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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Saturday, May 07, 2005 - 08:46 pm:   

Here's the way our slush pile works: Every manuscript that comes in goes into the same pile. We don't have an A, B or C pile. We go through everything. Honna and I both have to like a story to consider it for the mag. We seem to have similar tastes. I've tried to "trick" Honna from time to time (and vice versa), such as when I slip a story I like back onto the pile for her to read. 9 times out of 10 she'll give it to me and say "You should read this..." We don't stockpile manuscripts. We buy for only one issue at a time, X number of stories, so sometimes we have to send back a perfectly good story due to tough choices.

When we first started out we kept our response time quite low. A manuscript rarely stayed in our office more than a week, unless we were holding onto it for further consideration. Over the years that response time has grown to a month, and even two months. But a few weeks back, I dove into the pile and read 6 weeks worth of stuff in two days and decimated the pile. Probably talking 300 submissions. Out of that I put two stories and a couple poems on the hold pile.

For two weeks now, I've been getting to the manuscripts as they come in and FOR THE MOMENT we are trying to stay on our old one-week limit. We'll see how long THAT lasts...

We hope also to hear about your own slush pile woes and successes. From time to time we'll pass on what we've been finding in our slush pile, to give you a little insight into the Talebones thought process. So come on in to the pile, but if it gets too big, be careful...it could topple over and seriously injure you... :-)
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Josh Rountree
Posted on Monday, May 09, 2005 - 10:14 am:   

Good info, Patrick. Thanks for the peek behind the Talebones curtain.
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Monday, May 09, 2005 - 08:40 pm:   

Josh, pay no attention to the little man behind the curtain... <g>

Just plunked myself down tonight and read manuscripts received from 5/3 through today. So far so good, keeping current.

A majority of the stuff I read today didn't pull me past the first few pages.

HOOK ME!
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Tuesday, May 10, 2005 - 11:05 pm:   

I took today off from reading manuscripts. A light mail day: just a couple of submissions came in. Well. They can sit a day or two. :-)
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John Klima
Posted on Wednesday, May 11, 2005 - 06:45 am:   

You shame me! I am SO far behind on my slush! Bad editor, bad!

JK
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Honna Swenson
Posted on Thursday, May 12, 2005 - 10:11 am:   

Hey everybody! As I've once promised in the other slush pile forum (on our own website), I'm going to post a gorgeous first line from a story by Tom Picirrilli. "Where the Martyered Flesh Knows Serenity" It's included in his collection DEEP INTO THAT DARKNESS PEERING. Talk about slamming home atmosphere and creating an eerie sense of dread. . .

"As always, in the swollen hunter's moon of October, when the autumn winds reach down the ridge and maple braches claw at the roof shingles, my dead brother Stevie dreams of the carnival, and the carnival comes."

This immediately gives a sense of time, season, sounds, characters, and creepy imagery leading to an event to come (carnival coming) and that clue that this has all happened before. All in one friggin' sentence!

It's not easy to do--I've tried it--but it's something to set your standards to: how to pack so much into a lyrical line.

Now, I'm going to look at all my unfinished/unsold short stories and see how I can punch up the first few lines.

Honna
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Thursday, May 12, 2005 - 04:23 pm:   

Hey, John. I'm just making up for all those months when I was so far behind reading submissions, when I had almost two months worth stacked up.

I'm not likely to keep up this pace! Didn't read yesterday either as I ran up to Seattle to meet up with a couple dozen of our Advanced Placement English kids and a few other AP teachers. Browsed a great used book store (Twice Sold Tales) and had Ethiopian food right after, then over to the drive-in for milkshakes. Then home to be with my sweetie. Orion was already asleep, afraid to say. It's the way it goes sometimes. We watched the new episode of LOST, then that was it. Sometimes, obviously, the slush takes a back seat.

You know? :-)
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John Klima
Posted on Thursday, May 12, 2005 - 06:08 pm:   

I know too well. In addition to working full-time in NY, I'm going to grad school to get my MLIS full-time, too. Sometimes the zine takes a backseat to reality. However, while sitting on the train heading home, hearing announcements of delays, I was glad the slush pile was in my bag. Made some good headway.

I like hearing editors talk about success wrestling with the slush pile, it always motivates me to get working on mine! :-)

JK
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Amy Sisson
Posted on Friday, May 13, 2005 - 11:49 am:   

John, are you in NYC, or NY? I got an M.L.S. from SUNY Albany a few years ago. (They've since moved to an M.L.I.S. degree.) Now I live in Houston.

Just nosy, er, curious! I can say, though, that the M.L.S./M.L.I.S. has been a nicely marketable degree. Not that the pay for librarians is what it should be for someone required to have a Master's (or two, for some academic librarian jobs), but still, the jobs are there and there's also a great deal of job satisfaction.

Good luck!
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Monday, May 16, 2005 - 04:30 pm:   

Forgot to post here a few days ago, after going through about a half-week's worth of slush. Kept nothing of it. I was going to comment on SOME of it, I know I was, but that's the way with it for me with the slush pile. Once the SASE is sealed and a day or two passes, I pretty much repress the memories. :-)

So I'm down to whatever will come in today's mail.
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Saturday, May 21, 2005 - 10:13 pm:   

About four days worth to tackle, and I'm not sure when I'll get to it, primarily because we've got to get through the hold pile and make decisions on stories we're going to buy for #31. (And there are the other 100 things I've got to do this week...)
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 10:58 pm:   

How DOES this happen?!? Suddenly, I'm about 10 days behind in manuscripts. The best laid plans of mice and men and editors....

But I'll get to them soon. I really DID like being caught up from day to day. Plus, some writers send the next submission with a note saying it's the fastest rejection they've ever had!
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Jonathan Laden
Posted on Thursday, June 02, 2005 - 08:17 am:   

I got over my thrill about the fastest rejection I've ever had a few years back :-)

But, seriously, good work keeping up-to-date on these. We (I use that term advisedly) writers do really appreciate it.
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Saturday, June 04, 2005 - 07:12 pm:   

Now that we've announced the stories we're buying for #31, we're wide open for fiction, with a hold pile of ZERO. Well, until today.

Got caught up again on the slush pile today, reading about a week and a half worth. Out of that batch I found a couple stories to put on hold for Honna to read.

Jonathan, it's a little weird to be thrilled about a fast rejection, huh? :-)

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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Saturday, June 25, 2005 - 01:54 pm:   

Yep, behind again on the slush pile. About 2 weeks worth of reading to do. But on a positive note, the school year is done for me, as of Friday. Of course we've got the trip to Calgary for Westercon, but after that, I'll have lots more time to tackle the pile.
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steve redwood
Posted on Sunday, June 26, 2005 - 02:00 pm:   

I remember the days when you were ultra-efficient (before babies came along) - you kept it down to 'virtual slush', the only editor who used to reject my stories before I even wrote 'em! Hello again, Patrick. Congrats on reaching no. 31.
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2005 - 05:00 pm:   

Hey, Steve! Boy, I realized I've not posted here for a while. (And it will be bad again for a while as we're headed out of town tomorrow for 6 days.)

Yeah, we used to stay on top of the pile pretty well. We may have rejected your stories, Steve, but we DID buy one at one point, did we not? And how long has it been since you've sent us something new? <vbg>

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steve redwood
Posted on Friday, July 01, 2005 - 03:46 pm:   

About two years,I suppose. I'm sensitive!! Actually, I write about one 'dark' story to about every ten hopefully-humorous ones, so a rather limited output. Also, I went off back to Spain again. Must visit your site, and see if I can be seduced again. Talebones is still my favourite shape of any mag. (I assume you wouldn't have dared to change it??)
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Friday, July 08, 2005 - 01:30 pm:   

We've not changed it, shape-wise. ;) New logo, interior layout. And we've not been a "dark only" mag for a long time. We've got eclectic tastes!
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Monday, July 11, 2005 - 04:09 pm:   

The pile hasn't shrunk at all. Presently almost a month behind. But I'll be tackling it soon...
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Sunday, July 24, 2005 - 08:29 pm:   

Still a month behind, so at least it hasn't GROWN, and we've kept it a manageable size...
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Anon
Posted on Tuesday, August 02, 2005 - 06:17 pm:   

*cough cough*
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Wednesday, August 03, 2005 - 12:30 pm:   

yeah, yeah... <vbg>


It has GROWN now. Honna's mom's in the hospital and all's a bit hectic right now...
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Saturday, August 06, 2005 - 09:01 pm:   

Read a month's worth of slush yesterday. My eyes hurt. But I did find 3 pieces to put on the hold pile.

We're caught up to 7/29...
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Leonard J. Sidiski
Posted on Friday, August 26, 2005 - 04:10 am:   

*peek over your shoulder*

How deep is the slush now? Is it be melting in the summer heat?
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - 12:37 am:   

Yeah, Leonard. Funny you should ask. :-) (And sorry for the delay in responding...I've been ultra busy getting ready for the start of the new school year (I'm a high school teacher for my day job).

Unfortunately, the slush pile has ballooned again. I've not had a chance to read it, so those stories that came in 7/29 are still there. We're a month behind, and it will be at least another week before I can tackle them now with Nasfic happening this Labor Day weekend, and the first day of school for students next week.
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Thursday, October 20, 2005 - 12:05 am:   

Sigh. Much behind-ed-ness.
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Marie Brennan
Posted on Wednesday, October 26, 2005 - 10:11 am:   

Heh. For once, I'm on the other side of the fence. Normally I'm (selfishly) in the camp of wanting an editor to get to the slush pile, and so what if the next issue comes out a little bit late -- but this time, to heck with the slush pile, I'm in that issue! ^_^
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Sunday, November 06, 2005 - 04:27 pm:   

This will show you how far behind / busy I am. I'm looking at my bulletin board eleven days after Marie posted the above message! Sheesh. Some weeks are just crazy, and when they're crazy, I don't think much about getting over to the board. Apologies.

Then again, Marie, we're really close now to having that issue out! We're on track still for getting it out the end of this month.

FYI, we're still reading submissions as far back as Sept 22nd. We'll catch up, but right now the new issue is taking precedence.
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Monday, December 12, 2005 - 11:13 pm:   

We could be at a new record here. (Not that it's a record to brag about.) Two months and two weeks behind. CRAP. Well, the new issue is out, and Winter Break starts soon. Here's hoping we catch up soon.
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Marie Brennan
Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 08:58 pm:   

It's a good statement on your response times if two and a half months is a record slump. I'm a little tired of slinging stories at markets and forgetting about them for the next six months as a matter of course.
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Friday, December 16, 2005 - 01:17 pm:   

I agree, Marie. But I can see how easy it is for things to get a little backlogged.

Two evenings of reading yesterday and Wednesday. I got roughly through the middle of November on the submissions.
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Thursday, January 12, 2006 - 10:57 pm:   

We've caught up on submissions through December! Put a bunch of things on the "need to read again" or "need to read a little closer" pile.

With the postal rate change, I worried about a lot of folks not having enough postage, so that is what spurred a bunch of mega-sessions of reading. For the large return envelopes, since I didn't want to check the weight and postage on every single one, I just made sure our return address wasn't listed, or blacked it out. For the business-sized SASEs, it was easy enough to pop a 2 cent stamp on them. At the most, it cost me fifty cents total. We'll see what the January submissions look like when we get to them...
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Thursday, January 12, 2006 - 10:58 pm:   

Hey, writers....

What's the longest a story of yours has ever stayed in a slush pile (without getting lost somewhere along the way)?
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Jim Van Pelt
Posted on Friday, January 13, 2006 - 05:54 am:   

Twenty-four months at THE EDGE, which was (is?) a student run science fiction magazine from one of the Utah universities. Not only did it take two years to get a reply from them, but it was for a requested rewrite! I thought about it for two or three seconds, then sent the story somewhere else (where it sold).
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Matt Hughes
Posted on Friday, January 13, 2006 - 08:58 am:   

Last week, I received an acceptance from the editors of Tesseracts 10 (Canadian sf antho), for a story I sent them in July 2004. In the meantime, the story had been accepted and run by Interzone.

Matt Hughes
Black Brillion now in paperback
The Gist Hunter & Other Stories now in stores

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Marie Brennan
Posted on Friday, January 13, 2006 - 04:31 pm:   

I had a 404-day turnaround from Black Gate one time. My submission to the Borderlands anthology is currently bidding fair to pass that mark, but at least they don't mind (even actively encourage) sim-subbing.
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Friday, January 13, 2006 - 09:29 pm:   

A year and a half for me with a story at CENTURY
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Monday, January 30, 2006 - 09:29 pm:   

The pile creeps upward again... Ergh.
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Marie Brennan
Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - 06:10 am:   

Curse those pesky writers, always sending you stories!

I finally pulled my Borderlands story. I'd run out of places to sim-sub it, and the odds of me getting in were not worth waiting the year or so *more* it might take to hear back from them. But man, I hate doing that.
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2006 - 07:48 pm:   

Hey, fellow editors, here's a way to cut down on that slush pile. Just follow the advice of this writer, who emailed me earlier today:

"I am experimenting with a new concept for submissions. It is very simple: go to domain withheld.com be sure to read my mission statement and then check out the title "Title Went Here." If you like and want to print it, great let's do it. I am more concerned with your suggestions and comments on this method for submissions."


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Mary Robinette Kowal
Posted on Friday, February 17, 2006 - 11:02 am:   

Wow. That's brazen.
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Friday, April 21, 2006 - 11:39 pm:   

At one point, about two weeks ago, we had nearly 2 1/2 months worth of submissions piled up. The weekend of the 8-10th, a big chunk got read. Of course, now two more weeks have happened (where does the time go??). As of today, we're up through manuscripts received through 3/23, so it's not as bad as it was.
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Thursday, June 01, 2006 - 12:20 am:   

Yeah. Not much ground gained. Closing in on two months worth of manuscripts in the office again.
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 11:17 pm:   

I forgot to mention, about a week ago...I attacked the slush pile with determination. Not a single manuscript remained that we weren't considering further. Out of 2 1/2 months worth, I put aside three stories.

As of today, we've only got three days of manuscripts on the slush pile.
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jess kaan
Posted on Friday, July 07, 2006 - 07:23 am:   

And do u already give your answer ?
best regards.
Jess
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jess kaan
Posted on Sunday, July 09, 2006 - 10:13 am:   

sorry for my bad english
no give but "send"
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 04:51 pm:   

Jess, did you have a story on the pile? I don't remember...but it is not one of the stories we put on hold.

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