February 15, 2017

Beautiful Sentences

I offer the following to help our beloved submitters know what I’d love to see in our virtual queue:

  • Stories by writers whose voices are underrepresented in the literary community including POC, immigrants, writers of any/all sexual orientations and from across the gender spectrum, and people with disabilities.
  • Stories that are stylistically and/or formally innovative, but not in a forced or contrived manner. In other words–the form works in harmony with the content.
  • Stories whose subject matter is unusual, peculiar, fresh (i.e. stories about fascinating things that are not breakups, death, or bereaved owners of deceased pets).
  • Stories that tackle familiar subject matter in new and surprising ways.
  • Well-crafted sentences. Beautiful sentences. Like these:

“Hattie used to be a beauty from Philadelphia, but now, wrinkled, mute, weighing scarcely more than a boom box, she was here.”

—Joy Williams, The Quick and the Dead

One teenager, a boy named Robert, is dancing down the street. Robert is practicing. He is snaking his arm. He makes it fluid: shoulder, elbow, wrist. Or tries. Several times. The audience feels his pain. The audience knows Robert must master this move. Robert and the other teenagers must win a competition. Robert, in particular, must win this competition in order to get a scholarship the girl laid. Robert must get laid. This is a dance movie!”

—Tim Jones-Yelvington, This is a Dance Movie!

“I shake the sand that’s collected on the welcome mat and wonder if the saying ‘To wear out one’s welcome’ came about because of the mats. Did somebody visit somebody else so often that the WELCOME actually faded? Then I wonder if everyone who’s ever shaken a mat has wondered this.”

—Rachel Khong, Goodbye, Vitamin

“He leaned in toward her, and as he gave her a hug said Give Cora a kiss from me. He said it the same way he gave her a hug, like it wasn’t his sister he was hugging, like it wasn’t his mother he was sending a kiss to, but just a polite platitude. Like he was ripping out her heart, like he was cleanly extracting it and placing it in a plastic bag and storing it in the fridge to eat later.”

—Yuri Herrera, Signs Preceding the End of the World

“The TV is muted. There is not a cloud in the sky. I look back and forth between the plane and Dad’s privates. I wait to be punished.”

—RL Goldberg, “In the Flesh”

“The point is to strip down, get protestant, then even more naked. Walk over scorched bricks to find your own soul. Your heart a searching dog in the rubble.”

—Barry Hannah, Long, Last, Happy: New and Collected Stories

Thank you for entrusting me with your best work.

Emma Smith-Stevens
Fiction Editor