Tag Archives: Fiction

A New Flash Fiction Piece Up at Joe + Gigs

I wrote a flash fiction piece for the online journal, Joe + Gigs.

Joe + Gigs is an ekphrastic site: all stories are in some way about paintings. For no reason at all (other than I’d given myself about an hour or so to write the piece), “This Country” was inspired by that famous dogs playing poker painting series . . .

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The Slush: FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES

We try to have at least 30% unsolicited fiction in Guernica, meaning we get a lot of our fiction stuff from the slush pile.

In fact, we’re about to publish our FOURTH publishing debut this year.

I believe in doing this because my own writing has been published from the slush. And someone once took a chance on me.

And I think many published writers are no better than the unpublished. It’s just that once a writer has been published (and lauded by someone) their fiction is given a great benefit of the doubt. I wrote about all of that that before, here and here.

But the trouble with slush from an editor’s point of view: we don’t know you.

If you have typos in your cover letter or if you don’t follow the submissions guidelines, we don’t trust you. We think you’re not a careful writer—that means you’re not a committed one; you’re an amateur. That means we will bail on you.

More on that at Gabrielle Edits. That means:

1.) Read the guidelines.

2.) Re-read the guidelines.

3.) Follow the guidelines.

4.) Read the magazine to see if you’d fit in. If you don’t—don’t submit your story. Editors remember names. We remember the fools and the rude people most of all.

5.) Don’t assume you know the magazine. (Example: Guernica is NOT looking for political fiction: did you know that? You did if you read the guidelines. And you could have also figured that out, if you actually read the magazine.)

6.) Shorter stories are easier to place than long ones. It’s less of a commitment for an editor. Just a tip.

7.) But if you read the Guernica’s guidelines, you know that we’re not looking for flash fiction (not because we have anything against it—in fact, I write it myself). Flash just isn’t our mission. We publish INTERNATIONAL FICTION.

8.) Pay attention to your cover letter. Don’t be rude. Don’t treat me like I’m your servant. If I’m in a bad mood because of your sloppy, condescending note and your story isn’t the best I’ve ever read, I’ll reject. Why? Because in my slush, there are maybe 50 stories as good as yours. It’s likely that you’re a better writer than I am, sure. But it’s also likely other writers are better than you.

9.) Don’t try to go over my head. Jerks often try that. And jerks are more likely to be rejected.

10.) Understand the marketplace as best you can: it’s tough; that’s the short answer.

11.) And again: FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES. FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES. We love unpublished writers. We dislike amateurs.  That means: FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES.

New with Guernica, Two Stories Every Two Weeks

For years, I made sure that Guernica ran at least one story, every two weeks.

Doing that worked well (very well in fact, we won many awards and published many top writers). But—and this was important—there were so many other stories we couldn’t publish because just didn’t have the space.

But now that’s changed: now we publish at least two stories, every two weeks, for a minimum of four stories a month.

This issue: fiction from Jamie Quatro; a story from evangelical America. A man suffering from depression gets an “anointing” of sacred oil.

And “Debriefing” from E.C. Osondu (who we’ve published before when he won the Caine Prize for African Writing). E.C.’s story is wonderful: it’s advice for illegal immigrants from Nigeria on how to make it here.

 

Peter Stamm on Guernica

I’m quite drunk at this point. I’m thinking he could do anything to me, and then straightaway I’m ashamed of the thought. He’s so young I could be his mother. I’d like to run my hand through his hair, press myself against him, and protect him in some way.

Peter Stamm has been getting a lot of acclaim lately. A couple of weeks ago, he was in The New Yorker.

And this week, he’s in Guernica. Read “Expectations,” and you’ll see why Stamm is so lauded: the stories tend to be deeply ordinary, about ordinary things, but they’re closely observed. It’s not the plot, but the form.

I wanted “Expectations” because the woman narrating it tells you so much about herself, her loneliness, without ever directly addressing it.

I’m thinking it might be one of the best stories we’ve ever run.

I Have a New Short-Short Fiction Piece on Wigleaf

I have a short fiction piece in the latest issue of Wigleaf.

Wigleaf is one of the top journals of super-short fiction (fiction of the very sort that Guernica, by the way, does not usually run). I love Wigleaf—the stuff in there is consistently good.

And I was very well edited, too. They made the story better than it had been.

Lullaby
We lived above an auto repair shop in that part of town where they kept the warehouses and strip joints. Every morning, we awoke to hammering and clanging. When they were painting a car, a fine mist wafted through the bathroom vent and turned our tub, toilet, and sink murky blue.

Reading in Union Sq Today

Park-Lit has a simple concept: writers read from their work,  outside, in a public park. Today at 6:30 on the 21st, Guernica (in association with Park-Lit and Open City magazine) will be having a reading in Union Square Park. (On the south side, right in the thick of things, near the Washington statue). I’m not reading but acting as the MC for the event. The readers will be:

The readers:
Joshua Kors (nonfiction)
Terese Svoboda (poetry)
Alexander Chee (fiction)

More about the readers and who they are (they’re fabulous, by the way) at the Park-Lit site.

Writing: Should You Outline First?

I just ran across this piece by Nancy Rawlinson (who is a contributing editor at Guernica ) on the outlining debate. She says that yes, you should. You should outline your fiction. I have to admit that I sometimes do, and sometimes don’t. If the piece is short, within the realm of flash fiction, then I don’t. If it’s long, then yes. Absolutely. But the outline itself is also a form of fiction, because I don’t follow it all that closely.

But I outline after I’ve done a bit of writing. I struggle to find my opening, then outline it if I think I’ve got a solid opening.

When I feel like there’s a firm foundation to build something upon, then I make sure that I’m going to build it right by outlining. But only then, because if I do it too early, the enormity of what I’m about to undergo disheartens me.

Right now I’m writing the beginnings of a novel or novella  (I’m not sure which). I’m writing 50 pages, first. If the first 50 look like they’re good, then I’ll decide what it is. Or even if it’s crap.

The hardest part of writing (for me) is remembering why I’m writing the piece in the first place, and even worse—staying in love with it. It’s so easy to decide that a piece of fiction in its early stages is terrible, boring, and unfixable. (A journalist I used to know once said fiction writers were weak, because they complained all of the time. She even wrote an article about it, mocking them. But this journalist was wrong: fiction writers aren’t weak complainers. Not at all—we’re inventing a whole world, which is a difficult thing. And the slightest bit of grounding for us—like an outline—is a godsend.)

Advice: 10 Tips for Writers

Janet Fitch author of the novels White Oleander and Paint it Black has some advice for writers, whether they write fiction or nonfiction (although the advice is directed at fiction writers).  Many of these tips were already given to me by Jim Shepard (back when I studied with him), but they’re worth repeating here. I’ll give tip number one below. The rest is at The Los Angeles Times site.

1. Write the sentence, not just the story
Long ago I got a rejection from the editor of the Santa Monica Review, Jim Krusoe. It said: “Good enough story, but what’s unique about your sentences?” That was the best advice I ever got. . .

As far as copywriting goes, I thought this article in Website Magazine was equally good. And like Fitch’s advice, it’s all-purpose.

Reading: Hosting Park-Lit in Union Sq

Park-Lit has a simple concept: writers read from their work,  outside, in a public park. At 6:30 on the 21st, Guernica (in association with Park-Lit) will be having a reading in Union Square Park. (On the south side, right in the thick of things, near the Washington statue).

The readers:
Joshua Kors (nonfiction)
Terese Svoboda (poetry)
Alexander Chee (fiction)

More about the readers and who they are (they’re fabulous, by the way) at the Park-Lit site.

My Posted Clips

I have about a third of my clips up on this site: they’re broken into three categories: my recent Fiction, Editorial Clips and work I’ve done as a Copywriter. The Editorial Clips and Copywriter pages include a rundown of what I can do for my clients as a freelance writer, SEO copywriter, or ghostwriter.

Eventually, there will be slides and all sorts of stuff. Eventually. Right now, nothing’s too fancy around here. It’s like I’ve just moved into a large, messy house and the construction workers haven’t quite finished with the plumbing and painting.

Except I’m the guy doing the plumbing and the painting; I’m doing this thing myself.

It’s a fun thing to do: I’m learning WordPress more concretely (Guernica is on Movable Type, so I’d previously known that CMS better than this one)

Still Working on This Site

It’s a slow process, but I’m putting PDFs of my clips onto this site.

Click on “Editorial Clips” for my freelance writing/journalism and “Copywriter” for my ad-driven writing. Eventually, I’ll also have my all of my fiction up, and information on readings and events.

Right now, clips are also available here: http://www.mediabistro.com/MeakinArmstrong

New in Noo Journal: “Baby Love”

I have a super-short fiction piece in the current issue of Noo Journal.

My work-from-home scheme fell on hard times and we had to move to another place, a property I’d bought as an investment, but had never planned on living in. It smelled of dogs and children. Even after we’d been there for many years, we found rawhide bones and pacifiers behind the refrigerator, under the stove, and in the basement.

Continue reading New in Noo Journal: “Baby Love”

Reading: Happy Ending, Feb. 11th

Thursday, 8:00 pm. Happy Ending, at 302 Broome St., between Forsyth and Eldridge.

It’s free. Happy Ending is a great bar with an interesting history: it used to be a “massage” parlor (hence the name). They’ve kept the exterior and some of the gear intact, but otherwise, it’s a fancy place.

Here’s the info on the reading:

Continue reading Reading: Happy Ending, Feb. 11th