Top 10 Literary Magazines to Send Your Best Flash (and Maybe Get Accepted Too)
We want a lot from the journals we send our writing to. We want them to be good, but not so good that they’ll slam their doors on our faces. We want them to respond in a timely fashion. And we’d be over the moon if we got personal feedback…ahem…whenever our work doesn’t cut the mustard.
Perhaps you’ve heard the true story about the sign a frustrated Francis Ford Coppola hung on his trailer door while filming his much-obstructed masterpiece Apocalypse Now? ‘How do you want your movie? Fast, Good, or Cheap: Pick Two.’ We’d all rather pick three, I know. But two’s all we get.
No strangers to compromise, writers too must negotiate the fickle demands of the market, especially when dealing with literary magazines and journals. Which of them are, to borrow from Coppola’s petulant sign, responsive, reputable, and reasonably accepting? And we don’t want to pick only two. Even with our pockets full of Duotrope-derived facts and figures, we might clumsily bump along, finding our way in the writer’s market like grocery store children a few aisles behind mother’s cart.
Before pitching a fit next to the broccoli sprinkler system, allow me to light the way for some of you. If you write literary flash, prose poems, lyrical vignettes or experimental snatches of story (no vampires or robots) then you’re in luck. I’ve written about great magazines and journals to get your flash rejected from already. Those places are not likely to accept most submissions, since their acceptance rates fall under 6%, –falling well under that in some cases. But they are still great places to aim for, particularly for those of you with sturdy rejection-ready constitutions.
For those of you who’d rather have a real shot at some good journals more liable to say YES than “Thanks but no thanks” –I herewith offer the ten best literary mags and journals to send your work to. By “best” I mean that they have relatively high acceptance rates while maintaining good reputations. Established writers regularly place their work in these journals alongside beginners. With each journal listed here you’re sure to receive attentive editorial support in addition to a handsome digital venue for your flash to call home. And to boot—each is a timely responder. You will hear back in under 30 days or I’ll eat my hat. Did I mention that today my hat is made of birthday cake? That’s right friends, I’m another year older today. To celebrate I thought I’d share this post with you as a gift of information.
1. Eunoia Review (27% acceptance rate) Editor Ian Chung edits the journal the way Mario Andretti drove a Formula One. Eunoia is as fond of speed as it is of vowels. It’s the fastest market of all those evaluated by Duotrope, clocking in at a head spinning .4 days from submission to decision. For recent examples of the flash published there, read Behlor Santi’s “Polish Grandpapas,” which recreates the cultural melange that is Brooklyn on a sensually eventful walk through the streets. In “Santorini” another remarkable short, accomplished author Midge Raymond squeezes all the phases of a rebound relationship from rescue and escape to disillusionment into just a few meditative scenes of travel. Eunoia exists on WordPress, too, so there’s the added boon of having all the locals chime in with their smiling faces when you get something showcased here.
2. Short, Fast, and Deadly (27% acceptance rate) Parker Tettleton and Joseph A.W. Quintella edit this one and keep the writing down to a range of stunning limits: sometimes fewer than 200 words, sometimes no more than 70 words! This makes for lots of white space and impact. Every piece published here is a gem on a velvet pillow. Brevity also allows for experimentation. Recent special sections feature prose poems that have footnotes or translations in English of quotations originally in English. There’s also word art and splendid digital photography so that each section becomes its own laboratory, bearing wondrous gifts in the digital equivalent of paginated Petri dishes. To get a sense of the range, look into issue 37. Read Sarah Kendall’s “How to Tolerate the Dawn.” It recasts waking up as a series of human transactions, economic and familial. And if you think the word count is limiting just wait til you see what Kelsie Hahn does with one sentence and some fishing tackle in “Snorkeling.”
3. Gone Lawn (16% acceptance rate) You know this magazine is a diamond in the rough when one of its flashes gets nominated for the the Wigleaf Top 50. Another telltale sign is the caliber of the contributors. Fiction editors from other major lit mags place their own work here right next to Pushcart prize nominees and newbies without a single other pub to speak of. Editors Owen Kaelin and Yarrow Paisley stir up a heady medley of cool, as offerings range from the bizarre to the very traditional. In the latest issue, check out Maggie Bára’s “Campbell’s Chicken & Stars” for a story that has magical realist tendencies with structural leanings toward the traditional. Read Sarah Tourjee’s more poetic prose pieces (like “A Stampede of Horses” and “Tree”) to get a sense for the more experimental forms they admire.
4. Foliate Oak (47% acceptance rate) This journal is ably and energetically edited by undergraduate creative writing students at the University of Arkansas–Monticello. In their latest issue Colin Clancy’s dialogue-driven flash, “Driving,” is a superb example of story and craft. It’s about two guys swinging unlimited golf balls into the night, as so much more tension passes subtly between them and their words. David Howard’s “Breakfast Advice” demonstrates the magazine’s yen for shorts that look and read like standard stories. It’s a touching reminiscence of a father separated by divorce and the inspiring, handwritten quotations he wrote on toaster strudel. I’m certain the Foliate crew would be open to experimental forms, and yet a gander through their pages shows that most of their flashes have characters with names, dialogue, and at least some indication of a plot trajectory.
5. Molotov Cocktail (21% acceptance rate) Josh Goller is the editor for this elder statesmen of the rough and the rude. They’re not just long in the tooth, but dark and gritty. They like their edgy to be edgy and always breathtakingly short. They are connoisseurs of the human condition seen through a glass darkly (with jagged shards on the glass) although they do not have any genre commitments of any kind (wolfmen and zombies, once again, to the exits please). J. Scott Bugher has a piece in the recent issue (Volume 4 Issue 9) entitled “Go Easy on Buggs” that will have you looking through the crack beneath a cellar door at your parents arguing over a drunk. It might be the 1930s and there’s gin in the air and bloodied chins and lost innocence waiting for you with every word. In Janae Green’s “Dinnertime” (Volume 4 Issue 6) a poor woman inflicts imaginary tortures while calmly decorating her porch with a nagging husband on Halloween. That story is like most of what’s on offer here: imaginative and beautifully worded brutality to make you cringe, think, and sometimes smile (they’re not opposed to humor!)
6. Literary Orphans (32% acceptance rate) Editor Mike Joyce. Beautiful photography supplements the verbal artwork and there’s always stores of that in great supply. You’ll want to adopt every single one of these literary waifs. In the current issue 8 (“Tallchief”), “Things Left Unspoken” by T. L. Sherwood brings a whole tense neighborhood to life. There’s broken relationships and ominous, secret rules. Sherwood’s deft use of language is conversational and brusque, which plays up the implied menace hanging about the edges. By contrast, “The Prairies” by Mia Kaling is a wandering, pining mash up of dialogues and scenes that capture the main speaker’s exile in Canada. Both pieces are superbly crafted to captivate and linger.
7. Treehouse (15% acceptance rate) Editors Jean Glaub and Rachel Bondurant have built a wonderful clubhouse for you to join. It’s in the trees–reaching digital heights with an attractive, readable format and one extra cool add-on: There’s a top 5 list of things having to with writing that all contributors are invited to create. It has become a growing archive of interest to any writer and is certainly a fringe benefit of publication. In the current issue 5 (Spring 2013) Diego Báez has a haunting short flash “Teeth” that you ought to read. It’s an intense and intricate character study, showcasing the kind of eloquent brevity that works here. Under the heading of “prose poem” you’ll also find Mark Seidl’s very short dramatic monologue, “17th View From a Two-Car Garage,” about a man who recounts, among other things, his son’s present-tense murder of him. Somehow, that piece carries off the crime with ironic touches and whimsy. One last point: for those of you who are inveterate fans of the prose poem, this is one of the few journals to regularly offer works overtly labeled as such for easy reference in the table of contents.
8. Crack the Spine (24% acceptance rate) Kerri Farrell Foley, editor. This is another journal that has been running strong for several years now, reliably and lovingly putting strong writing on display. This is another press that likes a range of flash, from the story-centered to the language-centered. In Issue 78 Fayroze Lutta’s “Let Me Clear My Throat Before I Begin” roves thematically in the gutters of life in a crisply traditional short story form, while the experimental fare possible here is best exemplified in Issue 77’s “Larousse” by Michael Andreoni. A delicious stew pot of deranged interior monologue, “Larousse” serves up the flavors of Paris along with post-colonial politics and a healthy side of paranoia.
9. The Legendary (22% acceptance rate) Katie Moore, editor. There’s an eminently navigable logic to the layout here. You can find what you’re looking for quite easily and enjoy reading what you find with no visual distractions. And what you’ll find are some of the best writers depositing precious flash pieces in this journal like it’s a talent bank. For a taste of the experimental, take a look at Carly Berg’s darkly clever “Your Valentine” in issue 41, which itemizes different Valentine experiences according to color. It’s angsty, funny, and exquisitely chatty. In the same issue is G.K. Adams’ “Steak and Potato Delight,” a dramatic monologue by a woman trying to remember the missing ingredient in her mother’s famous entree, while dishing out all the details about her family. If one were to judge based on this issue, it would seem that the Legendary likes its flash to be the vehicle for voice–to give readers a snippet of an utterly authentic, fully realized human being by zeroing in on telling idiosyncrasies of speech and tone. But this journal has been around a while. Their playlist is long; the tracks they favorited, many.
10. Emerge Literary Journal (30% acceptance rate) Ariana D. Den Bleyker, editor. Emerge has an incredibly generous acceptance rate. If you think about those odds, however, you’ll gain new appreciation for the selectivity, the rigor, and the rejection that we as writers constantly face. 30% is roughly the equivalent rate of acceptance for the 2011 freshman class of Oberlin, Carnegie Melon, and Colgate. At any rate, though, the work selected here is front-of-the-class material. Although “Here’s to Reminiscence,” for example, is Jacob Murray’s first published flash, it teems with confidence and control, recreating the scene of the romantic encounter with equal measures of tact and absurdity and recounting the whole with a tone that never wholly gives in to sentimentality or nostalgia. Similar in theme is Steven Ostrowski’s “I Break My First Heart,” about young love remembered from a maturer vantage. However, this piece suggests the journal’s interest in prose that has one foot still planted in poem country, as lines describing human features, the weather, or the first kiss seem as intent on surprising us as they are in painting a vivid picture.
Check out Part 2 of this list here.