This Week’s Reader: Richard Thomas


Richard Thomas is the author of three books—Transubstantiate, Herniated Roots and Staring Into the Abyss. His over 100 stories in print include Cemetery Dance, PANK, Gargoyle, Weird Fiction Review, Midwestern Gothic, Arcadia, Pear Noir, Chiral Mad 2, and Shivers VI. He is also the editor of three anthologies out in 2014: The New Black (Dark House Press), The Lineup: 25 Provocative Women Writers (Black Lawrence Press) and Burnt Tongues (Medallion Press) with Chuck Palahniuk. In his spare time he writes for The Nervous Breakdown, LitReactor, and is Editor-in-Chief at Dark House Press. For more information visit or contact Paula Munier at Talcott Notch.


A sample of his work:

“Twenty Reasons to Stay and One to Leave” at Metazen (nominated for a Pushcart).


Other flash/short fiction that he really loves:

That Baby,” at Everyday Genius, by Lindsay Hunter. SO GOOD.


Deal Breaker:

Even though I write dark fiction, everything from horror to fantasy/science fiction to crime/noir to magical realism and literary fiction, there are a few things that really turn me off. Rarely can I stomach any sort of child abuse, especially if it’s sensationalized. I can’t stand the overuse of profanity, because it’s just weak, in my eyes. Saying “fuck” doesn’t mean much, we can all curse. Find a better way to show frustration or anger or a lack of control. And a story that just feels like it’s been told a million times—find a way to make your plot, your characters, your voice fresh and new, through your language, your choices, and your lack of predictability. Surprise me, not in a twist, but with how the protagonist is complicated, how the antagonist has some redeeming qualities.


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This Week’s Reader: Kim Chinquee



Kim Chinquee is the author of the collections, PRETTY, OH BABY and PISTOL. Her work has appeared in NOON, CONJUNCTIONS, DENVER QUARTERLY, PLOUGHSHARES, THE NATION, and several other journals. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and Henfield Prize. She is an associate editor of NEW WORLD WRITING, and an associate professor of English at SUNY-Buffalo State.

One of Kim’s stories:


A deal breaker:

If, in the end, the narrator wakes up and says it’s just a dream.

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This Week’s Reader: Peter Kispert


Peter Kispert’s stories have appeared or are forthcoming in South Dakota Review, Tin House(online), Slice Magazine, Columbia: a Journal of Literature and Art, The Baltimore Review, and other journals. He is an editorial assistant with Electric Literature. 

For more, or follow him on Twitter, @PeterKispert. He will read stories submitted toSmokeLong March 17-23.

One of his stories:

Animal Control”

A flash he really likes:

Pierce to Vent” by Karen Dietrich


While I have no hard and fast “dealbreakers” in short-short form–or in any writing, really–I will say I find myself bridling against the use of creatively-broken or -fractured narratives. I’m a proponent of innovative writing but try to be wary of cheap or seemingly “easy” approaches to this innovation. I’m drawn to honest, lyrically-written, accessible literary fiction with a keen sense of character, conflict, and place.


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This Week’s Reader: Didi Wood


Didi Wood’s stories and photos have appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Vestal Review, FRiGG, Night Train, and other print and online publications. For six years, she served as an editor at flashquake. Her story “Sunset in Santa Monica” appears in Smokelong Quarterly: The Best of the First Ten Years (2003-2013) 

She lives with her family near Seattle. She’s a fan of the serial comma, and she’s trying to remember to type only one space after a period. Often she’s festooned with cats. Sometimes she plays with dolls. Creepy dolls.

One of Didi’s Stories:

“Home Again”

One Of Didi’s Favorite Stories:

“Recovering the Body” by Bruce Holland Rogers

Deal Makers and Breakers:

I hesitate to specify a deal breaker, because a good writer can make anything transcend the banal. So do that. Go deep. Give us something true, something resonant. Haunt us. Make us feel something. Make us care. Please don’t send a long-setup-to-a-clever-punchline masquerading as a story.  I look forward to reading your work!

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This Week’s Reader: Beth Posniak Fiencke


Beth Posniak Fiencke lives with her husband, daughter and two cats in Arlington, Virginia.  She saves nature by day and enjoys cult television at night.  Her fiction has appeared in The Northville Review  and Metro Moms Fiction.

A link to one of her stories:


A flash piece she loves:
Here is Mt. Vesuvius

A deal-breaker in a submission:

A piece striving to be strange just for strangeness’ sake

A deal-maker in a submission:

A piece that evokes the truly uncanny.

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This Week’s Reader: Nancy Stebbins


Nancy Stebbins coordinates the guest editors for SmokeLong Weekly. She earned her MFA from Pacific University. Her stories have been  published in Indiana Review, CutBank, St. Ann’s Review, and The Los Angeles Review. She lives in College Station, Texas, where she works as a psychiatrist.

Nancy’s favorite flashes feel like puzzles that have been put back together slightly off kilter. Not strange for the sake of strangeness, they deliver something powerful, something beyond the whole. Like this:

“Mold Smells Like Home” by Mary Hamilton

or this:

“Master of the Art of Longrange Tenpins” by Fortunato Salazar

And here are links to some of the stories she has chosen in previous reading weeks:

The Good Woman” by Sarah Levine

“Finally” by John Minichillo

“The Freeze” by Virgie Townsend

“The Prediction” by Kama Post

Kapha” by Joanne Avallon

Wreck” by Will Kaufman

“Interference” by Glenn Shaheen

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This Week’s Reader: Art Taylor


Art Taylor’s fiction has appeared in anthologies including Chesapeake Crimes: This Job Is Murder and The Crooked Road, Volume 3: Ellery Queen Presents  Stories of Grifters, Gangsters, Hit Men and Other Career Crooks and in publications including Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Barrelhouse, Needle: A Magazine of Noir, and North American Review, among others. His fiction has won three Derringer Awards and has been a finalist for both the Agatha and the Macavity Awards, and his story “The Care and Feeding of Houseplants” is currently a finalist for this year’s Agatha Awards as well. An assistant professor at George Mason University, he also reviews crime fiction for the Washington Post and contributes frequently to Mystery Scene. For more information, check out his website at

One of Art’s Stories:

The Care and Feeding of Houseplants

A Story Art Likes:

The Five Different Ways They Died” by Leigh Allison Wilson

Deal Breakers?:

“I don’t know off-hand of any deal-breakers.”

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