At Little Patuxent Review, we value all our submissions and do not take it for granted that poets and writers are willing to entrust their work and themselves to us. The process of going from a batch of submissions to a final journal is naturally then a very difficult one, both for the time involved and for the gut-wrenching decisions choosing one piece over another. Our readers are the unsung heroes of this process. In this next Q&A, we ask Dan Crawley, an LPR fiction reader, about his experiences as a reader. And thank you, Dan, for all your work and service to LPR and the Maryland literary community.
Dan Crawley’s stories have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of journals and anthologies, including New World Writing, Jellyfish Review, CHEAP POP, New Flash Fiction Review, and North American Review. He is a recipient of an Arizona Commission on the Arts creative writing fellowship and teaches fiction workshops and literature courses at various colleges and universities throughout Arizona.
Q: Why did you decide to become a reader for Little Patuxent Review?
A: Lisa Lynn Biggar, Little Patuxent Review’s Fiction Editor, was kind enough to invite me to come aboard as a reader for the Winter 2017 issue. She knows my work, and I’m glad she thought I could assist in selecting stories. And I’ve enjoyed every minute of reading such diverse and remarkable stories.
Q: Based on your experience with LPR, do you have any advice for fiction writers who are submitting to journals?
A: Many journals (print and online) accept simultaneous submissions, so it is tempting to “carpet-bomb” a story out to multiple journals that you’ve never heard of before. I think if you want to raise your percentage of acceptances, know the kind of writing a journal is looking for before submitting. Once you have studied the stories in a current issue (and back issues) of a journal, you’ll have a good idea if your story may be a good fit. Also, glaring grammar issues can thwart any chance of publication. First readers and editors do appreciate serious and professional writers.
Q: Does being a reader for a journal inform your own writing in any way?
A: Absolutely. Years ago, I thought teaching fiction workshops was my apprenticeship regarding my own craft of writing. I have to be on my toes when working with so many different students in revising so many different stories in a workshop. But since I started considering others’ writing for publication, rather than a grade, I have a much more heightened sense of comparing what I’m doing on the page to the stories in the queue. Now I find myself re-working the beginnings of my stories over and over, knowing the importance of those first few distinctive lines to engage a reader, or playing out dialogue to reveal characters in unique ways. Of course, we all want readers to arrive at the end of our stories and hopefully feel enlightened, astonished, and satisfied. And I’m drawn toward stories with believable characters saying and doing unexpected things, with striking sensory details throughout, and final lines that prompt me to scroll up to the top and start reading again.
Q: Are you writing anything right now?
A: I’m finishing a flash fiction chapbook to send off to an award. And since many of the flashes from this linked collection are appearing or forthcoming in amazing journals, I am excited and think something interesting is happening with this little book. Also, I’m working on two other chapbooks that are in the beginning and middle stages of construction, with a few of the flashes already appearing in other amazing journals recently. My short story collection (with flashes and longer stories) is out to a publisher right now, and I’m looking to submit to other awards hopefully soon.
Q: Do you have any writing goals for this year?
A: I hope for more of my stories to be accepted by journals in the coming months. And I want to develop these chapbooks mentioned above into feasible little worlds. I still write longer stories, but I find it fascinating that I started off writing only tiny stories decades ago, then moved on to longer works, and now I’ve fallen in love with the genre of flash fiction all over again. I’m writing microfictions, too, which I never thought I could pull off in any kind of coherent way. I believe my best writing is yet to come.