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Amsterdam University College Takes Over The Queue!

March 21, 2021

Photograph by John Schnobrich

This week, students from the Creative Writing class at Amsterdam University College will be reading our submission queue alongside our submissions editors! Read the interview below to learn more about the students and what they’ll be looking for.

Who are you?

We’re the Spring 2021 creative writing class at Amsterdam University College, or more specifically, Mahi, Margherita, Sel, Luuk Kuiper, Phoebe, Rik Worring, Per Movig, Lisa Schmidt, Kurt Kurat, Anthony Girgis, Isabelle Haak, Iris Jong, Tariq Sayed Hassen, Aakash Nair, Laura Wetherington, and others.

Where are you from?

We’re from Planet Earth; everywhere; a little room in between Flevopark and a train station; Amsterdam University College; where the o’s sound round; Mokum (Amsterdam for the uninitiated); Roanoke, Virginia; a train; Belgium; The god damn fish; India; a small blue rock aimlessly floating through space, the inhabitants call it ‘Earth’; 52.38084, 4.63683 (Haarlem); the red sea.

What do you expect you’ll learn from this reading experience? 

We’re hoping to gain a window of insight into someone’s publication journey, but also their creative one: the variety of writing styles and themes of all these writers. We hope to learn all that writing can be: all the different styles and stories, new techniques, styles, and tones we’ve never even imagined before. Some of us want a new perspective on what makes people want to publish a specific piece of work. We want to appreciate fictional reading to a new level and to learn the means of discussing fictional texts with others. Some of us expect to feel disappointment because there will be some good pieces that won’t make it in, and some expect to feel way too powerful…a mix of adrenaline rushes and pangs of responsibility. At least one of us, who is a pessimist, expects not to learn much.

Which published stories from SmokeLong Quarterly do you love and why?  

We had such a range of reactions! Some of us loved the stories that make us giggle out loud, combined with a feeling of melancholy towards the ending. Some liked the stories that they personally connected with, or that made them feel and think, Wow I know this feeling, I’m not quite sure why though so I’ll keep reading in the hopes of finding out more. Others of us liked stories that had unexpected turns, or stories that build up, giving bits of information near the end that make everything more clear. That makes us want to keep reading. We’re interested in the stories that take words and unapologetically make them their own, twist and bend. The ones that try out new formats, new ways of telling a story. Stories that take a feeling that you recognise, dress it up in a fancy new jacket, and show that somehow… even in this weird situation, the core of the emotion is universal. We loved interesting personalities in the stories, characters that are refreshing yet familiar. “Only Skin” resonated. A lot happens in a short time, a very calm sadness. The ending made one of us wonder what will happen next. “Cat in the Rain” is pretty good. Oh wait, that’s not a SmokeLong story is it? (Some of us love Hemingway.)

How do you imagine the published SmokeLong stories you’ve read will influence what you’re looking for in the queue?

Not leaving the house much will make stories ring differently. The title of a story will be very decisive. We’ll be looking for titles that seem especially weird or intriguing—that speak to us in some way. Its unfolding, the ways in which it takes you by surprise, or doesn’t. We will be looking for a “feeling” in the texts. Connection or maybe the opposite; something you have never felt but can sympathize with. We’re going to be looking for something we can’t stop thinking about. If it haunts in a good way. Or it tickles a sense of “I wish I had written that,” that’s a pretty good start. We’ll be drawn to stories that take us unexpected places.

What makes a flash fiction ending really stick with you?

It has to stand in the air around you for a few hours, days, or a week after reading, like a ghost kind of, but not haunting; it is still part of you. If it leaves you something to think about or if it leaves you wanting more, curious about the wider picture or world this is taking place in. A story sticks when you are left not entirely sure how you feel after reading the piece (yes!) When it shapes the entire piece in a completely new light. When it ends.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Try to eat fruit every day!

Writing this feels like operating in a hivemind. It’s pretty nice.

Drink lots of water!

We are extremely grateful to be part of the editing process for SmokeLong Quarterly. We also would like to thank our teacher Laura Wetherington specifically for making this opportunity happen. (Yes! Thank you Laura!) This has been an interesting intertextually co-operative interview experience.


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