Look, let’s not waste each other’s time. We’re both here for the same reason: We love fiction. (Either that or you’ve cyberstalked me after watching the reality show I was on years ago, in which case I admire your dedication.) In the spirit of cutting the bullshit, let’s acknowledge right off the bat that each of us knows what good fiction is. I bet we both could wax poetic about the book that saved our lives, the single line in Slaughterhouse Five that knocked us out cold and gave us hope for humanity when we were beginning to despair,* the first time we picked up a pen or stared at a blank Word doc for half an hour or clacked a sentence out on an old-fashioned typewriter (we’ve all been through the Pretentious Writer phase). But I’m not going to do that because we’ve got fiction to write and submit.
Truth is, you and I are kindred spirits.
So, I’m going to tell you like it is. I mostly write about down-and-out women through the lens of magical realism. Does that mean you should only submit if you’re the next Karen Russell? Hell no. (Mostly because I’m trying to be the next Karen Russell.) You could write about a chair for all I care, as long as it absolutely eviscerates me, awakens my third eye chakra, and resurrects my childhood dog. Not such a tall order, right?
Real talk: What am I looking for in fiction submissions? Something that’ll knock me out cold and give me hope for humanity? If you can swing it, sure. But beyond that, I want to be broken and put back together again. Dorothy Allison once wrote, “When I sit down to make my stories I know very well that I want to take the reader by the throat, break her heart, and heal it again.” Here’s what I wrote in my journal when I read that: “I would need more than two hours of sleep to articulate why that resonates with me, [living that grad school life] but maybe sometime in the future I can reflect on it more. It has something to do with not shying away from the truth, something to do with breaking and then healing.”
I’ll give it to you straight – You and I both have gone through some shit. While I don’t believe writing is inherently about catharsis (we have therapy for that), I do think good literature breaks us open, guts us, and stitches us together again. I’m in this position as Fiction Editor because I admire the patchwork. At its core, writing is about just that, I think – weaving our individual perspectives into this one long, never-ending conversation. What you have to say is just as meaningful and important as what I have to say. Even if our subject matter differs, if our backgrounds are as distinct as my mismatched socks are right now, if our writing and our lives have absolutely nothing in common, I want to hear your story.
* “When food came in, the human beings were quiet and trusting and beautiful. They shared.” [Yes, I realize that’s technically two lines… I’m a writer, not a mathematician.]