During the last semester of my MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte, I wrote short stories because I’d finished my thesis manuscript, a novel. (Said novel remains unpublished, but I’m thinking about reviving it when I finish my current work-in-progress.) With my degree in hand, I wanted to be published, so I started submitting my stories to literary magazines. It didn’t take long to pick up a couple of acceptances, and so I kept writing in the short form.
But I didn’t feel like I really understood magazines and how they made their decisions, so I volunteered as a reader for a magazine that I thought was high quality and that was also based reasonably close to me so that I could be of some use. This was before electronic submissions were wide-spread, and this particular magazine only took hard copy submissions. Every couple of weeks I’d pick up the latest batch of stories and essays and would comb through them, looking for the ones I thought were worthy of consideration by the editor. He ultimately made the selections, but I did come to understand how the process worked.
I did that for a couple of years, enjoyed it, and when my stint ended I was keen to get involved with another magazine. By that time, my first short story collection had been published by Press 53, and on a publicity tour, I suggested to the publisher that the press should launch a magazine. He said he’d been thinking about that very thing, and during the drive from one city to the next we fleshed out our idea and even came up with a name: Prime Number Magazine (because 53 is a prime number, prime describes something of high quality, a prime is distinctive, and a number is another word for an issue of a periodical).
We recruited genre editors, put out calls for submissions, designed the webpage for the online journal, and by mid-summer of 2010 we launched. Over the next five years, I served as Editor-in-Chief and we published a lot of good work: short stories and flash fiction, poetry, non-fiction, book reviews and interviews, and the occasional short play or graphic story. But it was a lot of work and in 2015 I decided to step down as editor. The publisher changed the model to one that focused only on short stories and poetry and recruited guest editors for each issue from among the writers whose books the press was publishing. It’s been functioning that way ever since and has achieved even more success, including winning its first recognition from the Pushcart Prize.
Which bring us to the most recent issue of the magazine, for which I served as guest fiction editor (because the press is publishing another story collection of mine this spring). I read lots of terrific stories over the course of a three-month submission window and finally selected three outstanding pieces for Issue 173 of the magazine: “Andrew” by Alyssa Asquith; “Felt and Left Have the Same Letters” by Lisa Cupolo; and “Mission to Mars” by Richard Farrell.
Read these stories and also some fine poetry here: Issue 173 of Prime Number Magazine
More more please about what editors are looking for. It really helps aspiring writers hone their stories. Too much weak writing being submitted to the contests I’m judging. I always encourage writers to use the full word count, hard to compete against other stories if yours is a lot shorter, less space to develop characters, delve into motivation, or build narrative tension. I always enjoy your posts, definitely an insider view of writing/publishing.