This Week’s Guest Reader: Ken Budd


Ken Budd is the author of The Voluntourist—A Six-Country Tale of Love, Loss, Fatherhood, Fate and Singing Bon Jovi in Bethlehem (William Morrow). The memoir won silver in the 2013 Nautilus Book Awards and 2012 North American Travel Journalist Association Awards; an adaptation for Huffington Post received gold from NATJA in 2014. Ken has written for such publications as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Smithsonian, and McSweeney’s. He is the former executive editor of AARP The Magazine; his work was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2005. Ken is donating his earnings from The Voluntourist to the places where he volunteered.  His essay about  his experiences in Kenya and criticism of voluntourism recently won gold in the Society of American Travel Writers’ Lowell Thomas awards. His web site is and you can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.


Samples of his work:

Special Needs,” an award-winning adaptation of Ken’s memoir, The Voluntourist

Nike Infant and Toddler Scouting Report,” from

Diary of a Student at Patrick Henry College, the Nation’s First College for Home School Students, Which Offers a Major in Only One Subject: Government,” from

Excerpt from The Voluntourist

Two Flashes he admires:

The Worst Shark Attack Ever,” by Trevor Houser

Little Girls,” by Tara Laskowski



My tastes lean toward black comedies, but I’m open to anything (I’m the only man in America who read Eat, Pray, Love). I’m a magazine editor by day, and I see a lot of flabby writing that’s loaded with junk, from bland verbs to clichés. So I’m looking for lively writing and surprising stories that hook me from the opening sentence.

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This Week’s Reader: Ethel Rohan

Ethel RohanAbout:

Ethel Rohan’s latest work is or will be included in Whatever Doesn’t Kill You (Shebooks, 2014); The Lineup: 25 Provocative Women Writers (Black Lawrence Press, 2014); Drivel: Deliciously Bad Writing by Your Favorite Authors (Penguin: Perigree, 2014); and Flash Fiction International Anthology (W.W. Norton, 2015).

One of her flashes at Tin House Online:


A flash she really likes:

“Poolside” by Emma Törzs

A message from Ethel:

I’m excited to read again for the stellar Smokelong Quarterly, one of my favorite magazines. Please send only your best work. Drafts will lose me as a reader, as will work that doesn’t make me feel something. In flash, conciseness and preciseness are vital. Be exact. Give us only juice and heart. Make us care.



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This Week’s Reader: Mark Cugini


Mark Cugini is the author of I’m Just Happy To Be Here (Ink Press 2014) and the Managing Editor of Big Lucks Books. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pinwheel, Sink Review, Hobart, Barrelhouse, BOAAT, and numerous other publications. On July 20th, 2014, he became the #1 ranked player of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.


Sample of his work:

This insane thing, I guess.


Short he really liked recently:

This thing from Dolan Morgan.


Deal breaker:

Or deal “maker.” (I’d prefer to leave the breakers by the beach):  I need fluidity. I need impact. I need a sense of astonishment. I need to feel alive and horrified. I need to feel like I’m going to die if I don’t read the damn thing in front of me. I need immediacy, immediacy, immediacy.


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Nick Sansone Wins Brattleboro Literary Festival Contest

100MEDIA_IMAG1059-1We are excited to announce that Nick Sansone is the winner of the Brattleboro Literary Festival Flash Fiction Contest, hosted by SmokeLong Quarterly. Nick’s story “Any Other Name” was chosen by judge Pamela Painter as the winner of the contest. The story will appear in the September issue of SmokeLong Quarterly (Issue 45) and Nick is invited to read at the Brattleboro Literary Festival’s flash fiction reading on October 4 in Brattleboro, VT, along with Pamela Painter, Tara Laskowski, Jeffrey Friedman, Leslie Jamison, Ann Hood and Tim Horvath.

He will also receive a copy of SmokeLong Quarterly: The Best of the First Ten Years.

Nick Sansone received his MFA from Emerson College. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Gargoyle, the Los Angeles Review, the Minnesota Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Massachusetts.

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This Week’s Reader: Matthew Brennan

Matthew Brennan is a writer, editor, translator, and blogger from the Pacific Northwest. His fiction has earned a variety of awards and fellowships, and more than sixty of his short stories and literary translations have appeared in journals such as SmokeLong Quarterly, Emerge Literary Journal, The Citron Review, The Los Angeles Review, Two Lines, and Superstition Review. He earned his MFA in fiction from Arizona State University. Online, Matthew can be found at or @MatthewBrennan7.
What Matthew is looking for:
What I’m looking for in flash is world-building and nuance. The best flash will do a little of both for me. Here are links to two of my stories that are examples of each: 
World-building: “The Fire Keeper” (page 23)
Nuance: “The Water Is Wide
A deal-breaker:
 A boring first sentence or an unearned twist or surprise ending.
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This Week’s Reader–An Tran

An Tran’s fiction and non-fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in the Southern Humanities Review, Gargoyle Magazine, the Carolina Quarterly, the Good Men Project, and Eclectica Magazine, among others, and has received a “Notable” distinction from the Best American series. He is an MFA candidate at Queens University of Charlotte and lives in Arlington, VA.
One of An’s stories:
And a flash he really enjoys:
Some thoughts on flash fiction:
I think the magic of flash fiction is the ability to say, in very few lines, something large, expansive, universal. By the end of a piece, each sentence comes alive in a new way like cells in mitosis, a multitude of meanings splitting from single strings of sound. The narrative momentum is found in the spaces adjacent to the words themselves; the story itself is stillness. A flat piece of flash fiction might move within the text, but has neglected the form’s power to manipulate space and time around it.
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This Week’s Reader: Matthew Norman


Matthew Norman is the author of the novel Domestic Violets, which was nominated in the Best Humor category in the 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards. He lives outside Baltimore with his wife and two daughters and is currently working on another novel.

“Miss November,” A Story by Matthew Appears In:

Forty Stories,  a Harper Perennial collection

Matthew’s Taste

I love humor in writing. Not all stories can be funny—nor should they be—but I’m most attracted to fiction that has threads of humor. Richard Russo and Jess Walter are perfect examples of writers who balance humor and “serious” very well.

A Deal Breaker:

A deal breaker for me is overwriting. The older I get, the more infuriating I find it. Less is more.

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