There was a conversation recently on Zoetrope (an online writing workshop that I strongly recommend) about what editors are looking for in flash fiction. Our incredible Guest Editor for this issue, Ellen Meister, suggested that one of my responses in that discussion would make a good letter. So, in hopes that both writers and readers will appreciate a brief look into one editor’s mind, I’ll paste some of it (with minor edits) here:
Writers, don’t write to editors’ tastes. Screw editors. If you try to make your writing conform to what you think people want, it won’t be truthful. Yeah, yeah, I know that sounds trite, but it’s true. The stuff I like best? When a writer takes a huge risk and writes what (s)he is really uncomfortable writing, writing down the stories that (s)he never thought (s)he could tell. And I don’t just mean writing their inner demons. For some writers, that is the comfort zone.
An example is Gary Cadwallader (who appears in this issue). He’s a great writer who definitely has a recognizable style, and I like that style. But the piece of his that bowled me over and shook my world was “Jewel,” a tender and heartfelt piece about his wife. I freaking love that piece, because he let the charm down and let us see inside him. And what’s inside is beautiful.
So write what rocks your world. It’s vanity to think that any one of us is so hideously unique that a piece that’s deeply important to us would never find someone else who’d be similarly moved. It might not rock me, but if it rocks you, I guarantee it will rock someone else.
And that’s precisely what this issue contains: a lot of deeply intimate, honest writing that rocked the world of our staff. Whether written by a well-known author like Steve Almond (and you really must read his Candyfreak) or a piece by someone newer to the publishing game like Jen Wright, all of the pieces herein leave lasting impressions.
The quality and quantity of the work that we’ve received is so great, in fact, that after this issue we will be publishing bi-monthly and publishing in print as well, so that we may deliver more great content to as many readers as possible. If our second year is even close to as exciting as our first, it’s going to be dazzling.
I want to thank everyone who has made SmokeLong’s first year one of the most exciting years of my life, but there simply isn’t space. To all the writers who have submitted, to the amazing staff here past and present, to all the people who have read this infant magazine, thank you. At some point, I’m going to try to thank as many of you as possible individually.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Editor, SmokeLong Quarterly
June 15, 2004