As we get our seventieth issue all kitted out in its Sunday best and ready to meet you on December 21, we are also preparing to say goodbye to our second team of Readers In Residence, who worked so hard to help find these stories. Over the next four days, we will be posting some of their thoughts on their time at SmokeLong as well as their advice for submitters.
Today’s post is from Jemimah Wei.
by Jemimah Wei
As relationships go, SmokeLong swept me off my feet. They gave the first flash piece I’d ever written a home, in what was also my first acceptance. Writers often talk about placing stories as ‘homing’ them, and part of that is, I think, because publication is often a door which continually unfolds itself on a never-ending gift of community. For that – the warmth, the care, the kinship – SmokeLong will always have a special place in my heart.
Being invited to read for SmokeLong, I can see that it is this same tender attention that readers and editors bring to each piece. We read blind, with the many injustices and advantages of the world stripped away, so every submission stands equal, with only the work speaking for the writer.
Because flash is such a compressed, visceral form, the pieces that stood out for me were those with a clear heartbeat driving the rhythm and vision of the story, with all extraneous fluff shaved away. It’s obvious when we’ve received something that’s a first draft, versus a third, when writers have thought their images through versus when they’re relying on broad cliches. There were also many times I’d come across a piece with breath-taking prose, but which read like the opening to something longer.
The pieces that impressed me the most conjured an image of the writer with an egg timer in one hand and their heart in the other, both fists closing slowly into a squeeze. The ones that understood exactly what risks they were taking, and why. All that is to say: edit, revise, interrogate, proofread, cut, and edit again!
Lastly, submit. When you’ve spent enough time with a story, one of the hardest things can be letting it go. The thought of having your stories clinically dissected behind a closed door can be terrifying, but as someone who’s had a peek behind the curtain, it’s reassuring to know how much thought and care goes into debating each piece. It’s a privilege to be reading work so precious to the writer, and I’m very grateful to have had the chance to do so, these past three months!
Jemimah Wei is a writer and host based in Singapore and New York. She’s a Singapore National Arts Council Scholar and was recently named a 2020 Felipe De Alba Fellow at Columbia University. Her work has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, X-R-A-Y Literary magazine, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, and Math Paper Press anthology “From the Belly of the Cat”, amongst others. She is a columnist for No Contact magazine, and is presently at work on a novel and several television projects. Follow her on Twitter at @jemmawei.