Fiction Contest Deadline Extended!

I know. We’re excited, too.

Due to extreme weather conditions, we wanted to make sure our friends, readers, talented submitters on the east coast who may have lost power had the chance to send us their stories. Y’know, since they may have been concerned with other things when this happened:

Therefore, the deadline for our 2012 Fiction Prize has been extended to this Friday, November 2. If submitting via mail, this is the postmark date. If submitting online, you have until 11:59pm on Friday to do so. The guidelines are listed here. One more chance at glory within the pages of Indiana Review and $1,000? You might say it’s a “perfect storm.”

And finally — HAPPY HALLOWEEN, ghost-writers!

(NSFW) 25 Ways To Make Your Writing More (Sexually) Exciting

Besides an essay about the death of Moammar Gadhafi that was accepted by another journal before I could accept it, by far the most exciting essays I’ve found in our slush pile so far in my tenure as nonfiction editor have been about or at least featured in some way sexual thoughts, feelings, images, or acts.

This is probably not because I’m any more interested in sex than the average person, I don’t think, but maybe is instead because writing about sex tends to push writers into aesthetic positions and modes and techniques which tend to be engaging for readers.

Here, then, is an edited copy of a guide to writing sex I found on a website called Terrible Minds.  I hope that it will offer clear, direct, and helpful advice for our readers aspiring to write essays.  The stuff after the jump is probably not safe for work, but really, no writing worth anything is safe.

Read more…

What We Look for in Poems: Sizzle & Steak

Dana Johnson, the Final Judge for our 2012 Fiction Contest  (which closes on October 31st, fictioners!), told us in an interview that she has no patience for “stories that are clever but have no heart.” She went on to explain that, though linguistic fireworks are important to a piece, what’s most important (to her) is whether or not the piece is trying to initiate a larger conversation with the reader and the world. In poetry, I think about this as a distinction between sizzle and steak.

You know how, when you go to Applebee’s, somebody always orders that dish that comes out sizzling and smoking, and it smells great (by Applebee’s standards), and everyone thinks, man, I should’ve ordered that? I’ve always been intrigued by that dish, but I suspect that the steak leaves much to be desired. In the same way, while I love sizzle in poems—dynamic use of language, surprising lines, dope images, lovely music—I’m also concerned about the steak. The ideal poem has both, I think—sizzle and steak, dazzle and stakes—and that’s one of the main things I look for when reading for Indiana Review.

(Read more after the jump!) Read more…

On Openings and Intrigants

With this blog post I’d like to return to the subject of wading through the slush pile, though I’m on a less curmudgeonly mission this time.  Once you’ve read enough submissions, it’s fairly easy to diagnose the many ways stories can fail.  It’s far more challenging, however, to explain why successful stories are, well, successful.  My project with this blog post is to try to identify at least one shared trait of successful stories, with the hope of helping some of you as you revise and refine your work to submit it to IR and elsewhere.  (Speaking of submitting, don’t forget that you still have time to submit to our fiction contest.)

As far as I can tell, every good or great story must have a good or great opening.  Perhaps this is a fairly obvious observation, but I can’t think of a single good or great story that opens with a mediocre first page.  When you submit your fiction to journals, the opening pages of your story are absolutely essential in determining whether or not your story makes it beyond the slush pile.  The opening convinces a reader to devote his or her time to reading the rest of your story, rather than moving on to another story, and editors are readers with a virtually limitless supply of other stories to move on to. Read more…

Inside IR: Meet Fiction Editor Joe Hiland

Clockwise from top left: Mark Twain, Ron Swanson, Sean Connery, Topper Hiland and Joe Hiland

It’s true, Fiction Editor Joe Hiland has discerning taste in literature, whisky, and canines, but he also has a soul. Despite his dry wit and carnivorous tendencies, Joe is a true Duke Silver: sensitive, compassionate, and as tender on the inside as a medium-rare steak. Read on to see for yourself.

JL: What is the last piece of writing that knocked the wind out of you?

JH: We usually think of writing knocking the wind out of us (or whatever image we want to use) when we read something for the first time, but it’s interesting when a familiar piece of writing knocks the wind out of you.  I recently had that experience with Bobbie Ann Mason’s story “Shiloh.”  I’ve read that story at least a dozen times, and I was rereading it the other day in preparation for a class I’m teaching.  I was taken aback by the precision of Mason’s language and the richness of even the simplest details in her story.  I’d forgotten the first line, and it caught me pleasantly off-guard during my reread:  “Leroy Moffitt’s wife, Norma Jean, is working on her pectorals.”   So much of what’s at stake in the story is encompassed in that simple opening line.

JL: What do you look for a good story to do?

Read more, after the jump!

Read more…