The Snark Zone: Letters from the Editors
Theryn “Beaver” Fleming
As I was putting together this issue, I realized that we have six repeat contributors this time around. Five of those are appearing for their second time: C.L. Bledsoe, Kate Gibalerio, Kimberley Idol, Charles D. Phillips and Janice D. Soderling. Two of those writers (Gibalerio and Phillips) have pieces in different genres than they did in their first appearance in Toasted Cheese. One (Bledsoe) is returning after a four-year absence. From an editor’s perspective, both of these things are rewarding to see.
After nine years, seeing familiar names is not unusual, but we generally don’t have so many in one issue. One reason for that may be that we limit submissions to one per person per submission period (a maximum of four per person per year).
We have this policy for a few reasons. For one thing, it’s hard to consider a new submission in an unbiased way when you’ve just sent a rejection or acceptance letter. Asking writers to wait to submit again gives us a bit of breathing room and means the new submission is more likely to be considered on its own merits. For another, if we allowed unlimited submissions, we might end up with issues dominated by just a few writers. One of our mandates is to be welcoming to new writers and limiting the number of submissions per person helps us to fulfill that goal by giving a broader range of writers a chance at publication.
There is, however, a legitimate way to circumvent this rule, one that few regular submitters take advantage of.
Enter a contest… or four! Did you know that Toasted Cheese holds four writing contests each year? We do! Three of the contests are for fiction, and one is for creative non-fiction. All of the contests are blind-judged, so your recent acceptance or rejection doesn’t come into play. Enter all four contests, and you increase your opportunities for publication from four to eight.
Earlier I mentioned there are six repeat contributors in this issue. The sixth is Liz Mierzejewski, winner of the Fall 2009 Three Cheers and a Tiger contest, who is appearing in Toasted Cheese for the fourth time. This is her third win of the fall Three Cheers competition, making her our winningest contest entrant.
I think Liz’s success can be attributed to a combination of things. First, she’s persistent. She keeps entering year after year, and has entered every Toasted Cheese contest at least once. That said, it’s probably not a coincidence that she’s been most successful writing stories with a science fiction element; science fiction is her favorite genre. Finally, she’s a regular at our forums. Being familiar with the judges’ likes and dislikes can’t hurt.
Of course, not everyone has the time or inclination to hang out at the forums (although we’d love to see you there). But there are other ways of getting to know the judges. One of the ways is to check out the past contest winners. Another is to read the Editor’s Picks in each issue. In the spirit of the season, I’ve made this easy for you. Below, I’ve listed each of the contests with links to past winners, as well as the editor’s picks of the respective judges.
By the way, Liz’s fourth publication? Best of the Boards. That’s right. If you do decide to join us at the forums, you actually have twelve opportunities for publication per year.
So why limit yourself to just regular submissions? Enter a contest. (I know the contests are a challenge; that’s the point.) Post at the forums. Who knows? Maybe you will be our first triple threat and have three pieces published in the same issue.
The Dead of Winter contest has been judged by Stephanie Lenz (Baker) & Erin Bellavia (Billiard) since Toasted Cheese 4:1. The judges say: “Dead of Winter is a fiction contest (any genre) for stories with supernatural elements or themes. Ideally, stories should be set in autumn or winter. The most original, most haunting stories will be chosen for publication.”
DoW runs from November 1 – December 21 each year and winning stories are published in the March issue. Word limits are typically between 3,000–5,000 words.
Past themes & winners:
- 2003 | The Ghost & The Darkness | 1st: “Between Stairs,” 2nd: “The Love-Struck Ghost and Madeline,” 3rd: “First Night.”
- 2004 | The house at the end of the road | 1st: “Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie,” 2nd: “Winter’s Ghost,” 3rd: “The Broken Spoke.”
- 2005 | The souvenirs/trophies of a returned soldier | 1st: “Ardennes ’44,” 2nd: “The Last Time?,” 3rd: “The Meeting, Short and Fleeting.”
- 2006 | The Haunted Lighthouse | 1st: “Life’s Beacon,” 2nd: “Wailing Station,” 3rd: “The Lamplighter.”
- 2007 | Urban Legend | 1st: “King of Bull,” 2nd: “Vespers,” 3rd (tie): “The Purchased Bride” & “Movement of Skin.”
- 2008 | choice of Alaska, Alternative Santa, Blood River Bridge or Ventriloquist | 1st: “Ice Under the Bridge,” 2nd: “Merry and Monroe,” 3rd: “Bridging Christmas.”
- Poetry: Three Poems (“Earnestness,” “How can we know the dancer from the dance?,” “Night and its forces…”), Two Poems (“The Somnambulant Fish,” “The Reunion”), Three Poems (“The Boy Who Swings on Our Line,” “What Is Hardest,” “Caught Unaware”), “Withdrawal.”
- Flash: “Jack’s Accidental Protest,” “Fireworks,” “Noisy,” “Post.”
- Fiction: “Have A Safe Day,” “To Hell and Back,” “The Clay Man,” “Blood in the Apron,” “Le Metro,” “Blackbird Calling,” “Flight,” “Miss Rhonda Knows Hair,” “The Oaten Hands,” “Life’s Routines,” “Meegan Kissinger Wore White.”
- Poetry: “Elephant Nannies.”
- Flash: “Missed,” “Beautiful Medusa.”
- Fiction: “Crazy, Psycho, Irrational, Neurotic, Obsessive,” “I’ve Come To See The Show,” “My Father’s Last Breath,” “Coffee Cups,” “Little Mother.”
- Creative Non-Fiction: “Epilogue.”
The spring Three Cheers and a Tiger contest has been judged by Amanda Marlowe (Bellman) and Mollie Savage (Bonnets) since Toasted Cheese 4:2. Three Cheers and a Tiger is a 48-hour short story contest. All entries must be composed within the contest time frame. The spring rendition is a mystery contest.
Spring 3 Cheers is held in March each year and winning stories are published in the June issue. The word limit varies, but is usually under 2,500 words.
Past Themes & Winners:
- 2004 | A mystery with a garden as the central feature | Gold: “In The Andersen’s Garden,” Silver: “Autumn Joy,” Bronze: “Back to the Garden.”
- 2005 | A mystery that features a bird’s nest | Gold: “One Ring,” Silver: “What Happened to Rocketman,” Bronze: “The Bird’s Nest.”
- 2006 | A mystery that involves a spring thaw | Gold: “Anything for You,” Silver: “House on Sand,” Bronze: “On a Good Day.”
- 2007 | A mystery that features a delicate balance | Gold: “The Fall,” Silver: “A Shift in Balance,” Bronze: “Off-Duty.”
- 2008 | The First Flower | Gold: “Forever Saffron,” Silver: “Lily’s Miracle,” Bronze: “Bloom and Die.”
- 2009 | Something found between the pages of a used book | Gold: “The J,” Silver: “Stuck in the Middle,” Bronze: “Lady Fingers.”
The A Midsummer Tale contest has been judged by Theryn Fleming (Beaver) since Toasted Cheese 4:3. A Midsummer Tale is a creative non-fiction contest. The “creative” in creative non-fiction means we are looking for non-fiction stories told using fiction techniques. Stories must take place in summer.
AMT runs from May 1 – June 21 each year and winning stories are published in the September issue. The word limit is typically 3,000–5,000 words.
Past Themes & Winners:
- 2004 | Summer Vacation | 1st: “Every Single Thing Matters,” 2nd: “On: Frozen Foods, Fresh Produce, and Young Love,” 3rd: “R.A..”
- 2005 | Road Trip | 1st: “Crossing the Mojave,” 2nd: “Missing Sunrise in Charleston,” 3rd (tie): “Abbey Road and Mister Maniappa” & “Dog Driving.”
- 2006 | Summer School | 1st: “Dreams from the Dust Bowl,” 2nd: “Annual Ritual, Then Alone Again,” 3rd: “Theorem.”
- 2007 | The Beach | 1st: “Fear of Drowning,” 2nd: “The Final Wave,” 3rd: “Shopska Salad.”
- 2008 | Snapshots | 1st: “Being Queen,” 2nd: “Richie in the Leaves,” 3rd: “A Brief Meeting.”
- 2009 | Growth/Harvest | 1st: “After Seven Long Years,” 2nd: “Gym Bag Steak,” 3rd: “Always Date an Honest Drug Dealer.”
- Poetry: “Struck By A Sparrow,” “Question Mark the Sun Spot,” “i dream of pigeons,” “How to Express Who You Are…,” “Three Poems (“Ocean Maps,” “The Tin Woodman,” “The Musical Dead”),” “Three Poems (“Romanovs,” “Photo View,” “Skin”).”
- Flash: “Search, Rescue.”
- Fiction: “Della,” “The Alarm Clock,” “The Tracks,” “The Two of Us.”
- CNF: “The Premature Birth of a Story,” “Marrakech Verses,” “Tractor.”
The fall Three Cheers and Tiger contest has been judged by Lisa Olson (Boots) since Toasted Cheese 3:4 and Ana George since Toasted Cheese 4:4. Three Cheers and a Tiger is a 48-hour short story contest. All entries must be composed within the contest time frame. The fall rendition is a science fiction / fantasy contest.
Fall 3 Cheers is held in September each year and stories are published in the December issue. The word limit varies, but is usually less than 2,500 words.
Past Themes & Winners
- 2003 | Beginnings | Gold: “First Steps,” Silver: “Facing It,” Bronze: “Final Countdown.”
- 2004 | A sci-fi / fantasy story with a ladder or staircase as a key element | Gold: “They Will Come,” Silver: “Falling,” Bronze: “Ayken’s Steps.”
- 2005 | Play within a play | Gold: “Love Electric and True,” Silver: “Closing Night,” Bronze: “Ouija Bored.”
- 2006 | Paper, Scissors, Rock | Gold: “The Ships Come Tomorrow,” Silver: “Senseless,” Bronze: “Reflections from a Former Life.”
- 2007 | Mentors | Gold: “In Memory of Maggie,” Silver: “Dragon Song,” Bronze: “The Retrieval.”
- 2008 | Origins | Gold: “Birth of a Hero,” Silver: “Medium,” Bronze: “The Nightmares of H83.”
- 2009 | The marginally successful construction of new technology or the researching of new lore. The process of inventing something often involves false starts or other unforeseen difficulties (and budget overruns). The widget (or spell, or potion) kind of works, mostly, until… | Gold: “Dante’s Grid,” Silver: “Tech Support,” Bronze: “Prisoner’s Potion.”
- Poetry: “Las Sirenas,” Three Poems (“Dreams Below the Bowery,” “Cars,” “My Lover, the Subway”).
- Flash: “Lies,” “Over Heaven’s Hill.”
- Fiction: “Dreams to Remember,” “Missing Parts,” “The Ghost of Quinceanera,” “Prairie Song,” “Afternoon Performance,” “A Requiem for Javier,” “In the Footsteps of Robert Running Bear,” “Disappearing,” “One Last Storm.”
- Flash: “Broken,” “When Life Hands You Lemons,” “Waiting Room.”
- Fiction: “Dale’s Night,” “The Acquiescent Passion,” “The Peddler,” “No Good Reason,” “Foreign Affair,” “It Killed to be Kind,” “Do Not Go Gentle,” “Boxes of Junk,” “Infidels.”
- Creative Non-Fiction: “Cathartic Introspection at 3:18PM.”