Let’s face it–this writing gig is tough. We pour out our hearts on paper, and then we try to get people to read our words. And they’re already busy.
1) Longshot Island can help. I’ve known Daniel White, editor of Longshot Island, for a couple years now, and I can state that he has excellent taste and is absolutely trustworthy. If you submit, he won’t spam you with an author package on sale this week only. But he might publish your work, and that’s the first way they can help us. We all need publications, and Longshot Island has already featured one of my short stories (http://www.longshotisland.com/2017/02/07/anemone/), so it’s not like you have to be famous to be considered.
My tale happens to be fantasy, but that’s not the only genre they’re interested in. To quote from their site: “We are looking for mainstream fiction. We want stories that are well written, intelligent, and enjoyable to read. We want stories with metaphors and emotional content and imaginative descriptive writing…We are seeking mainstream fiction first and foremost…But we also routinely publish science fiction, fantasy and horror stories, because we like to read just about anything…the focus is on giving recognition to great work, not on making money.
We challenge you to write something new, something different from your usual bag of tricks…Stretch yourself. Go out on a limb until something snaps.
That’s easier said than done. Here are some clues regarding what we look for in a story:
Usually stories with more characters work better than stories with fewer characters. You’ll need to have a strong central character, of course. But as you write, think about which character owns each scene. Create a clear scene with descriptive writing but not too much exposition. While action and dialog lead to exciting writing, descriptive writing will play an important role in giving your story skin…”
They prefer shorter stories, 500 words to 2,500 in length. And they also like collections of poems. Submit your stories and poetry here: http://www.longshotisland.com/submissions/.
And that brings us to 2)–it’s incredibly validating to be published. If you haven’t had the experience yet, I envy you the pure joy of whirlng around the house, dancing on air because someone published you. It makes you stand straighter as a writer. It wasn’t until I had my first publication that I answered, “I’m a writer,” when people asked me what I do. Up until then, it seemed too much like claiming a status I didn’t deserve.
It’s also validating to readers. People take my self-published collection of short stories more seriously because I have six trade publication credits to go with it.
3) Longshot Island doesn’t just publish online. They take the best of their publications and compile them into a print magazine. Let me tell you, the first ezine publication is special. But so is holding an actual print copy of something with your work in it. I gave copies of my first to everyone I loved. (Cue Cover of the Rolling Stone here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ux3-a9RE1Q).
And this is the really cool part.
4) Longshot Island submits your work for awards.
I don’t know if any of you have looked into this, but the award situation is depressing–just Google Puppygate. In addition to that, it seems that lots of places want to consider you for their award–if you send them a check–and these are not small checks, either. I’m sure some of them mean well, but how do you separate the rackets from the genuine contests?
Longshot Island is one solution. Daniel White states: “We choose to stay away from money-making organizations and focus on the most important thing: recognizing great writers for what they’ve written. At the same time, we realize it’s all a long shot. Hence the name: Longshot Island. It’s a place where great stories abide that might not ever be recognized if it weren’t for organizations like the Pushcart Prize.”
I asked him for further information about this because I’d really like to be able to state that I’ve won awards with real stature in the writing community. Here’s what Daniel told me:
“Longshot Island…focus[es] on two competitions, the Pushcart Prize, which is for short stories in books, and the O. Henry Awards, which is for short stories in magazines. These are competitions that authors can’t enter independently. They need a publisher to nominate them. We act as a portal for authors, giving them a chance to win both of these prestigious competitions.
In 1972, Bill Henderson…started the Pushcart Prize, along with editors such as Joyce Carol Oates. The idea was simple. All year long, independent publishers like us, over at Longshot Press, read through and evaluate stories submissions. We pick the best and then publish those stories. At the end of the year, we narrow down the field and send the best of the best to the Pushcart Prize. They evaluate what they get and put together an anthology of the best short stories of the year from all the small presses who want to get involved. But entry is limited. Each publisher may only submit six stories per year. Authors who even just get nominated for the prize consider it an honor, often mentioning this in their biographies: http://www.pushcartprize.com/pushcartpress.html.
There is no entry free and there is no money paid out for the prestigious Pushcart Prize. It’s all about recognizing the best writers of the year. Likewise, we don’t charge our authors anything to submit stories and we don’t pay them anything. We do give each author five printed copies of the book or magazine the work appears in.
We found the O. Henry Awards to be on similar footing. There is no entry fee and no money awarded, just recognition for great writing. These stories are picked out of magazines and not books, so we publish both a book and four quarterly magazines each year. The best stories we get from authors go on our website, called Longshot Island. After three months, we pick the best of the stories online and put those stories in a magazine and send it to the O. Henrys.
When I talked to Laura Furman, who manages the O. Henry Awards, she said: ‘I thank you for thinking of The O. Henry Prize Stories, and I hope you’ll continue to submit your magazine. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small venture or a large one for the O. Henry. It’s always the stories that count.’
There is no limit to how many stories we can send to the O. Henrys. They expect to receive the full copy of each magazine we print. All year long they catalog and read every story in every magazine they receive. At the end of the year, they recognize the best stories they’ve found by putting them in an anthology, just like with the Pushcart Prize. The first O. Henry anthology was published in 1919 by Doubleday. Currently, the contest is owned by Random House: https://www.randomhouse.com/anchor/ohenry/resources/faq.html.
Here’s a great article about how the process works: https://electricliterature.com/at-the-end-of-an-unlit-dead-end-corridor-in-the-basement-of-calhoun-hall-on-the-university-of-texas-63da2c2f7474#.x8lphym1i.”
So go check out Longshot Island. I think you’ll be glad you did.