Three Stories Unlikely to Make it Beyond the Slush

This post is for fiction writers thinking about submitting their work to Indiana Review. We receive somewhere between 3,500 and 4,000 fiction submissions each year, and I spend a good deal of my time digging through those submissions to separate the bad stories from the good-and-potentially-great stories.  So I thought I’d offer some insight into how I decide which stories make it out of our slush pile and which are rejected quickly.

Some stories are easy to reject.  I’m always amazed by the number of stories we receive with typos, grammatical errors, incorrectly punctuated dialogue, and other glaring mistakes in the opening pages.  Those stories almost always get dumped right away.  Same goes for stories with blatantly racist, homophobic, or misogynistic language in the opening pages.  If, for instance, a female character is introduced on the first page and all we learn about her is the color of her hair and the size/shape of her breasts, I’m unlikely to read the second page.

I also reject certain stories from our slush pile not because they’re poorly written, but simply because I read the first three or four pages and say to myself, “I’ve read this story before.”  There are a few recurring subjects that come up in so many of our submissions that they verge on clichés, and it’s rare for stories that deal with these subjects to distinguish themselves from the crowd of stories in the slush pile.  That’s not to say that these subjects can’t make for fine stories; it’s just that I rarely come across unique takes on these subjects.

The three types of stories I most often reject because I feel like I’ve read them before: Read more…

Inside IR: Meet Associate Editor Katie Moulton

As Indiana Review‘s Associate Editor and a fiction writer in Indiana University’s MFA program in Creative Writing, Katie Moulton  has a lot on her plate. Luckily, she has proven herself more than worthy of the job. Even though one of my favorite things to do is fake-fire her on a daily basis, I do not know what I’d do without her insight, enthusiasm, deejay skills, and knack for writing literary journal-themed parodies of popular songs (more about that later). Whether she’s investigating grammar’s nitty-gritty nuances, answering emails with great aplomb, or figuring out other editorial-esque things, Katie Moulton makes the Indiana Review office a smarter, sassier, and generally wonderful place to be.

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Vievee Francis: Coming to the “I”

Vievee at breakfast with IR staff and friends in Bloomington this past April

Vievee Francis is one of those poets who is often described as ‘visionary.’ Her poetry is deep and rich and so strong, and as a fiction writer I feel pretty inadequate trying to describe it. I was amazed to discover, when I sat down and spoke with Vievee in Bloomington (when she was in town for the 2nd Annual Blue Light Reading this past spring), that her voice in conversation is as complex, thoughtful, and passionate as it is in her poetry. You can hear the audio of our interview on The Bluecast page (forthcoming!), or read it below.

 

Vievee Francis: My name is Vievee Francis, I’m a poet, I live in the city of Hamtrammack, which is a small town—2.2 square miles—in Michigan, completely surrounded by the city of Detroit.

Rachel Lyon: Your poems have a distinct relationship to both city and a rural or country sort of landscape. Can you talk about landscape in your poetry a little?

VF: Landscape plays a strong role in my poetry. I’m from Texas originally—from West Texas, but I’ve also lived in East Texas off and on through my early childhood—but then, I’ve lived in cities as well—Atlanta, Detroit. And I think the play, back and forth, between the rustic and the urban, as well as what is Southwestern or Southern and what is Northern, those are always being juxtaposed in my work.

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Roxane Gay: Where There’s Wit, and Also Darkness

From her gut-wrenching short stories to her incisive humor pieces to her no-bullshit cultural criticism, Roxane Gay is a writer who writes in many forms, all brilliantly. I was lucky to get to sit down with her when she came to Bloomington for IR‘s 2nd Annual Blue Light Reading. You can hear our long-form interview on The Bluecast (forthcoming!), or read it below.

Roxane Gay: I’m going to take a picture. I take pictures of everything, so don’t be alarmed.

My name is Roxane Gay. I’m a writer, and an assistant professor at Eastern Illinois University.

Rachel Lyon: Can you describe your work a little bit?

RG: I’m a Libra, so I like a little bit of everything, so I write a little bit of everything. So I’m always just trying to write things that will move people in some form or fashion, whether I’m writing fiction or nonfiction.

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The Blue Light Gets a Back-to-School Hairdo

It’s important to have a distinctive hairstyle if you want to be remembered by future generations.  One of literary history’s more memorable hairstyles is that of Mark Twain, whose wisdom and social acumen were most likely contained in those impressively bushy locks.  As Twain grew more successful, his moustache grew accordingly, finally all but eclipsing his mouth in its enthusiastic (but perhaps somewhat misguided) attempt to fill his face.  The archetypical wise old man indeed.  And who better, then, to remind us to flaunt our own individuality?  Though Twain might have found some of the last century’s hairstyles confusing, he was definitely a fan of the moral superiority of the thinking individual, as opposed to the often idiotic and cruel morality of society as a whole.  So, in the words of Huck Finn, “I ain’t a-going to tell, and I ain’t a-going back there, anyways. So, now, le’s know all about it” (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter 8).  Mark Twain reminds us that if we are ourselves, and if these selves know profoundly what is good, we too can have impressive facial hair when we are old.