Guest Editorial by Diane Turnshek
Gliding into Writing
“Good writing is a kind of skating which carries off the performer where he would not go, and is only right admirable when to all its beauty and speed a subserviency to the will, like that of walking, is added.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)
Where do new writers come from? Frequently, they’re young and they go from writing in their diaries at thirteen to grow up and share their polished, secret texts with the world. Sometimes a change of life creates a writer out of a non–writer. New moms, servicemen, transferred workers, and those recovering from illnesses have been known to begin writing to pass the downtime. Retirement brings out the author. Many people are inspired to write by reading something poignant and beautiful or, at other times, something horrendously bad.
If the desire to sell fiction is real, hopefully the new writer will learn not to start with a trilogy of long, involved novels. Ideas come in all sizes, and to maneuver one down to a story with the lowest possible word count is a critically necessary skill for a writer. Concision increases power. Flash fiction, defined here as anything 1000 words or less, is a distilled punch.
Once the creation step itself is past, next is the marketing stage. The piece is as refined as possible, now what? New writers are frequently attracted to new markets. Abyss & Apex magazine has been publishing fantasy and science fiction since the January/February issue of 2003, paying pro rates for pieces 1500 and under. Positives immediately come to light: the clear guidelines (standard manuscript format), possibility of selling novelette length works and specific reading periods that give writers motivational deadlines. A new writer would check out the magazine, looking for pro authors among the table of contents. Members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) are well represented on the pages here. Naming just a few: Justin Stanchfield, Jay Lake, Lawrence M. Schoen, Yoon Ha Lee, Barth Anderson, James S. Dorr, Steve Carper, Tim Pratt, Jennifer Pelland and Bruce Boston (Pushcart Prize, the Asimov’s Readers’ Award, the Bram Stoker Award, the Rhysling Award, and the first Grand Master Award of the Science Fiction Poetry Association). More notables, Rhysling and Dwarf Star poetry award winner Greg Beatty and Bruce Holland Rogers (two Nebula Awards, a Bram Stoker Award, and a Pushcart Prize).
But the true test of a magazine’s honor and worth lies in the stories, not the names. To the Abyss & Apex magazine editorial staff, it doesn’t matter who the author is—the story speaks to the editors without the added input of a name tossed in the rink. For the record: Abyss & Apex had three first sales in the 4th Q 2006 (“The Man Who Was Never Afraid,” “Nomad,” and “The Knife”). Last year, Abyss & Apex published many other first–time sales. The 1st Q 2006 had “Douen Mother”; in the 2nd Quarter of ’06 the magazine pages were graced by “Becoming,” the critically acclaimed novella “Emmet, Joey & the Beelz,” and “Unicorn’s Rest”—the last by a 20–year–old.
Experienced writers get comfortable where they’ve sold in the past and feel obliged to send their old editors a chance at their new creations. How does one build that kind of trust? It happens when writers are treated with respect, their submissions are responded to in a timely fashion (typically, two months for Abyss & Apex) and occasionally author’s rejected work is commented on. Many authors represented on the pages here are repeat submitters—a good sign that they’re treated well by the magazine’s staff. An editor’s job is not simply picking the stories, but soliciting and encouraging writers to send stories. Balancing the issue, not overwhelming in any one direction. Choosing the order of the stories. Asking for rewrites. Working with writers. Getting them to submit again.
Abyss & Apex is a continuing success story. In this coming edition, the 18K word novella “Memory of Touch” is Karen Swanberg’s first sale. Jay Lake returns with another tale, too. Welcome to a fresh new volume of Abyss & Apex magazine.
Diane Turnshek is the Eastern Regional Director of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and is running the 2007 Nebula Awards Weekend in New York City on May 11, 12, 13. She founded Alpha, the SF/F/H Workshop for Young Writers and currently mentors graduate students in the Seton Hill University Masters Degree Program for Writing Popular Fiction.
Editorial © 2007 Diane Turnshek. All other content copyright © 2007 ByrenLee Press
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