In 2006, a call went out for slush readers at Shimmer. I was in a place with my writing where I felt it was something I should do–the experience could only help my own writing, as I would be learning what worked and didn’t when it came to fiction. It’s always easier to see flaws in the writing of others, isn’t it?
I didn’t think, however, that I would make the cut. I worried over my application, because Shimmer was a publication I loved. Shimmer filled a niche in the genre community–quirky and often unclassifiable fantasy. It’s what I often wrote. So, I sucked up my courage and applied (and crossed my fingers). It wouldn’t be any worse than a fiction submission, I told myself. It’s either yes or no and then you move on.
When it was a yes, it’s possible I danced around my desk a bit (a lot). Reading those first submissions was scary (terrifying). I had the power to reject stories and it’s one I had to take seriously–and still do. When Beth asked me to take the reins when it came to fiction starting with issue 15, I had that moment again, the moment where I thought I wouldn’t make the cut.
Still, I wanted it. I had learned much from Beth and slush and my fellow readers in six years (!) and it felt right to take that step. Terrifying (in a new way), but right. Not only did I still have the power to reject stories, I had the power to say which stories would actually make it into the issue. Which also meant I had to figure out the best way for stories to fit together, the best way to use the space, and exactly what I wanted Shimmer to look like.
What Shimmer looks like isn’t changing. Beth and I have much in common when it comes to our story candy, and since I’ve always loved what Shimmer does, Shimmer is going to keep on doing that. Of course there are things I like that Beth doesn’t, but the bare bones are the same. You are walking in deep, dark woods without a visible path beneath your feet (but you feel the stones, they’re cold), and in the distance you see a glimmer of light piercing the black canopy.
I am enthusiastic about stories that are warped like a Dali painting. Sure, it’s a watch, but look how it flows right over that tree branch. Stories that are surreal, worlds that glide over the surface of our own. You will find this within “What Fireworks” in issue #15. I’m also deeply enamored of stories that make something new of death (“The Undertaker’s Son”), of what it means to die (“Harrowing Emily”), of what it means to live (“Soulless in His Sight”). Of angels and birds and poetry. Deliberately going to the underworld and coming back with dirt under not only your nails but your soul. To prove that new things will emerge, issue #15 contains a story we rejected, but one that wouldn’t let me go. I kept thinking about it as I read other stories, so knew I wanted to revisit it.
Issue #15 was my first issue to experience the process from slush pile to finished product. Usually, after making edits to accepted stories and proofing the final copy, I was done. But this time, tasks remained. Layout! Artwork! Coordination! Printers! There was the discovery that no one works the way I do, which should be a no-brainer, right? People rarely work the same way. I found that deadlines enabled me to keep working the way I do.
Still, everything takes longer than you think it will. No one works at the same speed or in the same fashion. Keeping everything moving forward was (and remains) a challenge. There are many people in the chain, from readers to editors to writers to artists to printers, and every single person has another job and a family and a life and often conventions and travel, and these things must be respected.
It’s not so easy to choose the final stories which will end up in an issue. There are many stories we linger over and may not accept even though they’re lovely. The first story I bought was “The Undertaker’s Son,” a haunting piece that will draw you into the world of young Albert who has a special talent with the dead. “The Undertaker’s Son” became our cover story, as I feel it anchors the entire issue.
Building an issue around this story was an incredible thing to watch. I had no idea how it would go, but at times the stories seemed to fall together on their own. What one story says, another may echo; what one story explores may be the reflection of another. You begin to see patterns in the chaos and find your way forward.
Still, it was scary. What if no one likes it, my brain moaned. The rational side to my brain told the moaning side to shut up. It’s no different than a story submission. Some will like it, some will not. This is the way of all things. What if people love it? my brain suggested. Yeah. What if?
Bottom line, we want to show you something.
And the best thing? It’s almost here! You can pre-order Shimmer #15 right now!
Keep On Keeping On
I’ve learned a lot about myself over the course of this issue (I work best with deadlines? Never would have believed that! I like stories involving angels? More than I thought, apparently!). I’ve also come to find a fantastic friend in Beth, who guided me from start to finish. Issue #16 is full of its own challenges, as we will be publishing ten thousand more words than we have before.
In January, Beth told us she had audacious plans for 2012. We’re half way through and I cannot wait to show you guys what’s next.