SmokeLong Quarterly

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“Desiccated Roses”—A Letter from the Editor

Story by Tara Laskowski June 20, 2016

A quick note before I talk about this issue’s amazing stories and content. Recently SmokeLong was made aware that some of our authors had their stories stolen by B. Mitchell Cator, whose collection of stories and novel included large sections of plagiarized text. C.R. Park’s story “I Can’t Talk About Butter Because Margarine Is All I Know,” was republished under a different title in the collection, and at least two other SmokeLong authors, Leigh Allison Wilson and Ed Bull, had sentences and paragraphs lifted and inserted into Cator’s novel. The novel and the collection have since been removed from Amazon and Goodreads. Thanks mainly to the efforts of our founder and publisher Dave Clapper, the starred review given by Kirkus was removed and Kirkus issued a statement about plagiarism and intolerance of it.

We were saddened and angry to hear about these violations. SmokeLong is a completely volunteer effort. We work hard to publish a journal of integrity and utmost quality. We aren’t compensated for our work, and we also cannot pay our writers and artists (except for the Kathy Fish Fellow, who is funded on donations). We are fortunate that writers and artists are willing to entrust us with their art for no compensation, and we are thrilled to be able to give them a place to showcase their work and build an audience. So it sickens me when someone would take advantage of that trust and spirit of the community and steal from us and our authors.

I’m sure it’s not the first time this has happened and won’t be the last. At SmokeLong, we have thought about how to improve our processes to improve quality and fight plagiarism. Right now we are recruiting for a copy editor on staff who will, in addition to proofreading and reading submissions, help us check for instances of plagiarism or contract violations to help ensure that writers aren’t being stolen from. It’s not a perfect solution, but we hope it will help. If you are interested in applying for that position, you can find out more details here.


Issue 52

We grow up listening to fairy tales. We whisper them to our children at night in bed, but they also float out there in the consciousness, stories and legends that wrap themselves around us and don’t let go. Perhaps when we are little, the stories are full of shiny castles, beautiful princesses, thriving roses, happily ever after. But as we get older, the fairy tales get a little tarnished. They age and mature, they sometimes rot, or like the rose of our cover image, they get holes, desiccate. We can still see the former beauty in them, but they are more complex now, and to me that only makes them more interesting.

A few of the stories in Issue 52 are retold, inspired by, or feel like fairy tales or legends. A.A. Balaskovits’ “An Old Woman with Silver Hands” is a retelling of the fairy tale “The Handless Maiden.” In Dana Diehl’s “Swallowed,” a mournful story of two brothers inside a whale’s belly, you can’t help thinking about Jonah and that iconic Biblical tale. “Time Has No Essence” by John Riley also feels Biblical in its exploration of death and what comes after. And Nicole Hebdon’s “Pearls,” a wonderfully haunting piece, feels like it’s been plucked from any number of classic fairy tale books—the image of a lost and drowning wedding dress will give you shivers.

More modern-day fairy tales might be found in stories like “A Moving Target,” which explores, among other things, reality television, and “Storage,” a delightful tale about what happens when you win a movie star and bring him home to help clean out your garage.

And of course there are plenty more stories in this issue that will wrap around your consciousness and not let go. I wouldn’t advise whispering them to your children quite yet, though.


Speaking of telling children stories, I wanted to remind everyone that we are always open for submissions for our Fridge Flash series of stories and artwork from children ages 12 and younger. Please check out the guidelines and send us something! We love seeing a Fridge Flash submission pop up in the queue.

I also recently wrote an essay for Publisher’s Weekly about bringing my four-year-old son to literary readings and book launches. We need more writers and readers, so recruit them early!

So much is happening at SmokeLong these days. You can also share your perspective on why you write flash fiction in our Why Flash Fiction? blog series, or if you write in French, Danish, Spanish, or German, check out our Global Flash Series!


Thanks, as always, for your support of SmokeLong and all our writers and artists.


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.


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