SmokeLong Quarterly

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“All that flash can do”—A Letter from the Editor

Story by Tara Laskowski June 18, 2018

Art by Jessica Gawinski

When I first thought of the idea for the contest issue, I was excited but also very nervous. Would we be able to earn enough money to pay our winner? Would anyone enter? Would our submitters be mad at us for closing our general submissions for so long?

And yet, after 15 years of publishing, it seemed like it was time for us to hold a flash fiction contest. So we held our breaths—and jumped in.

And boy, did you all respond!

Over the approximately 15 weeks that we had submissions open, we received more than 2,000 stories. We read all submissions completely blind, which meant each time we accepted or declined a story, we had no idea who we were writing to until after we hit send. It was a pleasure, time and again, to see the names pop up after sending the acceptance. Among those names were former contributors to SLQ, Kathy Fish finalists, writers who’ve been trying us for some time, and a few—such as our third-place winner, Elaine Edwards—for whom this was their first-ever publication. Making this as diverse of an issue as all the rest—with such amazing talent.

As Christopher Allen and I were going through the final touches on the issue, we kept writing back and forth to each other about how amazing this issue turned out to be. The stories here truly showcase all that flash can do. They are filled with great emotional arcs—from sadness and loneliness and heartbreak to euphoria, comfort, and peace. The characters feel authentic, with pasts and histories that carry great weight. Some, like “Haunt,” “The Cover-Up,” and our winner, “Whale Fall,” are filled with lyrical prose that will take your breath away. Others are masters in what’s left unsaid, such as “’I’m Ron McRain,’ said Ron McRain” and “It’s Over.”

Then there are the stories that stand out because of their unique from and structure. Check out “Taking Notes” and “Everything There Is to Love on Earth” for examples of this. Our Kathy Fish Fellow Tochukwu Okafor presents a breathtaking one-sentence wonder with “Boy” as well.

All 23 stories in Issue 60 are excellent in their own way and deserve to be read and talked about over and over again. Our staff is so grateful to the writers for sending them our way, and we hope after you read them all, you’ll agree.

Also, in case you missed it, we are now a paying market! SmokeLong will begin paying writers $25 a story upon publication in our quarterly issues. General submissions will remain free to all writers (though we have a tip jar option open if you’re feeling generous and want to help us stay a paying market).

I won’t get in your way any longer. Start off your summer the right way and start reading all these sizzling stories! You can also listen to the Issue 60 playlist as you read. Check it out here.

Thank you once again for being the best readers and writers out there. We couldn’t do any of this without all of you.


Tara Laskowski
Editor, SmokeLong Quarterly

About the Author

Tara Laskowski

Tara Laskowski has been editor at SmokeLong Quarterly since 2010. Her short story collection Bystanders was hailed by Jennifer Egan as “a bold, riveting mash-up of Hitchcockian suspense and campfire-tale chills.” She is also the author of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons, tales of dark etiquette. Her fiction has been published in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mid-American Review, and numerous other journals, magazines, and anthologies. Tara lives and works in a suburb of Washington, D.C.

About the Artist

Jessica Gawinski is pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration at Kendall College of Art and Design in Michigan. Her artwork has been displayed in various exhibitions, including the Society of Illustrators Student Scholarship Exhibition, has been auctioned off at charity events, and can be found in several private collections.


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A SmokeLong Summer

May 30-Aug 28!

From May 30 to August 28 2022, SmokeLong is going to host a superworkshop. We want to spend the summer with you, the flash community. Our workshops take place on a devoted website where you can create a profile, interact with the flash community, and take part in group discussions on craft, but A SmokeLong Summer will be much more.