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Taking Submissions: Community of Magic Pens

January 15, 2020

Deadline: January 15th, 2020
Payment: $0.08 per word
Theme: — Stories must play in some fashion on the idea of magic pens. Not just about writing. About magic pens.

Thank you for your interest in the Community of Magic Pens anthology.
Bottom line:
— Send your unpublished, original, beautifully authentic story of 1-3000 words to [email protected] between 15 December 2019 and 15 January 2020 with the subject “Magic Pens Submission”.

— Please submit your story in text or Word format. As long as I can read and edit it (for purposes of feedback only), it’s fine. Not trying to stress people out about submission format.
— Sorry, I’m using email for submissions again. I wanted to use a submission program this time, but the fees have gone up and I want to concentrate all our resources toward paying professional rates.
— Include your: name, writing as, country (please specify if your residence is different than the country that claims you for taxes), and pronouns. If you are not familiar with specifying pronouns, this is not about the story (e.g. first/third person) this is about you: how we should refer to you (e.g. she/her).
— Include the story’s: title, number of words, and primary genre(s) (e.g. romance, fantasy, contemporary, mystery). The genre designation isn’t important; just gives me an idea how you view the story.
— Optionally, tell us anything else we should know: your background, whether the story has special meaning to you, etc. Please stay brief.
— We are not trying to stress out writers with the guidelines. Not looking to get people on technicalities. If you have any accessibility needs beyond what we are providing, please let me know.
— We are interested in new content crafted specifically for this anthology. We are not interested in reprints or works submitted simultaneously for other publication. Please only submit unpublished content, which also means it was not published online in any form. As for previously written (“trunk”) stories, we aren’t going to go check your files, but if you refurbish an existing story please make sure the story is organic to the theme as if it were written for this. Please don’t force a story to fit. (More directly, for Stormcove, I received a lot of hotelunrelated-stories that said “at Hotel Stormcove” in the first paragraph so please don’t do that here.)
— Please do not submit stories before the 15th of December. As long as it is between the 15th of December 2019 and the 15th of January 2020 in any Earth time-zone, end dates included, you are good to submit.

Theme goals:
— I want to celebrate the joy, power, community, and diversity of writing.

Also, in general:
— Feature unique, original, diverse, artistic content from authors across fiction genres.
— Provide an anthology theme that is workable within and between many genres.
— Provide guidelines that will generate original content but are flexible enough, that if a story is not included, it can still be used or sold elsewhere.
— Allow authors, editors, and readers all to have fun with the collection.

Payment and legal:
— The anthology will be published by Atthis Arts, LLC. To learn about us, visit atthisarts.com.
— All included stories will require a digitally-signed contract with Atthis Arts — we believe in pay, respect, and autonomy for authors, so we’ve done our best to make that contract friendly and fair for both parties.
— We will pay $0.08 USD / word (minimum $25), based on the word count at time of contract signature, in alignment with minimum professional short fiction rates as defined by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SWFA). (*Please note that while this doesn’t affect our anthology decisions or your payment, SFWA will not currently count stories of less than 1000 words toward a membership application, no matter what the writer is paid for it.)
— Authors will have the opportunity to buy copies of the anthology at a reduced price for personal use or event sales, as specified in the contract.
— Authors with included stories will receive a digital copy; contributor print copies are prohibitive for us to send at this point given international shipping costs.
— Accepted works will remain exclusive to publication by Atthis Arts for a limited time as set in the contract, likely two years. We require a longer time than some collections because of the nature of our sales and the unique, original content. We are not looking to engage in the reprint market. We are flexible regarding other opportunities and “best of” collections.

— Stories must be original work and completely clear of any external publication rights or copyright claims. This includes modern quotes and song lyrics. We require stories that have not been previously published or posted online. If you have a previously posted or published story you’d like to submit, please contact me at [email protected] to discuss.
— Further details will be in the contract; please contact us at [email protected] with any questions.
— During the active submission period, you should hear back that I have received the story within a day or two, and you should hear back whether you will be included in the collection by the end of January. If you do not, please check to make sure an email wasn’t missed. (Don’t worry about emailing me. It’s fine. Better to prevent a misunderstanding.)

— All authors are welcome. If you are under the age of 18, please note that in your submission.
— We take diversity very seriously and want a collection that reflects the writing community.
— Authors with underrepresented and/or marginalized voices are encouraged to apply. You are welcome to, but not asked to*, let us know what group(s) and/or intersections of groups you represent. (*This means that sometimes the details can be personal or simply not something you want to provide. If you would like to tell us about yourself, please do. And do let me know if anything should be kept confidential.)
— Please note: This collection will feature diverse writers, including writers with different cultural and belief systems, and will be queer-friendly. If any of that bothers you, our collection is probably not a good fit for your writing. On the other hand, the Anthology Content Guidelines should help ensure you won’t get published along with something problematic.

Editorial process:
— We learned a lot from last year’s process and will be making big changes this year that should make the editing process easier, but know that we do not just print the story as-is. We review it with you for any changes you may want to make, and we also take our Anthology Content Guidelines very seriously.
— Again, read the Anthology Content Guidelines before submitting. There may be an element you haven’t considered.
— First, I (the anthology editor) will review included stories and provide feedback for your consideration, as well as any requested changes to align with our Anthology Content Guidelines.
— Next, based on our assessment of the story, we may hire an external line and/or copy editor to review the story and provide you additional suggestions. I am planning on using multiple editors this time, based on the needs of the story. You and I will discuss whether it would benefit from another look.
— All edits will be at the author’s discretion, but failure to reach an agreement on something we deem important will result in the story not being included in the collection.

General guidelines:
— All stories must be no longer than 3000 words. There is no minimum length. Ideally we are looking for a mix of short stories (in the general range of 1500 to 3000 words) mixed in with some flash fiction (stories between 500 and 1000 words) but please write the story the way it is best written. (i.e., do not write to max out the word count; write to produce the best story.)
— Each author may submit a maximum of two stories. Please don’t submit two stories because you think it will provide more chances at inclusion. Only submit two stories if you want to take a risk with one or want to try two different angles.
— Don’t send two connected stories; if you want to tell a story serially, submit it as a single submission and stay under the word count overall.
— All stories must follow our Anthology Content Guidelines. Please ensure you have read these guidelines before writing or submitting a story.
— Poetry is welcome; non-traditional format is encouraged. (Try me!)
— Please don’t submit novel excerpts or try to work in worldbuilding from other books. If it’s a cross-over and you think it really works, at least tell me, please.
— The anthology will be multi-genre, cross-genre, whatever, so be not encumbered by bookstore bins. Non-fiction will be considered, if it disclosed as such, fits the theme, and is told in a creative style. Please do not submit erotica, horror, or dark fiction. While the story can include serious themes and doesn’t need to be all sunshine, I want to avoid overly violent or graphic content, including abuse or psychological torture, sexual violence, etc. There are several reasons for this. Most simply, graphic content upsets me, I’m not a good editor for it, and there are so many other small presses successfully featuring horror, gritty, and graphic short stories—the writing world doesn’t need me for this. Also, our reader base tends to appreciate this type of content. We are gentle folk.

— If you’re writing from an underrepresented and/or marginalized perspective and you are thinking of writing a story about pain or struggle, you’re welcome to…but I’d ask you to consider first whether a story about joy, hope, or triumph speaks to you even more. I say this because I’ve received some really dark stories, and then the writers tell me they either feel they are almost expected to write this way, or they forget they don’t have to. Please—write your way. Whatever that is.
— If you reference real people or places that aren’t obvious (e.g. New York City), please mark them so we can decide if there might be an issue.
— Stories should be primarily in English. (Not a preference; it’s just what I can read and edit!) Please write in your preferred form of English (international, ethnic, or regional—for example, Black English is welcome); conversion to US or any standardized English is not requested. Non-English language content is welcome if the story is generally understandable in English. International writers and/or writers for whom English is a secondary language are all welcome.
— Stories can be written in any person, plurality, tense, or mix of. If you’re not sure which way to go, the editor does have a fondness for third-person. But, she also wants your authentic voice, so write what you feel.
— Be you.

Theme specific guidelines:
— Stories must play in some fashion on the idea of magic pens. Not just about writing. About magic pens.
— This theme can be interpreted in a broad context of ways, and I don’t want to spell it out too much, since I’ve learned my guidelines heavily influence the submissions.
— Pens don’t need to be pens; they can be pencils, technology, or however you see it. They can be full-up Beauty and the Beast sentient (hopefully dancing) pens, merely enchanted pens, or just the metaphor of writing, as long as there is a sense of magic pens.
— Go with whatever backstory appeals most to you. Like, is there literally a society of sentient pens that coordinate through the ages? Or does this refer to the writers who make magic? I don’t care. Make it an amazing and fresh story that speaks strongly to the theme. (Again, not just writing but magic pens.)
— While speculative fiction writers have a whole lot to work with on this one (I know Stormcove was biased toward literary so I’m throwing the F&SF softball this time), I am still confident that literary, romance, humor, or historical fiction writers (etc.) can work beautifully with this theme. It is up to you whether the “magic” of the pen is overtly speculative or whether it’s more implied or metaphorical. The magic just has to be there.
— This is a really good case to discuss the general advice of “don’t go with your first idea.” I mean, maybe you should. But this theme benefits from some brewing. Like, ok, someone is being repressive and the pen rebels and writes something brave. (Hey, kind of hoping to include at least one of those.) People are writing letters. But then you start thinking about it. And the number of directions you could go with this gets real trippy real fast. And, I hope, exciting.
— Again, please be conscious that I am not looking to include dark content, for a host of reasons related both to me and our reader base. I am not looking for pen-eye-stabbing, life sucking, etc. Also, let’s assume the pens can turn any sentience on and off or at least teleport away, like they aren’t left suffering an eternity in a drawer.
— Since we are potentially having people “owning” sentient pens, please stay away from anything that reads like slavery. If the pen is just enchanted, fine. If it’s sentient, let’s assume it can hop up and leave whenever it wants. Now, if the pen is being repressed and you can give it a satisfying arc, maybe, but you really have to be sensitive to ongoing social connections.
— Political content or social statements are fine. We favor progressive content but are open-minded as long as what you say isn’t harmful to someone else. Again, please review the content guidelines for more.
— Don’t mention Trump.
— Be nice to the vegan editor. Like, so many of the stories for Hotel Stormcove featured boiled lobster, fois gras, and fur coats. So write your authentic story, but recognize gratuitous animal use is not a selling point with me.
— While the anthology will be marketed as adult (not YA), please keep all material suitable for reasonable teenage audiences. (A little edge is fine.)
— Feel free to push me a bit on any of the creative rules, just know that’s a risk. But maybe you like to take risks. As long as it’s in good faith, I won’t mind.

Let’s talk about something:
— There are going to be a lot of submissions to this collection, and they are not all going to make it in. I expect hundreds of stories at a minimum, and depending on funding and other factors, I might take like 40.
— You won’t be selected based on whether I know you, whether you’ve been in a previous collection, or how much being included would mean to you. I am crafting a collection based on the stories as well as the overall mix.
— If not being included is going to make you really sad, this might not be the best place to submit, because I suspect it will be even more competitive than last year. However, if you’re willing to have some fun with it and then find the story a home or purpose no matter what happens, I’d love to read what you create.

And one more thing:
— I believe in paying writers. And I know there’s the concern of why should I write something custom without knowing if I’ll be paid for it? I struggle with this too.
— However, I really think the custom nature of these themed anthologies is the strongest way to highlight nonfamous author voices and garner interest.
— One way around this could be to move to more of an “invitation model” but I balk against this because I am too nervous that it would promote privilege and would get cliquey so fast, no matter what the intent. Besides, lots of people do this. The notable-author-collection world doesn’t need me. (Though, of course if you are notable, I would be so honored by your submission.)
— One mitigation on this is that I’m keeping the stories short. So no one is out* too much.
— *You’re only “out” it if you can’t sell the story elsewhere, use it elsewhere for promotion, and/or benefit from the writing exercise—and I’m hopeful these options are all viable for you. I promise no matter what (for any goodfaith submission, anyway) I will enjoy reading your story. You are beautiful, and so is what you create.

I am excited about this project and hope you are too. I am very much looking forward to reading your stories and I thank you for your time!

Via: Atthis Arts.


January 15, 2020