Announcing our 2014 Pushcart Prize Nominations

SmokeLong Quarterly has nominated the following six stories for this year’s Pushcart anthology:

Doubles” by Stephen Mills

Flicker” by Erin Armstrong

White Guys Are All the Same” by Thaddeus Gunn

A Question of Balance” by Margot Taylor

In Which a Truck Driver Parked at a Rest Stop Outside of La Grange Experiences Trauma-Related Erectile Dysfunction” by Vincent Scarpa

Salvador Dalí Eyes” by Douglas Campbell

Congratulations and good luck to our nominees!

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Gay Degani: Guest Editor November 24th – November 30th

Gay Degani: SmokeLong Quarterly Guest Editor & Staff Editor

Gay Degani

Gay Degani’s suspense novel What Came Before is available in trade paperback and e-book formats. She is founder and editor-emeritus of EDF’s Flash Fiction Chronicles, content editor at Smokelong Quarterly, and blogs at Words in Place where a complete list of her published work can be found. She’s had three stories nominated for Pushcart consideration and won the 11th Annual Glass Woman Prize. She has written a suspense novella, The Old Road, as part of Pure Slush’s 2014-A Year in Stories project and is working on the prequel to What Came Before.

Here are three stories by Gay:

  •  “Appendages”  (Nominated for Pushcart consideration by Atticus Review)
  • Oranges” (Nominated for Pushcart consideration by Every Day Fiction)
  • Complicit” (Smokelong Quarterly)

And here are some of Gay’s favorite stories published in SmokeLong:

Deal breaker for Gay’s Week: Stories that are unfinished.  The writer gets to the end of the story and in the flush creative euphoria, he/she submits immediately. This is not a good policy. Like bread, stories need to rest to rise.  They need to be set aside if only for a couple hours. They need to be questioned: Is my character unique? What does my character want? What stands in his/her way? What does he/she fear? What quality does the character have that will help her win or lose the prize? Is the setting specific? Have I painted a picture in the reader’s mind to anchor the story? Is my first paragraph clear? Does it hint at the story to come in some provocative way? Is everything in the first paragraph do a job: such as set up the “who what when where why and how” of the story in some small way?  Will the reader believe it? What emotion do I, the writer, feel about the ending? What impact could the ending have on the reader? Have I looked for patterns and motifs that will strengthen and deepen impact? Is everything that needs to be clear, crystal? Have I searched for excessive words, excised unnecessary prepositional phrases, adverbs? Have I used precise and specific words throughout the story? Have I read the story aloud and made necessary changes?  Have I polished? Have I proof-read?

Yes.  This is a lot of work.  This is a good thing.

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Elizabeth Eslami: Guest Editor for November 17th – November 23rd

Elizabeth Eslami, Author of HibernateElizabeth Eslami is the author of the story collection, Hibernate, for which she was awarded the 2013 Ohio State University Prize in Short Fiction, and the acclaimed novel Bone Worship (Pegasus, 2010). Her essays, short stories, and travel writing have been published widely, most recently in The Literary Review, The Sun, and Witness, and her work is featured in the anthologies Tremors: New Fiction By Iranian American Writers and Writing Off Script: Writers on the Influence of Cinema. She’s a Visiting Lecturer in the Creative Writing Program at Indiana University.

Two recent examples of stories by Elizabeth are “Hibernators” from the Minnesota Review and “Sour Milk” from Fifty-Two Stories.

And two flash pieces Elizabeth has recently read and admired are: “Say” by Joe Wilkins and “Restoration Efforts Underway” by Chase Burke.

Elizabeth is looking for the following in this week’s stories: “Compression, movement, maximum dramatic impact, an anchoring voice, and language that glimmers. Each word should be essential. I want the brevity to contribute to the emotional wallop. And that last sentence must gut me.”

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Rebecca King: Guest Editor for November 10th – November 16th

RebeccaKing_picRebecca King is a writer, editor, and podcast producer living in the Midwest. She is the founding editor of Origami Zoo Press and received her MFA from Chatham University. Her stories have appeared in many journals including Necessary Fiction, Smokelong Quarterly, Corium Magazine, A-Minor Magazine, and others. She can be found on Twitter as @AlwaysRaking

An example of a flash story she’s written is “Lot’s Wife” from our 42nd Issue.

Two flash pieces that Rebecca really admires are: “What We Understand to Be Ghosts” by Andy Myers and “Miracle” by Chad Simpson.

Some thoughts Rebecca has on flash fiction: “No deal breakers that I can think of, but I do have a penchant for magical realism (as you can probably tell from my story choices above). That being said, all good magical realism, and all good stories in general for that matter I think, are rooted deeply in human emotion and experience. I like to be moved by what I’m reading.”

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Moments of Grace ~ from Dani Shapiro

by Kathy Fish, reprinted with permission from her blog.

still-writing-by-dani-shapiro1Here, in Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, Dani Shapiro speaks of flawed, unpredictable, risk-taking, rule-breaking prose (my favorite kind):

“These instances of creative daring are moments of grace. They are moments when we get out of our own way. They break the rules, and break them beautifully. They arrive with no fanfare, but there is no mistaking them. They glide past our hesitation, our resistance, layers of reasons why we can’t, we mustn’t, we shouldn’t. They are accompanied by an almost childlike thrill. Why not, the whole universe seems to whisper: Why not now? Why not you? What’s the worse thing that can happen?”

I admit I’m reading and rereading this book like a bible. Somewhere along the line, I got in my own way, I think. I stopped taking the sort of thrilling chances that made writing such a blast for me. It started to matter too much what other people thought. Now, I’m writing things and not sending them out and not sharing them in an attempt to get back to that. I’m having fun again. I’m getting out of my own way.


So we asked Kathy, “What stories have you written that you consider riskier?”

Her answers: There’s “Snow” which appeared originally in print in New South. I published it on Fictionaut and it was showcased there by Susan Tepper. I took a risk in this one in that it was all one paragraph (on Fictionaut, I set one sentence off by its own). This story and a 500 word one-sentence story were actually both published by New South, so they must like weird forms there.  Here is the link: “Snow” by Kathy Fish — Fictionaut

Another one is “Petunias” which was originally published in print in Sleepingfish, but our own Randall Brown reprinted it on the site. And it’s just strange because there’s no hint of a plot, I was going more for rhythm and tone, I guess. Here is the link: “Petunias”  or if that link doesn’t work, it’s also on Fictionaut: “Petunias” by Kathy Fish — Fictionaut

“Rodney & Chelsea” is a segmented flash, with subtitles (a lot of people are doing this sort of thing now though) but I like it. It was originally published in Mississippi Review online, but then all that stuff got migrated to the New World Writing archives, so here’s the link: Blip Magazine Archive

“Movement” is just so weird. I really like it and Joseph Young used it when guest editing for Everyday Genius. And it’s just all language and surreality: Everyday Genius: Kathy Fish

“Still They Hear What They Want to Hear” in Corium: Corium Magazine » Kathy Fish

And lastly, for now, a more recent story, “The Blue of Milk” which felt really scary to publish for some reason, but I loved writing it. And it was nominated for Best of the Net. The problem with this link is that you have to scroll down to find my story, but it’s there: the blue collection 4: collaboration (Winter 2013/ 13.24)


Kathy Fish has joined the faculty of the Mile-High MFA at Regis University in Denver. She will be teaching flash fiction. Her stories have been published or is forthcoming in The Lineup: 25 Provocative Women Writers (Black Lawrence Press, 2014, Richard Thomas (ed.), Slice, Guernica, Indiana Review, Mississippi Review online, Denver Quarterly, New South, Quick Fiction, and various other journals and anthologies. She was the guest editor of Dzanc Books’ “Best of the Web 2010.” She is the author of three collections of short fiction: a chapbook of flash fiction in the chapbook collective, “A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness: Four Chapbooks of Short Short Fiction by Four Women” (Rose Metal Press, 2008), “Wild Life” (Matter Press, 2011) and “Together We Can Bury It” available now from The Lit Pub. She has been a fiction editor for Smokelong Quarterly and judged a number of flash fiction contests. She has taught flash fiction to high school students at American University’s Discover the World of Communication summer program.

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Richard Lee: Guest Editor for November 3rd – November 10th

Richard Lee

Richard Lee, SmokeLong Quarterly’s Guest Editor for November 3rd through November 10th.

Richard Lee is Professor of English at the State University of New York College at Oneonta, where he teaches courses in world literatures, linguistics and critical theory. He received his Ph.D. in comparative literature from Rutgers University in 2000, and he is co-editor of two editions of The Dictionary of Literary Biography: American Short-Story Writers since WWII (series 3 & 5). Other publications include a monograph on globalization and sociolinguistics, articles on theoretical issues in fiction, and on authors such as Barry Hannah and George Saunders. He has presented research on flash fiction as recently as 2014 at a conference on short fiction held in Vienna, Austria.

Richard’s thoughts on successful flash fiction:

The flash fiction that excites me most unfolds in my mind because the flash implies some form of a temporal element, a conflict or quandary, and some ambiguity about what we might loosely refer to as “plot.” I don’t need or expect hints of plot in the standard sense of a beginning, middle and end, but I like the implication that those might exist—or that multiples might co-exist in what is implied in the flash. I like the germ of story complications in what author and anthologizer Robert Swartwood has termed “hint fiction.” I also respect prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler’s comment that the very best flash or micro, etc., fiction always involves some aspect of yearning—desire, striving, or expectation achieved or dashed. I think that flash fiction should be more than a witty saying or an epigram, though such things might reach the status of flash if they strove to be more than mere wit. I general, I want a piece to make me stop, think and then wonder—in awe of options and a story world contained in the kernel!

Links to some Flash Fiction that Richard really admires:

Here’s a story that Richard has recently read that he thinks exemplifies the four criteria SLQ lists as it guidelines/principles/things to consider prior to submission:”Egocentric Orbit” by John Cory

And here’s a piece of shorter fiction that Richard loves: “Incarnations of Burned Children” by David Foster Wallace:

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Jacinda Townsend: Guest Editor for October 20 – October 26

Gides_Jacinda_PP-1005-(ZF-10165-89257-1-001)(2)Jacinda Townsend is the author of Saint Monkey (W.W. Norton, 2014).  A native of Southcentral Kentucky, she is a graduate of Harvard University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has also published nonfiction and short fiction in numerous literary magazines and anthologies.  She teaches at Indiana University and lives in Bloomington with two beautiful children, and is currently working on a novel set in Morocco.

Here’s a link to a story by Jacinda: “April 2007; Essaouira, Morocco.” A flash piece that Jacinda has recently read and admired is “The Sleeping of the Stones or Mae and Her White Teeth” by Cameron Brindise.

And here are her thoughts on what she’s looking for in a successful submission: Seduce me with your beautiful language but seal the deal with your understanding of character.  You need not try to impress me with literary allusions; just be who you are, with your own quirky, original voice.  Convince me that you are doing a new dance in this vast literary ballroom in which we’re all standing.  Offer me an ending that makes me connect with humanity rather than plot.

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