As part of our ongoing collaboration with Amsterdam University College, students from Mieke Eerkens’ creative writing class, recently read our submission queue. Here’s our conversation with the students:
Who are you?
We are students in the Creative Writing course at Amsterdam University College in The Netherlands, a liberal arts undergraduate college with an interdisciplinary approach to education that appeals to both international and domestic students.
Where are you from?
We are from all over the world. A number of us are Dutch, but we also have students from the United States, China, Poland, Dubai, Germany, Tanzania, Sweden, Spain, France, Russia, and Ukraine in the class, among others. Some of us are from tiny rural villages, and some of us are from large cities, so we really have a broad spectrum of backgrounds in the class.
Who are you favorite writers?
Our reading tastes run the gamut in the class and include Sally Rooney, Haruki Murakami, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Naomi Klein, Frances Hodgson Burnett, and science fiction writers and fantasy writers like Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, and Arthur C. Clarke.
What is your favorite SmokeLong story and why?
“Pictures—The Beach Outside of Nice” by Nance Knauer was a favorite in the class for its use of imagery and the structure with the repeated word “click” fragmenting the piece, as was “Life Size” by Erin Vachon for its great descriptions and plot twist. Several people also liked “Re: Your Short-Story Collection” by Camille Vazal for its use of humor. It was also fun to see the very process of selecting stories for publication by an editor used as the premise for a story, as it reflects a process we have been looking at as a class.
What did you learn from reading the submission queue?
We really came to understand that many great pieces get rejected because of the sheer volume of submissions and all the considerations that go into selecting just a few out of the massive submission queue. Also, how subjective it is. Some of us lobbied for certain stories that ultimately didn’t get enough consensus to move on. This is a comfort, because we could see that simply being rejected for one literary magazine doesn’t mean the piece is no good or nobody will like it. It’s a numbers game too. We also were inspired by all these different writers with different voices and subjects putting themselves out there. It taught us that it’s not such an impossible goal to put our own writing out there in the world at some point. Some comments from our discussion: “It’s just comforting to learn that it’s something that’s possible, that you can put your writing out there and try. People can be discouraging, and it is nice to see all the ambition, and that people don’t care about the naysayers and do it anyway.” “I agree. It makes the whole process more accessible. Like, ‘Oh, I could do this too.’” “Reading the submissions with more focus than I might normally give pieces of writing gave me a new, deeper relationship with writing and reading, I think.”
Did anything surprise you about the reading process?
“I always saw publishing as some mysterious process, and it’s nice to see the guts of it, to see how it’s done.” “There is such diversity in the types of pieces that are submitted.” “The in-class discussion of the pieces changed how I perceived some of them. It was interesting to see how I appreciated new things about each piece that we discussed in terms of the craft.”
Anything else you’d like to add?
We really appreciate the trust put in us to help with the selection process. We learned so much and gained a whole new appreciation for the difficult task of editors, as well as wide range of writers’ voices out there competing to be heard. It actually made the concept of submitting work feel less daunting, knowing there is a community of other aspiring writers out there doing it.