31 July 2013


I’ve just sent out happy news to six short fiction submitters for our summer updates. As always, I received a few emails from accepted and declined submitters and a couple of people said something like, and I’m paraphrasing, “Seriously, dude, what the hell took you so long?” I kid, everyone was generally polite about the long wait time for responses, but hey, they’re not wrong and maybe it’s time I said a few words about what I’ve been up to by way of explanation.

I’ve just completed an M.A. in Writing & Publishing at DePaul University. For the first year I was able to keep up with it all fairly well, but I was offered an assistantship the second year and a job in the administration of the University Center for Writing-based Learning (one of the largest peer-tutor writing centers in the world). So this was all awesome; free tuition! Fame! Fortune! Well… free tuition at least. But there were some predictable side-effects: I was forced to take a hiatus from producing more episodes of Breakfast With the Author, and the Online portion of Silverthought has been subordinate to the academic calendar since then. I ended up reading submissions mostly during breaks from classes in the summer and winter instead of every month or two like I did before.

Silverthought has gone through a number of iterations over the years, but currently Paul and I run the show ourselves and we’re both busy dads with day jobs. Many companies have “reading periods” and “submissions periods” that are essentially strict windows when these things happen, or they farm out their reading to associate editors, or they charge reading fees to make it worthwhile for the (usually unpaid) editors to sort through the enormous piles of submissions. We agreed that rather than make any radical changes to Silverthought to adjust, we’d just keep on doing what we’ve always done: reading and accepting the best new work we can find, and bringing it to you, the reader, all for free and the highest quality we can make it, no matter how long it takes us.

“Well good,” you’re thinking. “Now that you’re done with all your fancy book learning, you can get back to promptly accepting my short fiction submissions!”

Er… sorta. Here’s the thing: I graduated with distinction from DePaul’s M.A. program and in the process I was accepted to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s PhD program, which I will start in the Fall. The setup is a little different; there’s not a desk-job that comes with my funding, but I will be commuting from Chicago to Milwaukee 3-4 days per week and I’ll be teaching introductory English as well while I complete the degree.

“Does that mean it’s going to take forever to hear back?” you ask.

I’m not sure, to be honest. I’d like to think that I’ll have loads of time between the homework for three courses per semester and teaching my first non-internship classes, but I’ve got to level with you: my reading times for your work are probably going to continue being on the slow side for the foreseeable future.

“But… But your guidelines say—“

I know, they’re out of date, and we’re working on that. Here’s some easy things to remember about our Online division, as we update the info on our main site:

-Short fiction subs are all read and responded to by me personally. If you’ve sent something a long time ago and haven’t heard back, there are two possibilities: (1) I haven’t had time to read it and respond yet or (2) I’ve read it and decided to delay responding because I may be interested in publishing it. Let me say that again, so we’re clear: No matter what Duotrope or WriteCafe or any other site says, I will respond to every Online division submission eventually. Unless you get an email from me directly, your Online submission is not considered rejected.

-We accept simultaneous submissions and it doesn’t hurt my feelings a bit when someone withdraws because they get a story placed elsewhere. In fact, I even send out congratulations emails occasionally when it’s a story that I liked but had to sit on for too long. Someone mentioned that even though we accept simultaneous subs, other places don’t and this delay affects their submissions to other places. Silverthought has always been a company that champions the writer first, and in that sense, companies who don’t accept simultaneous submissions are kidding themselves if they think their submitters aren’t sending work out to anyone and everyone who might publish it. If you’re feeling nervous about it, remember: if Daily Sci-Fi or whoever wants the first shot at your story, all they have to do is read their submissions faster than me.

-I got a lot of submissions this time around that were sent in .rtf file format. I CAN HAS DOCX, YES? SMEAGOL? YES? Seriously, I know you well-meaning cheapniks like to stick it to the Microsoft Man, but it's time to put on our big girl and big boy pants and send in your manuscripts in .docx. If you must use .rtf, we understand, but when your work gets accepted, we're going to start asking everyone to go through the editing process in .docx so we can track the changes from revision to revision. An editor that has to read two versions of your story in two windows is an unhappy editor, and you don't want me to be unhappy when I'm editing your work, do you?

-I recieved a few earnest submissions recently with cover letters that said things like “would you comment on the quality of my fiction?” by way of letting the submitters know what’s good or bad about their work and even if they should continue submitting their fiction to other sites. While I’m flattered that you’d ask such a thing of me, I unfortunately don’t have time to respond to these in depth. I occasionally offer comments on work that I accept or reject, but I try to keep this relevant to the process of either publishing it or telling the author why it was almost-but-not-quite accepted so they can hit the mark the next time around. If you ask for a response like this and get a form decline email, don’t be offended. It’s not personal. Advising you about the publish-ability of your work is the job of an agent, but there are easier ways to get some feedback. Having just been a coordinator of one, I’d suggest contacting your undergraduate university and asking if alumni can use their writing center. Even most small colleges have writing centers, and their tutors are trained to offer advice about how to strengthen and evaluate writing objectively.

-Read our most recent short stories and this blog to get a sense for what we want. I’m still getting a lot of faux-detective stories and vampire-premise stories, and I think it’s my job as editor to make sure you understand: I will say no to these almost the instant that I realize what they are, no matter how well they’re written. It’s just not the way we want to go with our fiction these days, and as a sympathetic writer, I’d rather you send them to someone who will actually publish them than to wait through my submissions queue to hear the disappointing inevitable.

“Wow, you got all serious on us there for a minute,” you say.

I know. It’s like that time Dad sat you down and told you where condoms came from. Above all, we’re working hard to do what we’ve always done, and we appreciate your patience. We’ve got a great lineup of short fiction coming your way including awesome new stories about space travel, aliens, men and women in the future, dystopian medical experiences, supernatural shopkeepers, hilarious drug-peddling idiots, and a cyborg that can halt time.  

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