Tips to Help Your Short Story Succeed at TTR

Tips to help you succeed with your short story at TTR:
1. If a story has been declined without a request for revision, please do not send it again, even if it has been a number of years. Submittable has a button to click on that pulls up, in seconds, all of the submissions by any one author. Inevitably, one of us remembers the story.
2. We are currently not interested in stories that focus on the POV of a male who is afflicted with toxic masculinity. We’re not interested in spending time inside this type of person’s head. However, a story in which toxic males are present and there is pushback against this attitude and behavior will be considered. A fine example of this is the 2018 winner of the Tillie Olsen Short Story Award, which you can read on our website.
3. We are not interested in stories that are not cognizant of language when referencing American Indians and are not truly authentic to their experiences. Comparing American Indians to animals (even if trying to elucidate the government’s racist policies), writing about their spiritual or religious beliefs or cultural practices when you have only researched this from afar, writing in their POV and when the character becomes violent saying something like it is their “Indian blood” coming out, and so forth, are big no-no’s at TTR. Some stories told by American Indians are considered sacred to them and not to be shared outside the tribe. If you are non-indigenous and have worked hard to be authentic (and not just by reading books written by white people) and have vetted your story with a number of important people within the tribe you are writing about (if you are writing about the tribe’s cultural and spiritual practices and beliefs), please feel free to send it.
4. See number two but insert a racist or homophobic POV.
5. Please do not send angry, defiant, defensive, demeaning, rude cover letters. If you don’t like our submission guidelines or our hard work to be inclusive to all peoples, send your story somewhere else.
6. We won’t publish you story if there is objectification of women within it. This is when the story focuses on women’s physical attractiveness and describes women according to how a male judges their body and appearance. Sometimes these narratives will compare women to animals. In these stories, often the male characters are then described according to their character and personality traits but not their physical appearance. Sometimes the main character is not the stereotypical toxic male, but this objectification sneaks into the narrative. See number two about toxic masculinity and the need for pushback against this.
7. Sometimes we still see stories where the characters are stereotypes. Don’t send those.
8. Make sure your main character has a problem or dilemma they need to try and resolve in the story. This makes your story interesting and engaging. We aren’t interested in pieces that are just descriptions of someone’s life. The short story is an art form and all readers expect writers to honor this form, no matter how experimental the work, no matter how young the reader or modern the reader or old the reader. The number one complaint amongst readers from all walks of life that have been staff at TTR is lack of narrative arc. Make sure the character’s problem becomes apparent to some degree by page 2. This is called “tension.” A narrative arc is what makes a piece, a short story. How this is done is open to an enormous amount of leeway. Read William Maxwell’s short story “The Thistles in Sweden” which is seemingly about nothing, but is in fact, a short story.
9. If you send us fantasy, science fiction, or historical fiction, please make sure the story is focused on character development rather than plot. For historical fiction, please be cognizant of language.
10. Do not front load your story with exposition and backstory. Start your story as soon as possible to when the tension (see above) enters the character’s life.
11. The stories we publish at TTR have what we consider to be substance. Substance makes us respond either emotionally or intellectually or both. Substance has weight, even in humor.
12. Be careful not to send us stories that are for children. We get a surprising number of good stories that are suited to children and teenagers and not adults. The focus in the story is only on what children concern themselves with. While important to children or teenagers, the concerns are boring to adults. This is a tricky balance. But see “The Gun Rack” by WA Polf in TTR October 2016 and “The Cigarette Thieves” by Renee Macalino Rutledge in TTR April 2017 for examples of a main character that is a child, but the story appeals to adult readers. Also, Flannery O’Connor’s “The Lame Shall Enter First” and Edward P. Jones’s short stories often have juvenile characters but are written for adults. Maybe one way to analyze this is to think about how shallow the story is; the more shallow the less likey to engage an adult.
13. Did we say character, character, character? Fleshy and whole. Alive on the page.
14. We do care about language usage at the sentence-level. Prose that appears wrought with the need for line edits will be declined. Numerous typos and grammatical errors are off-putting.
15. Finally, make sure your story knows what it is about. Is it a victim of thematic hoarding? Our heads are spinning. Does it need a spring cleaning? Too much clutter with plot lines, characters, themes, makes for a messy story that still reads as if it doesn’t know why it exists yet. Take the time to find out. The shorter the story, the tighter the focus.
16. These recommendations are very specific to TTR. There are lots of journals publishing fabulous stories and they may or may not disagree with us entirely or in certain areas. This makes for a thriving, committed, and passionate literary world. Seek out the publishers and editors who will appreciate your stories.

And the WINNER Is …

The Tishman Review is pleased to announce that final judge Linda LeGarde Grover has selected the short story “Confluence” by Adam Kotlarczyk as the WINNER of the 2017 Tillie Olsen Short Story Award!

 

Adam Kotlarczyk
Adam Kotlarczyk

Adam Kotlarczyk’s fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His stories have appeared in such publications as The Tishman Review, The First Line, Alt Hist, Dual Coast Magazine, Dovetales Literary Journal, With Painted Words, and SQ Mag. Adam has written articles and produced scholarship for publications including The Illinois Association for Gifted Children Journal and Notes on American Literature. He recently completed his first novel, a fantasy epic. Adam has a Ph.D. in English and teaches literature and writing at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, a public residential high school near Chicago for gifted and talented students.

You can read more of Adam’s writing here:

“Prison Ghost Tours, Inc.” in With Painted Words

The Super Sea Trade League Strike Force (TM)” in Cahoodaloodaling

Outbreak” in SQ Mag

Big Teacher” in The Tishman Review 2.2

Congratulations, Adam!

 

Tillie Olsen Short Story Award 2017 Special Mention by Linda LeGarde Grover

Oshini by Grace Singh Smith

Tillie Olsen Short Story Award 2017 Semi-Finalists

Sangfroid in Two Movements by Lee Kvern

How Poor People Decorate by LB Johnston

Vacancy by Keren Heenan

Boat People by Y.L. Fein

Make Your Mother Happy by billy lombardo

The Road to Leongatha by Alex Reece Abbott

Let Mythical Beasts Flourish by David Armstrong

Addition by Ksenia Lakovic

The Nebraska Hula by Kendall Klym

Somebody Else’s Christmas by Shayne Laughter

The Paring Knife by Brady Huggett

Cindy Jack and the Town Drunks by Markus Egeler Jones

Crocodile in the Elevator by Gail Schwartz

Such Sweet Thunder by David Norman

The Star Spiders by Douglas Thiele

We Began to Live by Jennifer Gravley

Drenched by Israela Margalit

The Easy One by John Maki

TillieOlsen
Tillie Olsen

 

Thank you to everyone who entered the contest. 

The Tishman Review 3.3 Launches on July 30th with the Winning Short Story, the Special Mention, and two of the Semi-Finalists! Upcoming issues will also host other semi-finalists. Fabulous stories to knock your slippers about and make sure we remember Tillie Olsen.

Review of Paul Griner’s “Hurry Please I Want to Know”


train track

Hurry Please I Want to Know (Sarabande Books 2015)
$15.95
168 pages

Review by Jen Corrigan

image001Patient, meticulous readers will be rewarded. Paul Griner’s depiction of America in his short story collection, Hurry Please I Want to Know, winner of the 2016 Kentucky Literary Award, is, at once, delicate, robust, and familiar, bewildering, exotic, and entirely foreign. While readers may feel disoriented and on uneven footing as they pick through the pieces, I think those who continue on will be pleased with the journey they take through this odd and eerie land of Griner’s unrelenting, unapologetic prose.

Griner’s range as a fiction writer is expansive. He experiments with microfiction, longer pieces, first person and third person narration, characters, places, temporalities, magic realism, traditional narratives. Pinpointing a particular thread, image, voice, or style that ties together these varied stories presents a challenge. While this may create a jarring sense of inconsistency for the reader at first, this grab bag of fiction shorts is ultimately satisfying. If a reader doesn’t feel a connection to one story, she stands a likely chance of being profoundly moved, inspired, or taken aback by the next.

The crowning achievement of Griner’s collection is, without a doubt, the gut-wrenching “On Board the SS Irresponsible,” a story that centers on a father taking his three children on a fishing outing one summer afternoon. The piece explores family dynamics around the rift of divorce, the complex and overlapping relationship of hope and sorrow, and the inescapability of paternal guilt. It is a story that first appears quiet and unassuming, a traditional narrative that is sandwiched in the collection between two flash fiction pieces with experimental flavors; however, this piece, which appears about a third of the way into the collection, has a climatic energy that serves to speed the reader’s pace onward. Not only did I find the story intricate and complex on a purely textual level, it climbed down my throat and made a nest inside my belly, resonated inside my bone marrow and rattled the teeth in my gums; it was all so unexpected. Griner took my readerly expectations and turned them up and over. By forcing my focus onto the significance of a boat through the title and the situation of the family around the vessel, I was unable to predict the arrival of a train, the unapologetic catalyst for the final tragedy of the story. I read the last sentence: “For a few seconds more, he wanted to spare her that knowledge” and my soul ached. I put down the book, exhaled, and gave thanks I had not gone my whole life without reading it. Picking up this collection is worth it if only to read just this one story.

Part of what characterizes Griner’s range as a writer is his ability to suture together the comedy and the tragedy that so often appear alongside one another in life. What makes the prose itself especially elegant is the way in which he takes chaos and loss and places them so easily within the controlled structure of his narratives. After drawing the reader into and out of a sense of comfort with “On Board the SS Irresponsible,” his stories begin to thematically fade into subtlety and quietude, but never relief. The crux of “Separate Love” is the beauty and sadness of fleeting relationships, of reaching out and trying to be a bit less alone. An older woman, Gwynn, meets handsome Terry at a grocery store while buying mustard and attends a local dog show in hopes of running into him again. “Loneliness,” Griner writes, “was a terrible gnawing thing that age only intensified.” By means of the carefully selected diction, Gwynn, a nice-looking but otherwise unremarkable woman, is juxtaposed against the painstakingly and purposefully bred dogs that are much more beautiful to Terry. Griner respects but does not coddle his readers; the collection he assembles is one that is deliberately uneven, forcing the reader in and out of vastly different worlds over and over again, but Griner holds faith that his reader will keep up. Most importantly, Griner has an intense compassion for his characters even as he manipulates them into an emotional space of touching, overlapping, and becoming, once again, sorrowful strangers.

Not all of Griner’s stories in Hurry Please I Want to Know affected me as did these I mentioned. Some pieces are so esoterically crafted that they may resonate solely with the author or readers who have an inside look into the narrative. Others I forgot after I closed the book. However, I think this collection, with its diverse nature and broad scope, contains a story for every reader, a story that echoes one’s regretful humanity, a story that will make the reader, at least one time, close her eyes and exhale.

Jen Corrigan is a graduate student and instructor at the University of Northern Iowa, and former editorial intern at the North American Review. Her prose has appeared or is forthcoming in Heather; Apocrypha and Abstractions; The Gambler; Change Seven Magazine; Hypertext Magazine; Cease, Cows; and elsewhere. She serves as a jury member for Mash Stories. Visit her at jencorrigan.wordpress.com.