Friday, 22 January 2010


Glimmertrain is one of those I’ve never cracked – never so much as made their longest of longlists. Their latest Very Short Fiction Award closes for entries on 31 Jan – details are below.
They have a useful record of subs, via their website. I just checked to see what I sent them over the years, and I’m cringing! All those pieces I sent off (paid) when they were freshly written, when I thought they were simply great, in that first flush of creative bliss. No Nessie, they weren’t. You hadn’t added TIME into the mix. Looking at the titles now, I’m blushing - how embarrassing!
But - I also tried them with Words from a Glass Bubble, for a comp seeking stories about family. It got nowhere, but was later picked by Michael Collins for 2nd place at Fish, and it also got a finalist place at Willesden, picked by Zadie Smith.
I hadn’t even read Glimmertrain when I tried to find success there! Daft person. That was a few years back, I hasten to add. I now have, and even the look of the work on the page is nothing like mine. The style they seem to like is nothing like mine, the look on the page, even – the issues I read seemed to favour third person, dense prose, heavy on exposition.
Two morals of the story – read your target mag. Even if work is ‘good’, it won’t be successful everywhere – this thing is not a science. But do always send out your very best, remembering this - it is highly unlikely that your very best is the one you just wrote.
Here's the details.

Deadline: January 31
• 1st place wins $1,200, publication in Glimmer Train Stories, and 10 copies.
• 2nd-place: $500 and possible publication.
• 3rd-place: $300 and possible publication.
Results post on March 31. Winning story will be published in Issue 79.
Other considerations:
• Open to all writers.
• Length not to exceed 3,000 words. Any shorter lengths are welcome.
• Reading fee is $15 per story.
Glimmer Train Stories, represented in recent editions of the Pushcart Prize,
O. Henry, New Stories from the South, New Stories from the Midwest, and Best American Short Stories anthologies.


TOM J VOWLER said...

Nope, never cracked GT neither. There is a 'typical' GT story, just as there is a New Yorker story, and I'm not sure I write it.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi Tom, well, that's a relief! So it's not just me.
Do you agree that the stories seem to be as I described, or was that just the issues I read, a while back now?

Julia Bohanna said...

I have yet to crack anything American...perhaps my writing doesn't travel. Glimmertrain has a certain type of story - exactly Tom. Sometimes, you simply cannot bend yourself in that direction enough.

It might be useful to analyse a GT story and see its innards.....

Rachel Fenton said...

I don't think I write their house style (or any one else's, lol). Wrote masses of stuff last year but I will be revising it for a good while linger thanit took me to write it before I dare pluck up the courage to send it anywhere...just discovering stuff I wrote a few years ago is actually dire by my today standards! I'd love to write a New Yorker story though....give me time!

Alex Keegan said...

I posted and lost the post. Bugger!

I have been subbing to GT since 1908 and my fees could subsidize a small country.

I've gone close and made the finals 3 times (maybe 4) but always with my "second-string" or third entry.

I find the stories very, VERY samey, especially in voice and they feel over-worked, too-tidy, too "MFA"

I once, in Boot Camp, took half pages of all 13 stories in an issue and cobbled them together into a single block of text, only changing names and tenses so the trick wasn't blatantly obvious.

The story looked "odd" but was readable!

Later I (partly) explained and asked Boot Campers (how many writers?)

Most thought 2-3-4 when in fact, of course, there were 13.

It's the disease of competence (as I wrote in an article once) and MFAs are producing slick, smooth but (IMO) emotionless work.

Second, a very hgh proportion if not all of the GT readers are pre-MFA, on MFAs or recently finished and MFA and working as interns..

thus they spot and like MFA work

The bland leading the bland, as we might say


Alex Keegan said...

My 3 were

DEFINED (2,023 Words)

My Son, Going Under (3,270 Words)

Family Matters (999 Words)

Interestingly, NONE have yet published. Christ I'm getting lazy with the subs

I have a vague memory that there was a fourth, but not sure


Vanessa Gebbie said...

I think 'tidy' is a good description, Alex. And of course, if thats what goes down well for the eds, then thats fine.

A few they didn't like, from me, (all BC stories - you'll remember one, don't know about the others) all extremely UNtidy stories -

Cactus Man - subbed March 2004 (!!) since anthologised three/four times.
The Kettle on the Boat - subbed November 2004 - went on to win a subsidiary prize at Writers Inc Writer of the year 2006. Published in One World Anthology alongside Lahiri, Adichie, Gappah et al.

Others from BC, never pubbed and probably beyond salvation - Apneeya, A Gentle Suttee


You will laugh at this. There is an article online, pops up if you Google MFA backlash. A whinge from a bloke with an MFA who cant get a job - if you look at the detail you beging to see why, perhaps...


"I explained to him that my 48-hour M.F.A. consists of 33 hours of graduate English courses and 15 hours of writing workshops. I told the man that as far as I'm concerned, the M.F.A. from Western Michigan is an English master's degree and then some. It certainly takes longer to earn an M.F.A. than it does an M.A., and those extra hours of writing workshops have proved to be useful in teaching composition and are not just a foundation for teaching creative writing. He agreed, and I'm happy to report I'm still a candidate there.

However, I have changed how I list my degree on my C.V. As I have said, only 15 of my degree's 48 hours are in creative writing, so I list my degree as an M.F.A. in English..."

!!! Oh wow. 15 whole hours CW to get an MFA...

Sue said...

Glimmertrain's reading fee is very off-putting. I've got fed up with pouring $15 down the drain two or three times a year.

One story, since anthologised three times and another, anthologised twice, got nowhere.

They're defifnitely not the sort of stories pre-MFAs might like, so I give up.