SmokeLong Quarterly

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“Nebulous Jellyfish”—A Letter from the Editor

Story by Tara Laskowski March 21, 2016

Flash fiction can often be just like those nebulous jellyfish on our beautiful cover art by Jessica Gawinski. Floating in a larger world, its soft edges blurring. Some flash feels like you can put your hand through it. The story wants to sting you. It’s there, in front of you, but still indistinct, still difficult to understand.

I’ve always liked reading flash that makes you feel suspended, whether that’s suspended in some emotion or place, or just washing over you and totally immersing you, for a moment, in its greatness. The 21 stories in Issue 51 have this effect on me. Every one of them is strong in its own way—poignant, funny, heartbreaking, raw, distinct. They’ll brush against you like a jellyfish riding a gentle wave and leave sting marks that you’ll feel for a long time after.

Our writers this time explore the complexity of emotions. Check out “Consequence” by Elizabeth Deanna Morris Lakes and “The One About a Guy Walking Into a Bar” by Tyler Barton; both stories use humor to tackle painful and scary subjects.

There’s also an interesting theme about belief in this issue. Religion plays a big role in “Thank Jesus,” “Daddy’s Boy,” and “Where We Learn to Bang Our Heads Against a Brick Wall.” The unreliable narrator in Claire Polders’ “Copycat” seems to be trying to convince the reader as much as herself that if she can only make a hopeless relationship work she can be whole again. And in 2016 Kathy Fish Fellow Shasta Grant’s debut story “Real Sports,” a young woman does whatever is necessary to secure a place in her boyfriend’s world—even when faced with the horror of her future laid out before her.

There are many more delights waiting for you this time, so get to it!

I also wanted to give a quick congratulations to SmokeLong‘s contributors to the 2016 The Best Small Fictions anthology. Three stories—”Parting” by Elizabeth Morton, “Natural Disaster” by Jessica Plante, and “World’s Worst Clown” by James Kennedy—were selected from thousands of entries to be published in the book. Special thanks to series editor Tara L. Masih and guest judge Stuart Dybek for honoring SLQ in this way.

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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SmokeLong Fitness--The Community Workshop

Next Date to Join: January 1!

On September 1, SmokeLong launched a workshop environment/community christened SmokeLong Fitness. This asynchronous community workshop is happening right now on our dedicated workshop site. If you choose to join us, you will work in a small group of around 10-12 participants to give and receive feedback. Each Monday, you will receive a new writing task (one writing task each week) designed by the senior editor team of SmokeLong. The core workshop is asynchronous, so you can take part from anywhere at anytime. We are excited about creating a supportive, consistent and structured environment for flash writers to work on their craft in a community.