Friday, 30 March 2012

The Poison Tasters

It’s a common enough thing. Chatting about the weather, waxing lyrical about the changes in our mountain’s colour, texture, mood. From the window of the Island office, set in a leafy Sandy Bay street, I can tell you that the mountain is looking damn fine. It’s Autumn so the air is pretty crisp, the sun is shining for what might be the last time until October, and students are milling around the streets basking and scurrying in equal measure. We have the nod from the mountain, all is sunshine. There is work to do.

And the work for the moment is the slush pile. For every magazine, especially a long-standing one such as Island, there is always the bulging slush pile. The silently lurking reams of submissions sent in from around the world waiting for rejection or acceptance. Friday 2pm the reading begins. It’s #slushhour, so we Tweet and Facebook the commencement and get to work. 

Calling it slush is not a comment on the quality of the submission, as One Might Think and as @adam suggested in response to our tweeterature. We are the poison tasters. We gladly open ourselves up to unknown material, hopeful of finding the jewel amongst the chaff (and I’m sorry for the mixed metaphors, it’s been a long and turgid day at the mill. There I go again).

 The term slush pile has its own Wiki entry, and we are not to be blamed for the terminology, though, when first faced with the 726 email submissions (Island can no longer handle hardcopy submissions) calling out for review, the term wading, wallowing seem more than appropriate. Slush is not far off in my mind. My favourite terminology for the day, however, was thanks to Review of Australian Fiction @AustFiction calling us the almost adorable name 'slushpuppies'. Awwww.

So, it gets into the first half hour of being 'slushpuppies' and Dale, our sturdy young editor, has found a possible ‘yes’. And so early on, too. It gets added to the acceptance list.

Have we piqued your interest yet? If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re either interested in reading other people’s writing, or in having other people read yours. There is Islet for emerging writers, and its parent, Island, to which you can submit your works.

Recently, Dale made a call-out for submissions through Twitter. This is the way the world now works. It is time to accept it. If you are one of the hopeful please get thee online and DM Dale (direct message, not deep and meaningful, though the two are not mutually exclusive). If you’re wanting to rise above the slush and stand out, there is a way to do it. This doesn’t make the quality of your writing better, just makes us look at it quicker. Twitter is also the place to go for tips on what Island is looking for in upcoming submissions, and hints on deadlines and other essentials.

If you read the submission guidelines, which are readily available on the Island website, you will already be ahead of the game, in our eyes. Also, time was, when writers wanted to get into the writing game they would storm the newspaper stands to get copies of the magazines they wanted to submit to, they would subscribe, they would read, read, read. It’s a age-worn adage, but it’s true. You have to put your money where your mouth is, and support the business.

Here’s another thing. So many pieces are so similar in theme it’s really hard to make them stand out one against the other. Here are the slush hour top five for the day:
Communing with nature
Communing with the weather
Walking Your Dog
Death of your ‘insert family member here’

 It’s an invigorating thing, and I feel privileged being the first to read the works of so many writers around the globe. The most exotic one for today was from Kenya, but there were many more ranging from down the street in South Hobart, to Brisbane, to Washington DC.

 It’s a hard old business and we’re hoping to keep supporting writers, particularly Tasmanians, for a long time to come. So please keep reading, keep writing, get in touch with us on Twitter and Facebook and let us know what you’ve read recently which touched your world, your mind, or any other body parts you care to mention.

Lesley at Islandia
Image courtesy of Dale, named with tongue in cheek 'Island in the Sun'. Guess what it's a picture of.

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