by Alice Franklin
Being a reader-in-residence at SmokeLong has been an eye-opening experience. Though I knew beforehand that very few stories got accepted, it wasn’t until I saw the volume of stories that came our way that I appreciated how competitive it is. And I think that, on the whole, most of the pieces that come SmokeLong’s way are pretty good; only a few stories merit a unanimous, definite no. Perhaps these stories were sent our way a bit too soon after writing. Perhaps they felt like they were part of something bigger — a longer short story or (gasp!) novel-length work.
This goes to show that, if you want to get published by SmokeLong, then you really need to pull out all the stops and send something that has been seen by more than just you, something that you have worked on and thought about for quite some time. The standard is high, so you need to be on top form.
Personally, I enjoyed the pieces that were fun and silly and daft and strange, probably because — given that this life can seem long, germy, and stressful — it’s important to celebrate lightness when we can. I also liked the stories that weren’t trying so hard, that were specific and precise and just generally nice. There was also this one story that just blew me away. I read it a gazillion times in a row, showed it to my girlfriend, and carried it around in my head all day. On paper, it was everything I disliked about writing (it fucked with punctuation a lot), but holy crap, it was good. If I have any advice for anyone, it’d be to do that: write something that’s really good, and then you’ll be absolutely fine.
Alice Franklin’s writing has appeared in Lighthouse, MIROnline and Open Pen. Last year, she came second place in the Reflex Fiction contest and, this year, she graduated from UEA’s MA Prose as the 2019 recipient of the Kowitz scholarship. She is currently at work on a fictionalization of her experience growing up autistic. Twitter: @alicenfranklin