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Ten More Literary Magazines for the Best Flash Fiction

October 4, 2013


The flash markets on this list include the best around. They’re not impossible to break into. Not as much as say, Willow Springs, whose editor informed us recently here on this blog that only one out of a thousand pieces gets picked for publication from the slush pile. One out of a thousand! That’s roughly the same odds as Bono being the next pope, of sneezing with your eyes open, or [ gulp ] of asteroid 1999 RQ36 smashing into Earth.

While these magazines are not so apocalyptically stingy with their acceptance, they’re still selective (and I’ve got an asteroid belt of rejections from them in my in-box to prove it).

You might think of this list as as continuation of an earlier post on the very best, since these magazines are more challenging to break into than those on the other two lists I’ve compiled: Top 10 Literary Magazines to Send Your Best Flash (and Maybe Get Accepted Too) Part One and Part Two.

If you write flash and hope to improve at it, then you’ll want to see what these markets publish regardless of your level.  Who knows?  Maybe you’ll find inspiration. Perhaps you’ll find yourself submitting your best flash. Maybe you’ve got a secret knack for wide-eyed sneezing.

1. Wigleaf (3% acceptance rate) An exclusive publisher of shorts, Wigleaf is a household name among flash writers. Its editors officiate a yearly list of the top fifty flashes published in other literary magazines and around the net. Of course, Wigleaf is no slouch. They like flash that grabs and toussels readers–flashes based on extended metaphors so wide they open like the jaws of vicious reptiles, wide enough to swallow you whole. At least, that was my vicarious experience of the gustatory verbal fireworks in Rebecca Meacham’s “The Boy Who Will Burn,” which imagines a dragon-swallowed burning boy whose “skin is bubbling, white, black, sausage-colored red. It won’t be long.” Long it is not. Percolating with imagery so intense it’ll singe your reading eyelids–well, I’d say it is, but you should stop by Wigleaf to see for yourself. While there, check out another favorite of mine, “The Mystery of Bluemeadow Drive” by Marisela Navarro. It’s ingeniously structured like a choose-your-own-adventure story, only this “adventure” concerns the humdrum anxieties and rare passions of a married couple. As the rain pours outside, the wife “rubs her long toes against your legs, pulling your shin hair. It hurts, but it’s been a long time since she’s touched you, so you say nothing and enjoy the sting.” When the wife goes to the bathroom, your choices begin:

If you follow her to the bathroom, turn to page 2
If you open the drawer to the nightstand, turn to page 3”

No matter what you choose, you end up eating a sandwich–with a sense of hope for the future. Life in this story is not so different from the flash in Wigleaf. There’s always more around the corner, and it’s bound to be good.

2. Booth (3% acceptance rate for fiction) Managed by MFA Fellows and students in the Butler University graduate writing program, Booth offers one poem or one story (often a flash) every Friday, directly on their home page. One outstanding recent flash is a series of character profiles entitled, “Winesburg, Indiana: Found in The Placebo The Yearbook of Emile Durkheim High School” by Michael Martone. In it, the custodian, Carl Frankenstein, confesses: “before I go to bed, I rip out the stitches of my name from my uniform. Every last thread. I open that old incision over my heart.” Then there’s Leslie Sanguine, Cafeteria Cashier, who in describing her job elevates banality into a type of mythology: “I wipe the tables down, restore the order to the condiments, turning the catsup bottles into hourglasses, dripping what’s left of one bottle into the leavings of the other.” Delightful for altogether different reasons is “State Forests” by David Ryan. It’s an extraordinary tale about a man who impulsively tries to stop another man from jumping off a bridge. Both get to talking about the city, their lives, and then rather abruptly jump together, but don’t worry–you’ll enjoy the magic of their prolonged descent. They fall so long they stop exchanging sad facts about their shared loneliness, like a couple growing through the years together: “For how long we fell I don’t know. I put on weight and my hair thinned and grayed. We lost interest in each other’s conversation. We flew into little silent rages and moments of extraordinary gratefulness.” You’ll want to fall this long while taking in all the precious vistas captured in Booth.

3. Juked (1% fiction acceptance rate) Readable, funny, smart, and always full of surprises. That’s how I’d describe Juked. Editor J.W. Wang is not only the most thoughtful person you might share a draught of whiskey with at the AWP, but he’s also got an eagle eye for spotting quality flash. Just watch the pitch and yaw in the flight path of a flash like “Saturday” by Sean Lovelace. It takes off by repeatedly predicting a hurricane on the Weather Channel in Indiana. Then it hovers in different currents. Conversationally, it spies a plump and balding slacker hypothetically becoming a nurse who explains, rather awkwardly, how he is not a doctor. In less than 600 words, this bird of a story flies back to its earlier perch, amusingly rejecting all of its possible migrations. “Target Practice” by Saige Stewart, is a bird of a different feather. It’s an albatross of memory and loss with talons of trance-like detail and an ornate plumage of word images: “Hooky trip to the park, snapping monkeys caged in candy wrappers, limpy fox cooing, our peanut butter slicked sympathy; Please Do Not Feed the Animals. Reverend’s land, the barks hidden in the wheat.” And on it flies, circling through the past, molting its demons in mid air.

4. decomP magazinE (2.7 acceptance rate for fiction) Editor-in-chief Jason Jordan seeks flash that “arrests me with character, plot, use of language, or a combination of those three.” You’ll get all three in “The Bear Seeks a Position in Accounting” by Ken Poyner (you can even hear this piece as an audio file!). It’s one of those flashes that takes a strange premise, makes it even stranger, and then breaths huge puffs of poetic familiarity back into the bizarre, so that you find your very own self reflected back at you in the weirdest of guises, through the darkest of glasses. In the facets of this gem, you will sympathize with an out-of-work circus bear seeking new occupational horizons. Also in decomP‘s archives, Lena Bertone’s “Missing” is about a town traumatized by the disappearance of babies. It twines fantastic theories of gruesome death around an ever tightening spool of grief, until the final lines about the shearing pain of the mothers: “They had put them down for just a moment—that’s all it had been, they swore, clawing through their hysterical tears: one moment of peace, of looking away, of imagining that they could be childless, and then the wish had come true.” DecomP is a paradise of flash fiction. You’ll want to linger long in its bowers, trying all of its rare and verdant fruits.

5. Sundog Lit (3.6% acceptance rate for fiction)  Managing editor Justin Lawrence Daugherty seeks “writing that scorches the earth…literature that rages.” “The Woman Married to a Cloud” by Lindsay Herko is a second-person dissection of all the worries “your” wife has about you, the cloud–Are the kids half cloud? Will grape nuts in your cereal weigh you down? A poetic burst of prose, this flash is not sure whether the husband is a personified cloud or a human husband beclouded by his wife’s emotional bad weather, her gathering ennui. What remains constant is the barometric pressure of Herko’s eloquence: “She imagines her husband—the human, the cloud, moving onto women in his charity—leaving sachets of white chocolate beans, clover grasses, a perfume of anise, and a balled-up panty that is personalized to say his name of Steve.” In the same issue, Ryan Bradley’s “Anne Frank” continues to spin the thread of the unusual partner, but embroiders extra tassels of delightfully “wrong” erotic absurdity. The speaker is in love with a girl who dreams herself to be Anne Frank, and has no compunctions about imagining her in all sorts of compromising positions In fact, he pleasures himself while doing so: “[I] close my eyes, pretend your house is Bergen-Belsen. That I am an American soldier, liberating the camp. That I have arrived just in time.” The weather is always sunny for flash in Sundog Lit, the better to see all the tapestries woven there in hues wondrous and weird, touching and true.

6. Memorious (1.8% acceptance rate for fiction) A longstanding journal that bars no holds when it comes to quality flash, Memorious is an outstanding repository of writing. Two exemplary flashes by them may be found in the most recent issue, Peter Orner’s “Estate Sale, Mize, Mississippi” and Kathryn Schwille’s “FM 104.” Both shorts are quite short. Yet each grasps for vast profundities with delicate hands. Orner’s is about a particular estate sale and about the nature of such sales more philosophically. In two canny sentences Orner declares: “An estate sale a practical way of mourning, death being what else but weight. What we leave behind, what other people have to get rid of, stick a price on with masking tape.” This is extended metaphor at its best: clever and epiphanic. Similarly, Schwille’s flash desperately wants to impart sensuous discoveries of the world to you. The thing is, it speaks in a hybrid language of beautiful lunacy and keen prophecy. Like an ecstatically schizoid radio, Schwille’s flash stages an eruption of sensory details, as animals along a parched Texas road flinch as if to duck all the word volleys Schwille serves: “Beside Junior Pierce’s mailbox lay a shoeless foot, missing one big toe. Didn’t anything burn up? On the shoulder of Farm-to-Market 104, Lola Perkins reached for a square of silver metal, big as a turkey platter, charred on just one side. The heat it gave off reddened her palm.” You may not always know what is happening on this road or where it all leads, but the poetry in every line is palpable, dropping little hints like bread crumbs along a forest floor to light your savory way.

7. Citron Review (2.7% acceptance rate for fiction) Co-editor Aaron D. Gansky spells out his expectations in a Duotrope interview: “Cut your work to as few words as possible. Get in, get out. Create tension/conflict from the first line and sustain it throughout your submission. We appreciate original figurative language and vivid imagery so long as it adds to the text without calling too much attention to itself. In short, we like beauty, subtlety, power, and efficiency.” Sage advice, that. And as a model of it in action, go no further than “Misting” by Kristan Hoffman. It’s about a girl lurking on neighborhood rooftops during a light rain. The reader is led to believe that this girl may be quite young, until the next door neighbor, a man lingering near his car, tells her that she should go inside. Her response is deliciously ominous:

“One of these days, you’re going to let me.”

“God, I hope not.” The man shook his head. “Good night.”

Beth Keefauver’s “Resurrection” is a gloriously heroic admission of a “hero” who went a little crazy with a chainsaw, in the style of the adage about everything being a nail to the man with a hammer. This hero with a chainsaw sawed through the roof of his house and fell, perhaps to his death, back into the floor of his domicile, back into the fecund foundation of the earth on which the house rests: “into the rotting porch swing and the complaining song of its rusty chains, into the dog shit and forgotten burrows of cicada nymphs sleeping beneath it, into the tires kissing the road’s wetness.” Needless to say, these transformations of dust into dust do not remain dead, coming alive and swaying to the rhythm of Keefauver’s incantatory language.

8. Portland Review (3% acceptance rate for fiction) This is an established, award-winning journal that has a special feature dedicated to flash called Flash Fiction Fridays. Flashes are therefore easy to find on this site. Many of the flashes found here are single paragraphs, often prose poems, either glimpses of one intense moment or else a densely abbreviated dramatic monologue. Gwyn Ruddell Lewis’s “The Stubborn Child” is about a child who is so stubborn he won’t even stay dead: “He wouldn’t stay dead. He climbed out of his coffin and his Mum shouted at him to stay dead, but he wouldn’t listen. That wasn’t what others heard. It was just his arm, out of the soil like a zombie.” It’s quirky and intelligent, blasting its topic with double-barreled guns, wit and irony. There’s also Lenore Weiss’s “Houdini’s Cousin in the Storage Unit” which is wonderfully hectic. Its tension clutters up the object lessons it contains: “She said how I was a magician for getting her shit into one space, and I said that’s why alot of people called me Houdini and I wondered how he did those tricks, and she said she knew. Really, I said. Really, she said, because she was Houdini’s cousin…”

9. Bartleby Snopes  (6.28% acceptance rate for fiction) Nathaniel Tower has made Bartelby Snopes one of the most alluring magazines for new and established flash writers to break into. In his Duotrope interview, his devotion to craft manifests: “We publish two new stories each week and allow readers to vote for their favorites each month. Every six months we put together a beautiful free downloadable magazine that focuses on the writers and their work. We provide personalized feedback with each response, and we are willing to work with writers to make their stories a good fit for our magazine without compromising their style.” A sense of style pervades the flash selections in Bartelby Snopes.   In “Letter Bomb” by Elaine Olund the main speaker of this flash cooly reports: “Confession is supposedly good for the soul. But it had never done my soul any favors. When I told the pastor that Elizabeth and I were in love, the sadness in his eyes iced over, glacial. Salvation was not to be mine. Never to be mine.” Conversely, “My Brother on the Sidewalk” by H.L. Nelson, is one of those stories that is weird without being so at the level of the language. It’s based on a crazy premise. The speaker’s brother has been sitting on the sidewalk for four days without budging. The sister begs him to move but he won’t. The story is not obvious. It seems to be about the loss of childhood, the interposition of life that separates a sister from a brother. In the end, he asks her for something only referred to as a “thing.” She retrieves it for him, watching from a slow-closing curtained distance.

10.  Foundling Review (5% acceptance rate for fiction) The editors here have explained what makes them different from other journals in the following way: “We hold PhD and Masters degrees in areas that are totally unrelated to fine arts. But we love reading, writing, and have an overwhelming passion for the well-crafted word.” See for yourself if you notice differences in the editorial tastes that selected such stories as Jeffery Suwak’s “The Lighthouse” and “The Sighing Season” by Clarke Clayton. Both are exceptional stories, though distinct from one another in meaningful ways.

As is my wont, I’ll leave some of my work unfinished here at the end to nudge you ever so gently out of this nest and towards these others, where new thoughts hatch and other flights await the taking.

  1. This is a great list, Michael! Thanks for putting this together, and thanks for mentioning Bartleby Snopes. It’s an honor to be included with such fine company.

    • Thank you, for all your work. Editors are the precious cogs of the wheel; they are the tread and the momentum. When I’m a writer, I like to think of myself as a spoke. As a critic, maybe I’m goo the wheel rolls upon…

  2. Perfect, thanks for posting.

  3. Interesting. My concern is not with the editors of e-fiction journalblogmags or their %, tastes, aspirations and credentials but with the real question: who – besides writers checking if their own stuff is a good “fit” – reads them? Where – besides on their own FB and web page – is the promotion? Do they attract readers?

    • Ah yes, the perennial bugbear of audience. In Byron’s time, poetry was rock and roll. These days, even popular magazines with a literary flair are lucky to have loyal readers.

      It’s true, your average non-writer is not reading literary magazines. But I bet we’d all be surprised to find how many exceptions there are to this rule. One of the eminent editors who chimes in on the comment section of the blog on contests here mentioned that he has been approached by agents seeking contact information for contributors. So maybe it’s not just about how many readers there are, but who, as you say, Johanna.

      But neither do the numbers HAVE to be a source of trepidation for writers seeking an audience. If you take all the people currently in an MFA writing program and add all the people who have ever been in an MFA writing program as well as all those thinking about it and everyone currently majoring, minoring, or taking a creative writing class — you’ve got a substantial population of prospective readers.

    • The Citron Review is a small publication and we’ve only been around a handful of years, but in that time we have seen more than 100,000 individual (or unique) readers to our website. Many of them may just be other writers, but exposure is always a good thing. This year we are on track to see more than 50k by November. Now imagine what kind of exposure these other journals (who have been around longer and have an even better reputation) are providing to their writers. I hope this helps answer your question!

  4. Reblogged this on Write, Juggle, Run and commented:
    This is a great list of some of the best literary magazines. I am honored to have Bartleby Snopes appear in such great company.

  5. Thanks so much for the review and shout-out! 🙂

    • You are very welcome, Heather. Thank you for your amazing and esoteric flash–I picture the brother in your story stoic in saffron robes on a suburban sidewalk–he’s like twelve in the lotus position. Until the “thing” shows up, then my picture-taking mechanism gives way (to fumble an allusion to Willa Cather’s “Paul’s Case”)

      • You’re too kind. I had named the “thing”, but Michelle Elvy At Blue Fifth Review turned it down, stating that I should leave it up to the readers’ picture-taking mechanisms. 🙂 She was spot on. Also, love that Cather piece!

      • Well, that was a great choice. The unnamed quality of the thing–all the stupid THINGS that finally separate us from each other, occupying us to isolated distraction–all are far less significant than the emotional effects they have. The after-effects of thingly interpositions–if I may be so bold and so ambiguous all at once. Anyways, thanks for your story, Heather. I hope you can tell, I think it is not only a pleasure to read but a joy to continue thinking about.

      • Excellent points. And, it seems my readers understand my stories better than I do. 🙂 And, thanks again!

  6. Katherine C. Mead-Brewer permalink

    I just wanted to let you know that I’ve nominated your blog for the Liebster Award 🙂 see my latest post for details:

  7. Wow, thanks for calling out my piece! I really appreciate the kind words, and being among such great company. 🙂

  8. Thank you so much for including The Citron Review on this list! We are truly honored to be included in a list with such terrific company. We love your blog and really appreciate the service you provide to writers and readers alike.

  9. Thank you so much for including The Citron Review in your list. We are delighted and totally flattered to be in such stellar company. Thank you for putting together these lists and offering such a great service to writers and readers out there!

  10. Reblogged this on mind/full and commented:
    This is very belated, but I’m thankful and honored for the mention over at! Great site, packed with literary advice and reviews. Check this post out for flash publication ideas.

  11. Dianne permalink

    Question: Can flash sometimes be a personal essay?

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