First in a series, I’m sure…
I am always on the lookout for upcoming theme issues–literary journals and anthologies–and encourage other writers to do so as well. First, there’s the chance that something you’ve already written is a perfect fit. My story “Call It Beautiful” is a good case in point. An earlier draft had been rejected by a number of journals. When I rewrote it for the New Short Fiction Series, I knew I’d nailed the story. I sent the new draft out to a dozen or so places, but I almost stopped with the journal at the top of my list, New Madrid, and that’s where it was accepted. I just had a gut sense that the theme issue they were putting together, ‘Intelligent Design,’ was a perfect fit.
The other way to look at theme issues is as a writing prompt. My most recently published story, “Fred,” was initially written for the online journal The First Line–where each issue is built around, yes, a given first line. In this case it was something like, Sometimes they give you the wrong name–and I thought, yeah, I can roll with that. Though they didn’t accept my story, I kept fiddling with it, and it was later accepted by a themed anthology (theme: the gift that keeps on giving). Which was in turn canceled–but the story was finally accepted, a second time, by River Oak Review, and there it happily resides.
Where does one get wind of these theme issues? Two places, mainly. The first is Duotrope’s Digest, an indispensable website that provides a searchable database; an online submissions tracker (some friends swear by it–I’m old-school and prefer pen & paper); and a weekly update of upcoming submissions opportunities (click on ‘Newsletter’ at the top). If you’re serious about getting your work out there, Duotrope and their newsletter are indispensable. A caveat: the information on their listings about simultaneous submissions is often incorrect [note to Duotrope: please get this right--it's important], so confirm at the journal’s website. But it’s an invaluable service offered for free. But of course nothing is really for free: so if you use the service, drop them a modest contribution once or twice a year.
The other place: Poets & Writers. (Non-poets, don’t be scared away by the ‘P’ word.) Again, for the serious writer, a subscription is mandatory. Some things, but not everything, available on the website. Of particular interest is, not only the contest deadlines at the end of each issue, but the harder-to-read-but-essential Classifieds that follow.
Finally, for the truly committed, additional information (as well as consolation and community) can be found at the discussion boards of Zoetrope Virtual Studio and the Poets & Writers ‘Speakeasy.’
So, after all that, here’s what’s coming up in the dog days of August:
- five by five, a new literary journal with a great name (in radio, the term is used to designate a signal of excellent strength and clarity), declares “return” their theme for Issue # 3 (deadline Aug 25)
- Six Little Things (already into Issue #15), each issue presents six little (under 250 word) pieces loosely wound around a central theme; due Aug 30: “The Unannounced Guest”
- As mentioned in a previous post, the projected W.W.Norton anthology of “hint” fiction (less than 25 words): open all of August
- Gulf Coast presents their 2nd Annual Donald Barthelme Prize for Short Prose (prose poem, short story, micro-essay–whatever, under 500 words); Aug 31
- On the Premises (get it?) has a… premise each issue. Coming up: “The Plan.” One or more characters has a plan. Which of course goes horribly wrong. Deadline: Sept 30
As a long-time writing instructor says: Get in the game. Drop a line and share what you’ve done.