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Play Publication Lottery: Ten Impossibly Good Journals to Send Your Luckiest Flash

December 20, 2013


Winner winner chicken dinner! If you’re anything like me, you might see publication as a kind of lottery. As the barkers at carnivals say, “You gotta play to win now. Step right up. Step right up.” Of course, in this flash publication game, it is certainly NOT the case that every dart that pops a balloon results in that dog-house sized teddy bear hanging from the rafters like a bloated plushy angel. No. The lottery we play has odds stacked against us.

I know a writer, for example, who has two highly acclaimed novels-in-stories with one of the “big” publishers. She was ecstatic the other day when I saw her because one lottery game she’d been playing for the past twenty-five years finally paid off–she’d gotten a story into The Gettysburg Review.

Although I still sometimes feel like every acceptance is a lottery win, I am guilty of cultivating my own obsession with the scratch-off ticket equivalent of the Mega List of journals: the absolute apex of the publication stratosphere.

This lottery list features places that have published at least one flash by someone other than Junot Diaz, Joyce Carol Oates, or Donald Barthelme. This is a list of shooting stars that I still wish on myself from time to time, just in case my luck changes.

1. Tin House The eminent journal now runs a blog called the Open Bar which focuses on Flash every Friday. That’s NOT what I’m dreaming of here for my first lottery. I’m talking about the flagship. Tin House. Period. What would I do if I won this lottery? I’d get a tattoo of the cover my piece appears in on a bodypart randomly chosen by the editor. I’d live in my own makeshift Tin House for a year–Thoreau style (without all the crying and bragging). I’d get personalized license plates attempting to spell out Tin House.

2. Glimmer Train “We are interested in the work of new writers. Of the 100 Distinguished Short Stories listed in the recent edition of Best American Short Stories, 10 first appeared in Glimmer Train Stories, more than in any other publication, including the New Yorker. Three of those 10 were the author’s first publication.” Their “Very Short Fiction” contest  is held quarterly. It is open to submissions JANUARY, APRIL, JULY, and OCTOBER ($15 entry fee buys your lottery ticket here–the nice thing, though, is that they’ll post a generous list of finalists for valuable bragging rights even in the absence of publication). While most submissions to Glimmer Train are now routed through contests, they still host three “standard” submission months a year — no reading fees — and, the most lotteryacious news of all: Glimmer Train pays! $700 for accepted stories.

3. The Collagist Matt Bell was at the helm of this frigate of flash and other outstanding fiction, and it’s not wrong to say Matt “wrote the book” on how to write flash (he has; it’s by Rose Metal Press). The magazine continues to find itself in fine editorial hands since Matt stepped down from his duties in August. Matthew Olzmann and
Gabriel Blackwell edit the magazine now and the results are sublime. Some of my favorite flash from the Collagist is James Tadd Adcox’s “Viola Is Sitting on the Examination Table” and “Three” and “Exodus” by Daniel Grandbois.

4. Ploughshares There are few journals as prestigious as Ploughshares. What puts them on this list instead of AGNI or The Cincinnati Review or One Story is that they, at least, say they are interested in flash fiction in their editorial information, whereas these others advertise word limits that do not actively welcome flash submissions.

5. Blackbird Justin Torres’ “Seven” from We the Animals which appears on the Blackbird‘s wing at the moment, easily qualifies as a flash. Another great piece is R.T. Smith’s “Col. Othniel Sweet’s Mysteries of Nature, # 14 (auto-combustion),” BLACKBIRD (Spring 2012). And the editors at Blackbird are so proactive about their flash that within minutes of posting this editor Leia Darwish emailed me to champion Elizabeth Hubbard’s terrific flash “Confluence” from their latest issue. Blackbird has soaring fiction and passionate editors, too. I’d bet on them any day.

6. The Kenyon Review  (0.62 % Duotrope-reported acceptance rate out of 487 posters; 140.3 avg. days per acceptance) As a native Ohioan (and former Oberlin student) I am proud to witness the eminence of Ohio liberal arts institutions like The Kenyon Review.  Some of my favorite flashes published in KR include Hannah Pass’s “Remedy,” KENYON REVIEW (Fall 2012) and Jason Lee Brown’s “Left Leg, Just above the Knee,” KENYON REVIEW (Spring 2012).

7. The Iowa Review (1.82 % Duotrope-reported acceptance rate out of 167 posters; 103.3 avg. days per acceptance) “We take our mission to be nudging along American literature, to be local but not provincial, to be experimental but not without love for our literary traditions. Although you may find writers already familiar to you in most of our issues, you will surely find others who are not.” My favorite flashes here recently include Thisbe Nissen’s “The Challenger Disaster at Smiling Goat.

8. Narrative A bit like Glimmer Train in its publishing model, Narrative has multiple genres for readers to contribute to including one for short short stories (between 500 and 2000 words). Winning the lottery here most typically comes as a result of literally winning–as submissions seem to take the form of contests, but not exclusively (as with Glimmer Train). Still, for the price of skimping on a few extra steamed sugary caffeinated drinks, you can budget in a lottery submission. Who knows? You might end up like Jan Ellison, whose tiny flash “The Hookup” (Fall, 2012) will let all your lucky numbers come in.

9. Redivider (.51 % Duotrope-reported acceptance rate out of 197 posters; 244 avg. days per acceptance) Editor-in-Chief Lauren Kay Halloran has this to say to prospective writers: “We don’t have a particular aesthetic; we like to think of ourselves as edgy and quirky, and we publish quite a bit of work that leans toward experimental, but quality is always the main consideration. Because we have a rotating staff (main positions usually change annually), our collection of tastes rotates as well. So if the current group of editors aren’t fans of a piece, the next group might be!” The quality just sings from this winning lottery ticket of Meredith Luby’s flash “Cicada Season

10. Guernica (1.5 % Duotrope-reported acceptance rate out of 67 posters; 40 avg. days per acceptance) The funny thing about Guernica is that they advertise a distaste for flash, they end up publishing quite a bit of it, particularly flash memoir. A recent gem is Autumn Watts’s “The Cities of Animals (July 2012), which circumvents any editorial disinclination for short, undeveloped fiction by fusing multiple shorts together–creating a sense of expansiveness and interconnected depth.

  1. I love this list! I was specifically told, though, that while the visiting editor at Kenyon Review loved my 1500-word piece, it was too short for KR. :/

  2. Thank you so much for including us on this list! What tremendous company!

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