or convince an editor to publish you. Don't ditch your friend to hang with "cool" writers. Don't panic. Have fun. If you need to escape to your hotel/Airbnb etc for a break, DO IT. I do this every year. Take a walk.
Also it's fine if you cry. I always cry. It's fine if you feel small or lonely. I always feel this way for at least some part. Please come visit us at T10041. We love to chat.
Maureen: When I feel overwhelmed or unable to chit chat another minute, I duck into a panel where I can be anonymous, I don’t have to talk to anyone, & I usually learn something new. I try to go to at least one panel that has nothing to do with what I write. Something new.
Clancy McGilligan, reviews and interviews editor: Get some writing time in, hit the book fair, bring some snacks!
That's a wrap! We look forward to seeing you at AWP and at Produce Row on Friday, March 29!