Two and a half months into reading for SmokeLong Quarterly, it’s gratifying to reflect on the experience to date.
Like Tim Craig from the previous reader-in-residence group, I jumped at the chance. (See Tim’s blog post December 2020). Like Tim, there was no way I would have turned it down. And like Tim, I have an equally tiny record of prior interactions with SLQ, (one submission, one rejection).
It’s scary. This is the flash fiction journal. I quote from SLQ, recommend it when teaching. SmokeLong has existed for almost two decades; twice as long as I’ve known what flash writing is.
When asked to read, I checked my other commitments, grossly underestimated them, and said, yes, yes, yes.
Last week, I read about 200 flash fictions (not all from SLQ!). I mulled over them, re-read them, Googled references, wrote summaries, gave each a score and compiled comments.
I didn’t sleep much.
But it was worth it. Some of the stories received last week elicited a physiological response, including three from SLQ. I stomped my feet with joy.
I can’t reveal too much about my favourites, as some are still under consideration. They’re mainly pieces with carefully crafted layers, or those with the crunch of tight, exquisite language. Writers providing a balanced story arc earned a high score, as did those who paid attention to the rhythm and patterning.
I’m particularly pleased to see SLQ encourages and identifies nonfiction and hybrid. These are forms I favour, and have recently taught at workshops.
The selection process is democratic. I might love something, only to find someone else finds it clichéd. Later, further comments appear, we chew over the bones of the piece, point out the essence, or conversely what sticks in our throats. Eventually the verdict is delivered. I inwardly choke or rejoice.
The truth is, very few get through. The high number of submissions is a reflection of how well respected SLQ is. But as with most places I have read for, people’s work is treated with respect. Yes, there is a variation in the apparent experience of contributors, and some miss the mark in terms of the aesthetic, (seafood chowder offered at a vegan food market, or a cheeseburger with cheese and no meat patty − it happens). We’ve probably all done it at least once: taken the cake out of the oven too soon, sent something off with less redrafting than necessary.
I’ve learned a lot, for example how Submittable works from the inside. It’s a bit like catching a glimpse of your favourite restaurant’s kitchen.
Best of all, you sit at the table with editors you admire and pull the layers of a piece apart, or argue about why your chosen morsel should be served. Let’s share a bottle of virtual chardonnay and enjoy the result together: issue Seventy-One.
Thank you for the invitation.
Originally from the U.K., Nod Ghosh lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, and has been writing flash fiction since 2012 after being introduced to the form by Frankie McMillan at the Hagley Writers’ Institute. Nod was runner-up in both the New Zealand National Flash Fiction Day competition in June 2016 and the Bath Flash Fiction Award in June 2017. The Crazed Wind (novella-in-flash 2018) and Filthy Sucre (three novellas 2020) have been published by Truth Serum Press. Nod has run workshops including at the Bath Flash Fiction Festival in 2019, teaches at Write On School for Young Writers and offers regular critique for other writers.