Pattern Recognition

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.


Baker & Billiard | Dead of Winter

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:

Baker’s Picks:

Billiard’s Picks:


Bellman & Bonnets | Three Cheers and a Tiger (Spring)

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:

Bellman’s Picks:

Bonnets’s Picks:


Beaver | A Midsummer Tale

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:

Beaver’s Picks


Boots & Ana | Three Cheers and a Tiger (Fall)

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

Ana’s Picks:

Boot’s Picks:


E-mail: beaver[at]

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