Archive | Other Books RSS feed for this section

Preserving the Canon

26 Oct

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation about blowing up the established reading canon. Matt Ryan disagreed with my guest, so I invited him to also talk. Matt is a high school English teacher from Massachusetts, as well as the host of #CanonChat on Twitter. You can follow him at @MatRyanELATeach.

Marcus: Why do you believe the existing canon is important for students today?

Matt: Why wouldn’t we want students to read the greatest books humanity has to offer? If I were to study painters of the Italian Renaissance, would I not study the works of da Vinci and Michelangelo? The same can be said about literature. When I teach American literature, I would be doing my students a disservice to not expose them to some of our most influential writers. The same writers, by the way, that our contemporary writers have all read. Additionally, classic texts teach universal truths, truths not defined by race or gender, but by human truths. They don’t reflect a particular ideology. They disrupt our own ideologies and nurture our own intellectual independence.

Marcus: What books are “canon” with the kids you work with?

Matt: I don’t teach every single one of these every year; some rotate in and out, depending on a few factors.

  • Freshmen: The Odyssey, To Kill a Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet, A Raisin in the Sun
  • Sophomores: Chronicle of a Death Foretold, The Crucible, The Awakening, The Great Gatsby, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Scarlet Letter, Sula, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Fences, East of Eden
  • Juniors: Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, Macbeth, Pride and Prejudice, Lord of the Flies, Waiting for Godot
  • Seniors: Hamlet, Othello, Antigone, Oedipus Rex

It’s important to note, however, that I teach a number of newer titles that aren’t canonical. I’m not advocating that we teach only from the canon. What I typically do is pair texts together, usually an older text with a newer one.

Marcus: You reminded me – yes, we read To Kill a Mockingbird (great), The Crucible (eh), Beowulf (read later with a better translation), and Antigone (okay). From my perspective, I think that it’s often the language that throws me off. As I’ve mentioned before, I turned 180 on Homer once I found a better translation. I was able to read Sherlock Holmes as a teenager, but as I got older, I found I couldn’t read anything written before Hemingway. Nathanial Hawthorne, being a Romance / Victorian writer, uses a lot of phrasing which dates back to a time when people wanted more descriptive terminology… and now, not so much. The old joke that Dickens got paid by the word makes it difficult to wade through the verbiage to get to the story.

Matt: Language is most often the stumbling block with older texts. Knowing this, I generally approach these books differently. I’ll often start a book by reading it in class and discussing the language. Hearing me read the book is often a bridge to greater comprehension. I also share audiobooks with the students and encourage them to listen as they follow along with the text. And I assign fewer pages in a book I know is more complex.

Another stumbling block can be a lack of background knowledge. To give a specific example, when I teach Pride and Prejudice, I use the annotated edition by David M Shapard because it contextualizes a lot of elements foreign to a reader in 2020. Additionally, I work hard to make connections to their own lives. For instance, students often say that the rules that govern how people behaved in society are confusing and silly. So we talk about all the unwritten rules that govern interactions among teens, especially when there are romantic feelings involved. We’ve had some great conversations about how students “date” and promposals. Then they realize that we’re not all that different from the characters in the book.

We’ll finish our conversation with Matt tomorrow. Meanwhile, what do you think? Is Matt on the right track with his students? Or is he off base? Let us know in the comments below!

Your Call to Cthulhu is Important to Us, Please Hold

20 Oct

I’m not a big fan of American horror, but I do like the psychological fear (usually present in foreign horror films) element, if it’s done well. Cthulhu touches on that nameless horror, that unseen fear, that tinge that comes right before you turn on the lights. Now put that in a banal setting like your workplace.

That’s the beauty of this short story anthology, Corporate Cthulhu, which deals with that fear of the bureaucratic, the fear of being out of the loop, and the terrible consequences if you DO know.

Of course, I’m prejudiced because one of my stories, Shadow Charts, is part of this anthology. I took my experience from having worked in hospitals for 11 years and put it in a story about an inner-city hospital hiding a strange secret; patients check in, they don’t check out. I actually set it in an old hospital building I worked in (it only recently got demolished)… so I think it works great!

However, there are several other stories I enjoyed in here. Boedromion Noumenia by Andrew Scott was insanely well researched and very creepy. Incorporation by Max D. Stanton was excellent. And there are twenty more of these!

So I really suggest you pick up this book and let me know how my story… and others turned out! By the way, what do you think of Cthulhu as a subgenre? Is it played out, do you enjoy it, not your thing? Let me know in the comments below!

Improving Your Author Visibility

14 Oct

Today’s blog post is brought to you again by my good friend, Ed Stasheff, who has been working as a small press publisher, editor, and author for years.

In yesterday’s post I explained how editors, when faced with several excellent stories competing for one open slot, may take the author of the tale into consideration.  Specifically, we look at the author’s popularity (through number of previous publications and social media following) and their demographics.  While these criteria do tend to slant in favor of popular, established authors over talented but unknown beginning authors, there are some things new authors can do to balance things out.

Have a Social Media Presence

The more social media followers you have, the more might buy a book or magazine that published your story, and thus the more sales the publisher might make.  Editors pay attention to these things.  At the very least, have Facebook and Twitter accounts, but more platforms is always better.  If you have a separate author page on Facebook, that’s even better. Presumably all that followers that page are interested in your writing, as opposed to a personal page where a large number might be acquaintances with no interest—or even knowledge—of your writing career.

Have an Author Website

If an editor is going to research you as an author, make it quick and easy for them to find all the information about you that they need.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, detailed, or even ad-free—seriously, we don’t care about that.  There are plenty of places where you can build a simple website for free (although it’ll probably have ads).  A blog is a bonus, even if it’s not updated regularly.  If you have a common name like John Smith, make sure the landing page of your website introduces you as “John Smith, a fiction author of (genre name)” so that we can instantly tell we’ve found the right person, instead of wondering whether or not John Smith the Accountant from Wisconsin is you.

Link to your Social Media Accounts from your Author Website

Editors rarely have the time to check all social media platforms for all authors who submit manuscripts.  Personally, I check for a website, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and that’s it—so if most of your followers are on Instagram or TikTok, I’ll probably miss it.  However, if you make it easy for editors to find all of your social media accounts by having prominent (i.e., toward the top) links to them on your website, we can quickly and easily count ALL your followers.

Have a Bibliography on your Author Website

Sure, we editors may often consider an author’s number of previous publications a measure of their name recognition or popularity, but… how do we know what you’ve written?  Personally, I use Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing, and the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (isfdb.org).  No one location will have a list of all your publications, though, especially since there are so many obscure magazines and e-zines out there.  So help us out and have a page on your website dedicated to your complete bibliography.  Categorize them by novels, short stories, and poetry.  Include not just the story’s title, but also the anthology/magazine it appears in, the date, and (if known) the publisher.

To conclude, all these things will help make you more competitive (or at least appear to be) compared to more establish authors.  My final bit of advice is that taking these steps does require a time commitment—possibly a major one.  If you’re serious about building up your fiction writing career, it may be worth your time.  On the other hand, if you only jot off a story every now and then and occasionally submit it here and there on a whim, it may not be the best use of your time… at least, not yet.

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer them quickly.

Editors Evaluating Authors

13 Oct

Today’s blog post is brought to you again by my good friend, Ed Stasheff, who has been working as a small press publisher, editor, and author for years.

I mentioned in my original guest post that when a magazine or anthology editor has read through the slush pile of submissions and eliminated the bad and mediocre stories, there will almost certainly be more excellent short stories than can possibly fit in that anthology or magazine issue. Consequently, editors have to whittle down the excellent submissions based on criteria that have little or nothing to do with the story’s quality.  I also mentioned in last week’s post how editors keep an eye out for stories that contain interesting variations on the publication’s theme.

This week, I’ll mention three other things that editors research to choose between equally excellent stories.  These criteria, however, aren’t about the story, but about the author.

1. Previous Publications

Readers are more likely to buy a book or magazine when the cover displays an author name or two they’re familiar with.  Although it’s hard to gauge an author’s popularity, one metric is the number of their previous publications.  The more stories an author has published, the more likely they are to have name recognition and a following.  So if I’ve got two excellent stories I can’t decide between where one author has three publications and the other has thirty, I’ll probably go with the more established author.

2. Social Media Following

This may not apply to big publishers like Penguin/Random House or Simon & Schuster, but for small and indie publishers (and there are thousands) this is crucial for sales.  You see, when an author gets a short story published in a magazine or anthology, they almost always post about it on social media when the book is released.  A small percentage of their followers go on to buy the book.  Therefore, the larger a social media following an author has, the more sales will be made in the first week after release (which is vital to the book moving up the search rankings on Amazon).  Consequently, if I have to decide between two equally excellent stories where one author has 500 followers and the other has 5,000, I’ll probably pick the author with the larger social media following.

3. Demographics

This is sex, gender, race, ethnic and/or religious minorities, sexual orientation, and physical and/or mental disabilities.  There has been a lot of backlash over the last several decades against genre anthologies being dominated by straight white cis men.  Consequently, many editors (not all, but a lot) these days at least try to have some degree of diversity among their authors.  So sometimes if I have to decide between two equally excellent stories by authors with a similar number of previous publications and near-equal social media followers—but one author is a woman or minority—I’ll choose that author.  It doesn’t happen very often, true, but it does occasionally come into play.  Now, keep in mind this isn’t just about politics—people with different backgrounds and experiences often bring different viewpoints and perspectives to the fiction they write (which goes back to the need for variation in an anthology’s theme).

You may have noticed a bias built into this selection process: popular published authors are more likely to get published again, while unpublished or new authors—even talented ones—are less likely to get published at all. And you are perfectly right. This is exactly why it is so hard for new authors to break into the fiction-writing field.  But the good news is that there are some things a new author can do to help level the playing field in their favor.  I’ll get into that in tomorrow’s post.

But what do you think? Do these points make sense for you? What tricks have you used to get past the gatekeepers? Let us know in the comments below!

Blowing Up The Canon (Part III)

8 Oct

In today’s blog post, we finish our interview with Daphne, who runs a non-profit dedicated to helping students with reading difficulties. She is the author of Read or Die: A Story of Survival, Hope and How a Life Was Saved One Book at a Time. You can contact her on Twitter at @confusedconfessions.

M: So how do you approach personalizing reading for your kids?

D: Each student in my room is provided the opportunity to bring a book from home, but rarely do they. Instead, the vast majority of students choose a book from my room where every single book has been vetted by children. Typically I bring over a stack of books to their desk and they go through them until they find one with an accessible vocabulary, and then I teach them how to make connections to the words…basically I try to teach them everything good readers do: think about themselves, wonder what happens next, think what happened earlier, wonder why things are happening, think about other books with similar stories, etc…on and on and on until they start actually reading. 

I have this question I ask people, “What is your most important book?” It’s such a great question because people have the most beautiful and surprising answers, but I never meet a child who can answer this question. Unless a child comes from a house of enlightened readers (rare, rare, rare) or they are taught with a method in school involving real choice/independent reading they don’t have a most important book, and they all deserve one.

M: Hard question to answer, since I love so many books, but let me throw out a weird one – The Man Who Never Missed by Steve Perry. It’s a short sci-fi novel – hit me at around 14 years old, so when I was most impressionable – but it really changed how I like to see universes, write action, and drive the story well. He’s a cult following level author but I love Perry’s writing style.

D: Awesome important book answer! I haven’t heard of him, but I’m going to look him up. 

M: What about you? What’s your most important book?

D: The most important book for me is also a hard question, but I became who I am as a reading teacher because of reading the Book Thief. By the time I read it I had been teaching for seventeen years and writing for 8…There’s a scene where a girl lives BECAUSE of a book and you realize the author has been saying, “Books Save Lives,” the entire book and you then realize he dedicated a significant amount of time and effort to say books save lives and here I was, sitting in a room of kids that I should be teaching as if BOOKS SAVE LIVES so that’s when it happened. I changed everything I was doing and dedicated my career to repeating over and over again, books save lives and that’s how I teach, like every book matters and the more I can get inside a child, the better. Hence, my book and screenplay because I can’t say it enough. 

M: Thank you, Daphne – I have a feeling that we’re going to have more of these conversations from now on.

Did you enjoy this interview? What is your most important book? (Not your favorite, your most important.) Let me know in the comments below!

Blowing Up The Canon (Part II)

7 Oct

In today’s blog post, we continue our interview with Daphne, who runs a non-profit dedicated to helping students with reading difficulties. She is the author of Read or Die: A Story of Survival, Hope and How a Life Was Saved One Book at a Time. You can contact her on Twitter at @confusedconfessions.

M: But what’s wrong with having the whole class just read one book so they discuss it and break it down?

D: With the canon there are multiple problems that I could rant about all day so I’ll try to limit myself. First of all, I can’t even get everyone in my friend group or household to agree on a book. It’s impossible to get 30 random children who will/can read a 300 page book they care nothing about so they either are clever and use SparkNotes and engage the teacher in conversation as if they’ve read or they don’t read it and they fail. I have yet to meet anyone who read their assigned books in school and the number of readers is declining, not increasing. In addition, the book is assigned, the themes are decided by the teacher (who probably used SparkNotes to decide what the themes are), and all the questions have preconceived answers.

M: Interesting point – so simply ASSIGNING the book makes it very difficult for students to care about reading it in the first place. Using my son as an example, he has dyslexia, which has the effect that unless he’s REALLY into a book series (Harry Potter, Keepers of the Lost Cities), he doesn’t like to read. It’s physically difficult. They assigned the Hunger Games as a book, and knowing the violence would upset him, we got the teacher to accept an alternative (Ready Player One). However, he STILL didn’t finish it… he barely started it. Because he had no internal drive to want to do it.

D: It’s imperative that he feel empowered which is the opposite of what happened when he gave up on Ready Player One (which is the position teachers put their students in ALL OF THE TIME by assigning books, it’s maddening). Teaching him to use resources and allowing him to use resources to pass English is something that will carry him forever AND you might be able to still have a reader in your house. Teachers constantly destroy the love of reading and they don’t even know it.

I don’t want the canon replaced, I want the entire concept of ‘assigned’ books and ‘assigned’ reading levels to be destroyed. In fact, the way you were taught by the teacher who thought you ‘walked on water’ is exactly how every single child in America should be taught. I don’t have many kids like you were, but they all have that potential if they were just allowed to have their reading journey hand curated by a teacher who thought highly of them and wanted what is best for them.

M: So if a kid came to you and wanted to know what book he/she should read, what would you recommend?

D: My class could not function without The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas, Tyrell by Coe Booth, Drive By by Lynne Ewing, Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo and the Bluford High Series.

Have you heard / like these books? What books would you recommend to kids? Let me know in the comments below!

Blowing Up The Canon (Part I)

6 Oct

In today’s blog post, we interview Daphne, who runs a non-profit dedicated to helping students with reading difficulties. She is the author of Read or Die: A Story of Survival, Hope and How a Life Was Saved One Book at a Time. You can contact her on Twitter at @confusedconfessions.

M: Since you’re part of the #writingcommunity on Twitter, it’s obvious you like writing, but what’s your day job?

D: My day job is teaching reading and trying to change how reading is taught but using choice/independent reading and doing away with the canon in the classroom. I just can’t stop, because kids deserve so much better.

M: What’s wrong the established canon in public schools?

D: Over time, I’ve come to realize the extreme influence colonization has had in the education system and I now spends every ounce of energy fighting that system for the sake of all children. 

M: I’m sure every school district is different, but when I was in school (and mind you this was 25-35 years ago), I believe the books I was forced to read were:

– Middle School: The Day No Pigs Would Die, The Giver by Lois Lowry, My Darling My Hamburger, The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier. (Oddly enough, because I had a reading teacher who thought I walked on water, I got to read harder books, so I never read these.)

– Freshman HS: The Pearl by John Steinbeck, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Absolutely hated both of these.)

– Sophomore HS: The Odyssey by Homer (hated at the time, read as an adult with the Fagles translation? Couldn’t put it down), Julius Caesar by Shakespeare (great!)

– Junior HS: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (liked, but hated analysis of it)

– Senior HS: Romeo and Juliet by Shakepeare (good).

– College: 1984 by George Orwell (cried both times I’ve read it, must read), Norton Anthology of English Lit (loved the poetry).

D: The canon of your childhood has not changed. I call these teachers ‘canon clutchers’ because they hold so tightly to those same books. My favorite part is they hover perpetually at a level of status quo where they can’t even understand the irony of assigning Fahrenheit 451 or Animal Farm. They think they are enlightening children when in fact they are perpetuating the same ideals those books were written to fight. 

M: Since my son (8th grade) is reading Fahrenheit 451 right now, this is a good one. Just so I get your point, since the book is about censorship, limiting your students to an older text denies them the opportunity to open up students’ mind to more modern voices?

D: Correct. If the teacher chooses which book the child must read then they are choosing for the child to NOT read every other book on the planet. The irony is endless for this point. They are controlling what a child is supposed to read AND THEN they tell them how to read, what parts are important and what the themes are. Imagine if the smart kid pointed out the irony…the teacher would run home crying. In fact, your son could possibly see that irony and wouldn’t that be fun if he pointed it out? HAHAHA! Also, on that subject, while those teachers dole out one book per quarter, my students can read as many as they want and they all read far more than they thought they could. The minimum is four a year, but I’ve had one kid read 35 (previously all non-readers), and the average is 12 per year.

We’ll continue this interview tomorrow. However, what was the canon you had to read as a kid? Did you actually read it or did you skim it? Let me know in the comments below!

How to Get your Story Noticed (Part II)

4 Oct

Today’s blog post is continued from yesterday and is written by my good friend, Ed Stasheff, who has been working as a small press publisher, editor, and author for years.

Coming up with an original, unique idea is harder said than done. To help you brainstorm, here’s three different variations on a theme editors keep an eye out for while wading through the slush pile.

1. Atypical Setting

My experience as an editor is that the vast majority of the submissions I receive are set in the here-and-now.  By “here”, I mean the USA, with a handful set in other English-speaking countries (the “Anglosphere”), mainly England, Canada, and Australia. Consequently, if you submit a story set in, say, Japan, you’ll probably catch the editor’s attention, and there’s a good chance no one else has submitted a tale using that setting.  European countries (France, Germany, Italy, etc.) are good—they’re culturally similar enough to the Anglosphere that they require minimal research, but are just different enough to lend an exotic flair.  Non-western settings are your best option for submitting a completely unique story, but they require more research.  Luckily, while novels may require in-depth research, short stories are brief enough you can usually get away with just basic research on Wikipedia.

Even within the USA, you can find exotic settings by exploring subcultures—ethnic, racial, and religious minorities, lesser-known professions, fan groups, etc.  For example, I didn’t publish Marcus’s story “Shadow Charts” in “Corporate Cthulhu” just because he’s my brother-in-law, but because his was the only story set in a private for-profit hospital. It was a good choice, too—several reviewers called out “Shadow Charts” as one of the better horror tales.  Apparently, a lot of readers are seriously creeped out by hospitals.

As with anything, though, you can take things too far.  If you set a story on a different planet, an alternate universe, or in a completely fictional world, you might end up drifting too far from the anthology’s theme. Such extreme settings can be done successfully, but it’s riskier.

2. Atypical Time Period

We’ve discussed the “here”, but what about the “now”?  Again, the vast majority of submissions I’ve read are set in the modern day.  Therefore, to get your story to stand out, set it in a different time period.  Even the first half of the 20th century—an era before computers, mobile phones, and television—is foreign enough to provide the audience with an enjoyably different reading experience.  The farther back in time you go, the more research you’ll need to do—but the greater the chances your story will be unique in the slush pile.

You can also go forward in time too, but that’s riskier—it might be too different for the anthology’s needs.  As a general rule, unless it’s for a science fiction anthology, stick to the near future instead of the far future.

When I was selecting stories for “The Averoigne Legacy” anthology (set in a haunted medieval French province), most tales were set in either the Middle Ages or Modern Day.  Two stories, however, were set in the Roman Era.  Both ended up being selected and published.

3. Blending Genres

Most anthologies these days, even themed anthologies, are set in a single genre. Unfortunately, that risks the stories becoming tedious after a while, even to fans. One way to keep things fresh and interesting, however, is to blend the main genre with a secondary genre to make the story different and original.  Take Fantasy, for example.  Sooner or later, the audience will get weary of Action/Adventure Fantasy stories. A Comedic Fantasy will jolt them out of their complacency. But why stop there?  Throw in a Mystery Fantasy, and a Horror Fantasy, and a Fantasy Romance, and… you get the idea.  This is one of the things editors keep an eye out for when reading through the slush pile to provide their readers with a variety of stories. If yours is the only story blending Fantasy with Science Fiction—say, exploring alien worlds with teleportation spells instead of rocket ships—you’ll have a better chance of it being accepted and published.

Be aware, though, that some genres are easier to blend than others.  Blending Romance with Horror, while not impossible, is harder to write successfully that Romance and Comedy. Also, be sure to keep the anthology’s genre the primary one, and the other genre secondary. There’s a big difference between a Fantasy story with a touch and Romance, and a Romance with a touch of Fantasy. Otherwise, you risk getting one of those “not a good fit” letters.

These are just the most common variations on a theme editors keep an eye out for.  There are others, but they’re more subtle and difficult to write successfully.  If you found this helpful (or unhelpful), let Marcus know in the comments.  If there’s enough interest, maybe I’ll write another post about what variations editors are looking for.

How to Get Your Story Noticed (Part I)

3 Oct

Today’s blog post is brought to you again by my good friend, Ed Stasheff, who has been working as a small press publisher, editor, and author for years.

Hello, Editor Ed here again!  Apparently enough people found my guest post useful enough that Marcus invited me back for another one.  So here’s some advice on how to make your story stick out (in a good way) and catch an editor’s attention.

I mentioned in my last post that many anthologies today are arranged around a theme.  Story submissions that don’t fit that theme, no matter how good or well-written, get the “nice, but not a good fit” rejection letter.

Unfortunately, editors face an equal but opposite problem: stories that are too similar.  While readers (a fickle bunch!) don’t like anthologies filled with stories that don’t match the theme, they also dislike anthologies filled with essentially just the same story over and over again.  Thus, when selecting stories, editors have to walk a tightrope of picking tales that fit the theme well while simultaneously being just different enough from each other to provide readers with sufficient variety to keep their interest.

The solution (for both authors and editors) is to find variations on that theme. Try to find an aspect of that theme for your story that’s different, original, and hopefully unique, and write about it.  Take an anthology of steampunk stories, for example.  Sure, you could set your story on an airship—but I guarantee there’ll be at least a dozen other submissions also set on an airship.  Since only one or two such stories can make it into the anthology, you’re up against a lot of competition.  Your airship story might be excellent, but could still lose out to another airship story that was just a little bit better.  On the other hand, you could write a steampunk story about, say, an underwater mining facility.  Now that will stand out, and with luck, no other submissions will feature that idea.  Now you’ve got a much better chance of catching the editor’s attention by providing an interesting variation on the anthology’s theme, AND little or no competition for an open slot!

It is always possible that a story concept can vary too far from the original theme, in which case it hurts, rather than helps, your chances at publication.  But how much variation is too much? Use this as a general rule of thumb: if you have to explain why your story fits the theme, then it’s too much variation.  The story’s connection to the theme should be obvious, even from a brief plot synopsis.

What kind of variations do you like playing with? Let me know in the comments below!

“Nice Story, But Not a Good Fit”

26 Sep

Today’s blog post is brought to you by my good friend, Ed Stasheff, who has been working as a small press publisher, editor, and author for years.

If you’re an author who’s ever submitted a short story to a magazine/anthology/whatever, you’ve probably gotten this rejection letter: “This is a nice story, but it doesn’t quite fit our needs for this project.”  I got those, too.  And I always assumed they were a polite, diplomatic way of telling me the story sucked, essentially no different from any other rejection letter.  Then I became an editor.  And I had to reduce a slush pile of almost a hundred submissions down to only fifteen to twenty open slots (depending on word length).  And I had to send out rejection letters—a LOT of them.  And that’s when I learned the truth (and the value) of the “nice, but not a good fit” letters.

Sure, a lot of mediocre and even bad stories end up in the slush pile—but so do a lot of good ones.  Frankly, eliminating the bad and mediocre stories is the easiest part (and there are fewer of them than you might think!).  They all get a short, polite form rejection letter along the lines of “thanks, but we’ve decided to go with other options”. After that, though, the reduced slush pile will almost certainly still contain more excellent stories than can possibly fit in the anthology.  From this point on, winnowing down the pile gets much harder, mainly because the editor has to start disqualifying stories for reasons that have nothing to do with the writing quality.  This is when the (you guessed it!) “not a good fit” rejection letters come it.

Many, even most, anthologies these days are arranged around a theme.  It’s how the book is marketed, why readers buy it, and what they expect.  If the stories inside don’t fit that theme—even if they’re otherwise great stories—readers feel cheated (and leave bad review, which affect sales). Consequently, any story that doesn’t fit the anthology’s theme has to be rejected.  When I was selecting stories for “Corporate Cthulhu“, I had to reject one of the best story submissions for this very reason.  It was the creepiest horror tale I received, the only one that sent a shiver down my spine… but it had nothing to do with either the Cthulhu Mythos or corporations, so I had to turn it down.

The rejection letter I send to these authors was also a form letter, but a different one.  It said, among other things, that it was a good story, that I enjoyed reading it, but that it wasn’t a good fit for this anthology, and I finished by inviting them to submit more stories in the future.  But here’s the thing: I MEANT IT!  And I meant the part about submitting more stories, too.  A talented author is not a resource to be discarded lightly.  Never forget that editors are only rejecting one particular story you wrote, not you as an author. 

So if you ever get one of those “nice story, but not a good fit” rejection letters, believe it, and be proud of it.  They’re basically saying, “this IS good enough to publish, just not in this project.”  More importantly, keep submitting new stories to that venue. They already like your work.  Next time, it just might be a good fit after all.

I could go on and on for hours about what editors are and are not looking for, but this isn’t my blog.  Still, if you found this useful (or if you didn’t), let Marcus know in the comments—maybe he’ll invite me to do another post someday!

The flower

Feel the words

..........365 Days...........

~Just A Photo A Day For 365 Days~

How to teach a difficult child

Teaching techniques to help a difficult child in learning and education. | Parenting | Homeschooling | Short stories and parenting diaries

BettieGsRAseasons

“With an unveiled face, being transformed into the image of Christ–2 Cor. 3:18”

The Simple Little things

Makeup|Lifestyle|Skincare

New Horizon

I am the destination of my journey

My Short Stories & Thoughts

Consider it all fiction ;)

Copious Morsels of Everything

Sharing tidbits of my world

Writing My Heart Out

Just another WordPress site

Burgundy Blooms

Moonlight through a cloud

Beyond Thought

Before action comes a thought and then an idea is formed...

Writergurlny

A Ginger's Point Of View

Wisdom for Living

Practical Wisdom Nuggets

Times and Tides of a Beachwriter

Drift among the scribbles of writer Janet Gogerty

Kolej na kolej

Kolej w Polsce i na świecie - materiały archiwalne i aktualne

Ramrock's Blog

LA LIBERTAD, SI NO ES INDIVIDUAL, NO ES LIBERTAD. Politicamente MUY incorrecto.

racoltapetru6

Just another WordPress.com site

The Soul Journal

Heart Matters

Meggie's Kochstudio

Kochen- Backen- Reisen- München