Letter from the Editor (26)
by Randall Brown September 16, 2009
I am leaving SLQ after this issue to teach at and direct the MFA in Creative Writing program at Rosemont College, and that makes me think of how my association with SLQ began over five years ago when I first began my writing career at 38—with three rejections, one after another. I took these as a sign that SLQ didn’t like my work (or me) very much, and I crossed SLQ off my list of potential markets.
When a solicitation request came from SLQ a month or so later, I was more than a bit confused, and when an offer to guest edit an issue followed, I realized that I didn’t very much understand how this whole publication/literary market/writing “thang” worked. While guest editing I had the (mis)fortune to read over the discussions about my (rejected) work, and, while they’d found many nice things to say about the pieces, they were waiting, it seemed, for the piece in which the potential I had displayed (in flashes) realized itself more completely. I think that was the moment I fell in love with SLQ, when I discovered the secret desire it had not only for me, but for all of its submitters. It had something to do with their wish for brilliance and their belief I was capable of it.
Oddly, perhaps, as I prepare to leave SLQ as its Lead Editor and begin anew elsewhere, it’s my birthday. I can think of no wonderfuler gift than this “last” issue (for me), chock-full of people who have helped make my own secret desires (dare I say it?)—to make something of myself as a writer—a (tiny) something of a reality. I began to write flash fiction before I knew it existed, and I still feel a bit awed when I encounter it in the world. It began, for me, as poetry without the line break and then became something altogether other.
Since I was very young, I’ve collected things, a desire I got from my grandfather. It must mean something, don’t you think, this need to collect, and I’ve always been as curious about the places that people find for their collections as I am about the collections themselves.
So somewhere above I mentioned not knowing what this whole writing/publication thing is about? I think it’s about someone or a group of someones wanting to collect things and wanting to find a place to put them. And when he or she or they choose one of your things for their collection, it feels so fantastically good. And when they don’t, no matter what you know about the world of writing and publication, it sucks and hurts a little bit. But it’s worth it, when you see your work collected among all these sparkly pieces, isn’t it?
I’ll so miss that. And you. And all your tiny sparkly things.
Lead Editor, SmokeLong Quarterly
September 16, 2009
While I hate to tarnish what is my favorite letter from the editor ever displayed here, I hope y’all will indulge me in a little post-script. To see Randall off without any mention of how much he’s meant to SLQ would not only be incredibly uncouth, it would also be dishonest.
I remember those office discussions of early submissions by Randall, and I remember the comradery among many of the folks who were such huge influences on Randall early on in his writing. I remember being taken under Bev Jackson’s wing on Zoetrope about the same time she similarly mentored Randall (he and I appeared in her magazine, InkPot, just two months apart in 2004). Myfanwy Collins was the flash fiction editor there. I remember private offices on Zoetrope, where folks like Kathy Fish, Steven Gullion, Jeff Landon, Ellen Parker, and Joseph Young made us feel like equals, even as we looked on in wonder at the writing they’d already done. And I remember how excited Randall was to win the Flume competition with “Mad to Live,” specifically because of the influence Sherrie Flick’s book with them had had on him. Until this issue, I never had the pleasure of working with Pamela Painter, Randall’s professor and advisor in the MFA program at Vermont College. That we could gather new content from each of these amazing people for this issue shows not only what wonderful people they are, but how much Randall means and has meant to them.
What Randall has meant to flash fiction and to SLQ isn’t easy to put into words. When SLQ started, there were few markets where one could submit flash fiction. Of those, even fewer exclusively wanted flash. Now, it seems that flash has become ubiquitous in lit mags, especially online. In the past couple years alone, multiple presses have instituted contests to publish collections of flash. There have been several great advocates of the form: besides the folks mentioned above, Mark Budman, Sean Lovelace, Scott Garson, Kim Chinquee, Jennifer Pieroni, Robert Shapard, and many others come to mind. But if asked to name one person who has been the most tireless advocate of flash generally (and, to our great fortune, of SmokeLong specifically), I would name Randall in a heartbeat. His blog, flashfiction.net has become a daily must-read for anyone really interested in the form. Submissions to SLQ under his leadership grew from 300 to 1200 per issue. New journals publishing flash could always count on an excellent piece from Randall arriving in their in-boxes.
Although it’s seemed like a slow process, the gains flash fiction has made among “serious” literary circles over the past five years are enormous. That a writer who specialized in flash would be asked to run an MFA program five years ago was probably unthinkable. And yet here we are. That Randall is the person who should have achieved that position seems obvious. Rosemont College may not realize what an incredible hire they’ve made just yet. If they don’t, they will soon. They’ve taken the first step toward putting a little-known school on the map, toward making Rosemont the place writing students think of first when they realize they want to pursue the wildly growing form of flash fiction. I can’t wait to start reading submissions here from the graduates who emerge from that program.
I’m going to miss Randall a ton. But, as a passionate fan of flash fiction, I’m delighted at the way the landscape has changed and is changing, and to know that Randall will continue to be one of its greatest champions.
All the best to you, Randall. We’ll miss all your tiny sparkly things, too.
Founding Editor, SmokeLong Quarterly
About the Author:
Randall Brown is on the faculty of Rosemont College’s MFA in Creative Writing Program. He has been published widely, both online and in print. He earned his MFA at Vermont College.
About the Artist:
A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.