Posts Tagged ‘submit-o-rama’

With the 2013 Short Story Challenge, I had two goals:

Write enough stories to participate in Khara House’s Submit-O-Rama in October

Learn to write really good short stories

As the count sits now, the first objective was met but the second is doubtful. Here’s the box score:

Finished – 16

Accepted – 2 (one to Spry and one to the Wordsmith Studio Literary Mash-Up)

Rejected Once – 7

Rejected Twice – 2

Pending – 6

The rejected twice (like this one) are the ones that hurt the most because I really, really like them the way they are. I thought I would revise them and resubmit but, really, I think they’re wonderful.

So I’m sitting on them for a while. Maybe the next time I look at them I’ll see what their flaws are.

When one meets one objective and not the other, the question is how to meet the other. Certainly revision is a good task but also more practice. I need to write more stories.

With that in mind, rather than abandon the Short Story Challenge 2013 as over, I’ve decided to continue into 2014 and have another 12 stories ready for October to meet Khara’s 3-per-week minimum submission requirement.

This year I have three collections I’m working on:

Snowed in Memphis

The Derecho


I sketched the Memphis outlines but haven’t filled them in yet. That project requires some research as it’s a literary project with some Canterbury Tales tie-ins. It’s been fifteen years since I studied The Canterbury Tales (and then I did it in Middle English ugh!) but this idea has been with me since 2001, so I’m going to pursue it this year.

Last year’s stories include three from The Derecho, but a collection needs at least 10 so that leaves seven more stories to be told. I have the beginnings of two.

Bearskin is the retelling of a Grimm fairy tale from several angles and including various elements of supernatural occurrences. The drafts come from the Reuts Publications November project (all three of mine were rejected, alas). They’re a YA publisher and I am not a YA writer, so I’ll revise these into my genre.

These projects are against the advice of a novelist I met in 2013 who said, “No one buys short story collections.”

I guess they must be simply for my own education and appreciation. I can be okay with that. I had an objective in 2013 that I failed to achieve: Learn to write really good short stories.

Renewing that objective for 2014 is, I think, the right thing to do if I am to become the writer I want to be. And who is that writer?

The one who writes really good short stories, of course.


Last year I was five months in to the writing life I had always wanted. It started in April 2012 when I went to the Clemson Literary Festival and came home and wrote my first short story in 15 years.

By October I had a few drafts of disparate stories and a finished novel whose first ten pages had won an internet popularity contest.

But when Khara House suggested we submit as many as three pieces a week, 26 pieces to 26 different literary magazines, or at least four pieces over the course of October 2012, I was sorely underprepared.

That year I submitted one story – to The Baltimore Sun who never bothered to even decline the thing. They just ignored me as the literary universe has done my whole life.

I queried three agents with my first 10 pages, two of whom said, “thanks but no thanks,” very kindly, I might add, and the third took The Baltimore Sun approach.

What I learned in October 2012 was that I needed a body of work. I needed enough fiction that I could legitimately contend in the literary universe, or at least enough to draw response of some kind.

So I created the 2013 Short Story Challenge. I have one loyal participant besides me. Thanks, Melanie!

The goal was to have 13 polished stories by October so that I could complete Khara’s Submit-O-Rama challenge. I did it. It’s over. Now here’s what I learned:


So I’ve done it!

Thanks to Khara House for the kick-in-the-pants. I’ve now sent 13 stories out into the literary universe. One has already been accepted, thanks Spry! For taking “Two Trunks.” One has already been rejected, thanks, Lascaux, for giving “Have You Seen” a look. We’ll try to find a home for it elsewhere.

So here’s the final week’s roundup:

Good Friday

Everyone knows the bureaucracy of registering your vehicle can be tedious, but has it ever made you feel like you’ve lost the last shreds of your sanity? This is a rare first-person short story because I simply didn’t know how else to tell it. Favorite line:

The camel-toed crotch followed me back into the parking lot, recorded the license plate details, noted the inspection sticker, pulled the seatbelt across her lap, and administered a driving test. She seemed unhappy when I passed. I felt crazy enough to drive into oncoming traffic with her in the passenger seat.

Submitted to The Bellows American Review because what’s more American than hating your fellow Americans in all their misshapen body, attitude-bearing, brutal honesty?

God Called

Like Gordon Finch, this story has been around for a while. But it was the addition of the first call and the tying of the two together that really made the story work. It’s about a woman who receives two phone calls to two separate residences, six years apart, both of which become pivotal moments for her. Favorite moment:

Very few people have cell phones. The phones are still rather clunky, the size of a can of vegetables and almost as heavy. Mare’s has a translucent orange cover that lights up when it rings but it rarely does. When someone calls it, the phone sings an electronic song that Mare sometimes doesn’t recognize as her ring tone.

To me, the cell phone description juxtaposes nicely with the home phone, that impersonal umbilical to the universe outside of one’s home. I like that the cell phone’s individuality and independence are not fully realized yet and so there’s a sort of in-between time when the home phone is frustratingly abused by unknown callers but the cell phone isn’t entirely adopted.

Anyway, this one went to Shadow Road who suggests submissions ought to be about characters who are struggling with things we can identify with. Without giving away the story, Mare’s struggles are adolescent-to-adult and family-shelter-to-independent-person. Who hasn’t been through that?

Sunday School

I’ve worked on Sunday School since last summer when I saw a group of elderly folks holding class under a tree outside their church. It was the Sunday morning after a tremendous wind storm had knocked out the power in middle Virginia and I thought, isn’t it too hot for them out there? What do different circumstances do to their weekly polite conversation? Favorite line:

What did Anne Marie know of Daniel? Of a lion’s den? Of anything, really, except how doggone hot it was. Ninety eight degrees in the shade. We ought to be prayin don’t none of us have a stroke. Mr. Mahoney and his “we don’t have a choice.” Shoot, they did so. They could have gone home and suffered this heat alone. With dignity. In their underwear.

This one went to Arcadia partly because it’s really long (4,910 words) and they have no limit. But also, because the conversation is subtle and the moments are intentionally understated. The story I read that they’d published, King of the Apes, had the kind of subtlety I hope “Sunday School” has.

So that’s it.

Submit-O-Rama is over and I’ll just get to sit back and wait on the acceptances (!) or rejections (boo!) as they come. My fiction is out into the literary universe and the goal of Submit-O-Rama was to push beyond my comfort zone and challenge myself.

When at the end of last week I had three stories left to send and all three needed significant work, I could have quit. But I didn’t.

And even if they are rejected, at least they went.

I feel pleased with the process above all and with the work, too, for the most part.

How did your Submit-O-Rama wrap up?

So I’ve done it. With a little help from my friend Jodie Smith over at The Queendom, I’ve gotten three more stories ready for submission and sent them off into the literary universe.

Here are the selections and the magazines to which they were sent:

Run or Bleed

When the evidence of failure shows up again, Amy does the thing she’s best at: she runs. Favorite passage:

She could see the light in the bathroom glowing as she passed home and knew Michael was in the shower. She was behind schedule so she thought about cutting the route short and heading inside. Instead, she picked up the pace for the last mile.

Submitted to Damselfly Press, a literary organization promoting women issues and women writers.

Have You Seen

A billboard asking for help finding a missing woman brings to mind questions about how the woman went missing in the first place. Three character profiles in the imagination of a fourth woman make up “Have You Seen.” Favorite passage:

That moment, that hard labor, that fear when the baby hadn’t cried right away, the three weeks of bed rest leading up to it, being such a pain-in-the-ass pregnancy that she’d sworn she wouldn’t do it again. The weight from the second one wasn’t even gone yet when she’d gotten pregnant with the third. All that and another damned boy.

Submitted to The Lascaux Review because some of their published works I read had the same tone as “Have You Seen.”

Schickabusch Waits

Originally scheduled for week three but the best fit for a magazine that asked for alternative views, Schickabusch is about an Elf on the Shelf who is trying to earn his freedom. Favorite passage:

This year will be different. This year the kid is four. She’ll find him, she’ll grab him. The spell will be broken. He won’t be able to return to the North Pole. He’ll stowaway with the shredded wrapping paper in the garage, ride the garbage to the curb. He’ll be free.

Submitted to Gone Lawn, a web journal that says they’re about “progressive” literature. I thought the pop culture tie-in of Schickabusch was appropriate.

So that’s it. One more week, three more stories. The ones for this week are under editing right now.

How’s your Submit-O-Rama challenge coming?

I did it. I sent three stories, “First Time,” “Packing,” and “Daylight.”

First Time
Winkie and Tommy have come to the hillside overlook to lose their virginity. But a derecho sweeps the mountain and derails their plans.

Favorite part:

Tommy took a deep breath. When he shoved himself inside of her she gasped.

Something broke. A loud crack, the splintering of something, a giving-in to the wind, then a branch ripped out of the giant tree behind them.

Submitted to Passages North, the literary magazine of Northern Michigan University.



Dominique and Roman are filling her suitcase with freshly laundered shirts, wrinkle-free pants, and unsaid things. She’s leaving for a year and they’re beyond the debate stage. Now the sadness sets in.

Favorite part:

“It’s just a year,” he said again.

She looked at him. He was looking at her hand: pulling it toward him, turning it over, palm up. He laid his cheek in her palm. She closed it around the curve of his face, tilted her head.

“They’re lucky to have you,” he murmured, kissing her hand.

“It’s Liberia. They’re not lucky at all.”

Submitted to Salt Hill Journal, the literary magazine of Syracuse University.



The last night before they leave for school and Sophie has her ex-boyfriend’s brother in her room. Can she (should she?) get him in her bed or will she let daylight come and steal the chance away?

Favorite line:

A touch on my back and I didn’t have to turn, I knew it was him. He handed me another beer and stood a little too close for a little too long. There was a choice to be made regarding the tension we’d found earlier, upstairs. I could feel a throb deep within me and I decided to let it happen. I turned my head, lifted my face, my cheek grazed his. Neither of us pulled away.

Submitted to Lumina, the literary journal of Sarah Lawrence College.

So, week 1 is over. I feel brave. I feel a little nauseated. Oh well. Off into the literary universe my work must go!

Have you submitted anything yet? How did you feel the morning after?