short stories

The waiting is the hardest part

I’ve got three pieces out on submission right now, which is more than I’ve had out at the same time in at least a year (so, yay me!) but at the same time, it’s not nearly enough. Partly because I need to finish and submit more if I want to have the kind of career I look forward to, and also because I’m trying to get out of the habit of writing/submitting one piece, waiting to hear if it’s accepted, and then submitting the next piece. I’ve done astoundingly well at selling the fiction I submit because I am very careful about where I submit it to (my acceptance rate is over 80% for the last three years) and I’ll keep targeting my work to the right markets instead of going the “throw spaghetti at the wall and see if it sticks” route, but I think I can do a lot more than I am.

Goals. Gotta have goals.

Meanwhile, I’m waiting on:

“Alone, In Dust, You Are Yet My Pharaoh, So I Wait” – this is an epic SF pantoum currently sitting at Mythic Delirium. It’s a market on my target list, it’s a long poem that’d be difficult to place other places, and it’s written in a very structured, repetitive form (which also makes it harder to sell). But the editor heard me read it aloud at this past Readercon, I’ve worked with him on other projects, and according to Duotrope, rejections have been going out for more than a week and my piece is still under consideration. I’m nervous but hopeful, so we’ll see. The market’s currently closed to new subs. Waiting: 87 days.

“One Way Out” – a 460 word flash story at Every Day Fiction. According to their tracker, it’s still in “slush”, which means it hasn’t been read yet. Tomorrow I’ll have hit their target reply date, and it’ll be another month before I expire out of their usual response time. Another market I’d like to crack. Waiting: 59 days.

“The Things We Do For Love” – at 100 word storyAccording to their Submittable tracker, it’s “In-Progress”, which I think means it’s been read but not yet decided on. I wrote this piece for the challenge of writing a story in exactly 100 words. I’ve been waiting a little longer than normal for this market, and the last response listed on Duotrope was from August, but according to their Twitter feed, the editors are reading new work and the market is still active. Waiting: 48 days. UPDATE: Rejected.

These are all markets with high rejection rates, and that specialize in the thing I sent them (poetry, microfiction) so I don’t mind waiting this long. Looking at the list, though, it’s also obvious that I haven’t submitted something new in almost seven weeks. Hey, that’s when I started my new dayjob and lost all of my free time! Oh… yeah.


Workshop Update: Nuts and Bolts of Submitting starts tomorrow; Plotting the Short Story starts Oct 28

My next workshop, Nuts and Bolts of Submitting, starts tomorrow! There’s still room, so please sign up here. If you want to join but won’t be able to start for a few days, that’s okay, too. Sign up, let me know, and you’ll be able to do the reading/assignments without falling behind if we work together.

By the request of previous students, the workshop after will be Plotting the Short Story. Starting Monday, October 28, it’ll cover how to fit a whole story into different lengths: flash (1000 and under), mid-length short story (about 4000 words), and longer short stories (up to 6500 words). What do you put in and what do you leave off the page? Fundamentals of storytelling, prepping (including outlining, character arcs, and plot twists) and editing (including how to recognize the different moments of your story so you can move them around) are also covered. Like my other workshops, it’s only $50 for 4 weeks. Sign up here! Space will be limited, and I expect it to fill up quickly.

I’ve created a page, here, to keep track of my classes: what I’ve offered, what I’m doing now, and what’s coming up. Bookmark it if you think you’ll want to take a future class, and I’ll keep the page updated with class descriptions and links.

All workshop students get (and keep) access to our private online forum, with market listings, space to post work-in-progress for critiques, and open discussion topics.



Writer Wednesday: Jessica May Lin


Today’s writer is Jessica May Lin. I discovered her when I read her amazing flash piece, “Mortar flowers”, in Nature‘s Futures section, and then read her “Dark, Beautiful Force” at Daily Science Fiction, found out we have friends in common, she’s going to school in the first town I moved to when I left home after high school, and she’s a fellow Codexian. Naturally, I had to ask her a million questions. (Okay, ten. Ish.)

When she’s not writing, Jessica is a student at UC Berkeley. She is also an acrobatic pole dancer. You can find her at

1. How does your life as a full-time university student inspire and/or detract from your writing? Does your major influence your writing, or do you keep the two separate?

I think the exciting thing about being a student is that every day, you get tons of new stuff thrown at you from all sides, which is inspiring in strange ways. Once, after being unable to fall asleep all night, I misunderstood some theory my physics professor was describing, which eventually inspired me to write a story with the title “The Insomniac’s Guide to Collapsing Universes.” I’m majoring in Comp Lit, which has introduced me to radically different ways of storytelling that depart from the Western emphasis on plot and interiority, my two current favorites being Chinese vernacular literature and Soviet avant-garde cinema.

That aside, my writing life, my student life, and my dancing life are all pretty different from each other with very few overlaps, and I like to think that each one engages a different side of myself. It’s kind of like living in 3 different worlds at once with the ability to jump between, but I like it that way. When I get overwhelmed by one, I can easily slip into another. That way, everything I do always feels fresh.

2. What local authors groups or online communities do you actively participate in?

I’m very close with the Odyssey Workshop Class of 2012, who are the first writer friends I’ve ever had. It’s been pretty exciting, watching their careers blossom over the past year and getting to cheer them on from the sidelines. More recently, I made a lot of new friends at Taos Toolbox 2013, who I’m still in touch with. I’m also a member of Codex Writers Forum, which is a supportive, insightful resource that throws the best contests.

3. You’ve written and published some excellent very short fiction. You’re also working on a novel, A Dream of Burning Cities. Do you prefer one kind of writing over the other?

I’m a novel person through and through. When I get an idea I’m super excited about (which happens like, once a year), I want to hold on to it and explore it in as much depth as possible. Sometimes I think I get too invested. I do feel like there’s more room for experiment in short stories though, so every now and then when I stumble across a catchy concept that I can’t stop thinking about, I will write a short story.

4. Which publication are you most proud of, and why?

The bit of writing I am most proud of is actually something I wrote this summer. It hasn’t found a home yet, but I like it because it forced me out of my comfort zone. It was definitely a risk, but one I’m glad I took.

5. You’ve already attended a couple of writing workshops (Taos, Odyssey), which is unusual for a young writer so early in her career. What did you get out of those experiences, and which workshops do you want to attend next?

Before attending workshops, my writing was pretty much an explosion of feelings and ideas without much organization. I liked painting pretty pictures with my words, but I had no idea what a plot was… I think I’m much more disciplined now. Also, I’ve met some incredible people and mentors, who have been there for me through thick and thin. However, I think I’m done attending workshops for a while. For me, there are two parts of learning to write, which are 1) learning to write and 2) living and growing. I’ve been spending a lot of time learning to write but I don’t think I’ve been on an adventure in a while, so I think I’m going to do that next summer. (more…)

Review: In Search of and Others, by Will Ludwigsen

4* (our of 5) for “In Search Of”. It’s a weird format–a list of facts about your life that you didn’t know. But in telling you these things, Ludwigsen tells you who you are–a man who became a cop, who wasn’t everything he wanted to be but wasn’t nothing, who lost more than he thought and didn’t hold on to the woman who loved him the most. The kicker at the end makes it all worthwhile.

4* for “Endless Encore”. What looks like a simple ghost story becomes more with the addition of tangible details; you stop thinking of it as a story written on a page. The color of a dress, the time of day, the wood and stone and the dialogue of a jealous preteen, all blend together into a real moment.

5* for “The Speed of Dreams”. Once again, Ludwigsen presents you with one story and then kicks you in the teeth at the end with the other story he’s been telling all along. You’re watching it move along and take this twist and then you’re thinking, “No, no, don’t go that way…” but it does. I was left at the end wanting to tell her not to do it, but by the time we’re reading it, it’s too late. (more…)

Short Fiction Workshop: Better Writing Through Brevity ($50, 4 week class, begins Aug 1)

Beginning August 1, 2013, I’ll be offering a 4-week short fiction workshop online. It’s geared toward people with schedules that might keep them from being able to take a similar workshop in person, as well as non-US writers who might be 12 hours ahead or behind the rest of the class*. I wanted to keep the cost small to accommodate the folks who’ve asked me to do something like this because they can’t currently afford to hire me as an editor. This class is only $50 per person, and includes a free edit of your final writing exercise.

Before the class starts, you’ll get access to a private, online forum. There you’ll find the recommended reading, broken down by story size, as well as a place to introduce yourself. You can post your writing exercises and ideas in this space without having to worry–because it’s not open to the public, your stories won’t be considered “previously published”. You can post any time of the day or night, and your work and comments will get seen by the rest of the class.

At the beginning of each week, you’ll be emailed the lecture and assignment for that week (you are not required to be online at any specific time). You do the writing exercise for that week, and once you’ve posted it, we’ll be able to discuss your work. I will personally critique every bit of writing that gets posted, as well as answer questions and participate in the conversations. Your final assignment, a flash piece of up to 1000 words, won’t be posted in the forum. Instead, you’ll email the story to me, and I will do a thorough edit of each one. The class schedule looks like this:


Week 1 (Thursday, August 1): Introduction, 140 characters, 150 words

Week 2 (August 8): More discussion, Long sentence/six sentence stories

Flash fiction

Week 3 (August 15): 500 word stories

Week 4 (August 22): 1000 words (discuss your ideas online, but email the story to me)

After the class: edits, further reading suggestions

The online forum looks like this:

click to see a larger version

click to see a larger version

By enrolling right away, you can get early access to the “Recommended Reading”. Within 24 hours of signing up, you’ll get an email with more information, and an invite to the forum.

Plus, I’m going to limit the class size, and if you wait to sign up you might miss out.

Sign up now! $50 per person

What qualifies me to teach this class?

I am currently putting together my fourth anthology of short fiction (as an editor). I am a short fiction writer, myself, and have sold every size of short fiction, from 140 character stories, through microfiction, flash, and short stories above 1000 words. You can find my flash pieces at Daily Science Fiction and Goldfish Grimm, as well as upcoming stories in Mad Scientist Journal and at Akashic Books. I also have 20 years of experience as an editor, as well as three years teaching writing to individual students. In addition, this process of working through microfiction up to flash and then beyond is exactly the path I took when I got serious about my fiction writing a few years ago. I talk about that in the introduction to my short fiction collection, Women and Other Constructs, out now.

* Everyone is welcome, but the class will be taught in English.