What a joy to read and help select the short fiction included in the most recent edition of Grain, magazine: Passing Signs/ New Fields. A joy and a challenge. Quite frankly a huge challenge. Editor Jesse Archibald-Barber was wonderful to work with and did the bulk of the legwork, pouring through almost 90 submissions of fiction alone. He narrowed those to twenty. From there I was asked, as Associate Fiction Editor for this summer 2015 edition, to select eight or nine, five of which you will find scattered amidst fabulous poetry and creative non-fiction and behind the intriguing artwork of Tara Krebs. There was a lot of fine writing in the hundreds of pages we read, good story-telling, engaging characters. So how to choose.
Something visceral happens when a story gets you in its grip. An opening sentence might tickle, a first paragraph flabbergast, or a long thread of scenes build into anger. Or. Laughter. Or tears. I don’t necessarily have to ‘get’ it, or even like it, as in it’s not the kind of thing I usually read. But characters that stay with me after the last sentence, a story that surprises or enlightens with its particularly unique turns, and writing that fills me up as my eyes eat words used with such clarity that no one else could say exactly that thing in that way — yeah, that’s the hook.
As you can imagine, I learned some things about my own efforts at short fiction from this difficult process of choosing. The obvious: there’s a lot of good writing out there and it’s hard to get published. But also the ways in which a story stands out. Or not. Mistakes to be avoided that even the most published of us make: tense changes, unintended POV shifts, murky details. I know I have to work harder. I have to make my stories what I wanted to see in all those submissions that didn’t quite make it. I have to edit, edit, edit…..
So, to all the writers whose stories I read, thanks for the chance to read your work. Thanks to Jesse and all the people at Grain for this opportunity.
And, of course, to the readers. As Jesse writes in his Editor’s Note to the edition, “In this shared process of selecting and editing, I am made keenly aware of how this work reaches out to a readership still hungry for art. You, the readers, are part of this process and the work now falls to your hands.”
Grain can be ordered through their website at GRAINMAGAZINE.CA, or found in good bookstores everywhere in the magazines section. Enjoy!