Taking Submissions: The Cast of Wonders: Banned Books Week (Early)
Submission Window: June 1st – 14th, 2023
Payment: 8 cents/word for originals, $100/short story or $20/flash piece for reprints
Theme: Guiding Sparks Between the Words: How Stories Illuminate the World Around Us
Every year in September, Cast of Wonders celebrates Banned Books Week, an annual international event celebrating the freedom to read and raising awareness of the immense social value of free and open access to information.
Joining the editorial team for this year’s call is Cast of Wonders Associate Editor, Simon Pan. Thank you, Simon, for the wonderful theme this year!
Guiding Sparks Between the Words: How Stories Illuminate the World Around Us
In times of conflict, division and change, it is more important than ever to build bridges of understanding. We most commonly encounter the stories of others through news articles or in classrooms, kept at a scholarly or journalistic distance and often biased to favour privileged perspectives. Our own truths may also remain unvoiced and unknown, misunderstood even by those around us.
When it comes to illuminating these truths, stories have a key part to play: they help us to learn and appreciate things from perspectives we might never otherwise consider, and allow us to reshape our own experiences within the transformative lens of fiction. When we share our stories, we guide sparks of kinship and understanding, using narrative and emotion to help others experience a small window into another’s reality.
For Banned Books Week 2023, we want to see stories of discovery, of learning, of misconceptions unraveled, and how stories can serve as a guiding light to help us understand a new perspective, or to teach us valuable lessons when all other methods fail us. What that something is…well, that is up to you!
At Cast of Wonders, we welcome stories that portray the full spectrum of human experience. We don’t challenge stories; we want stories to challenge us! Cast of Wonders looks for stories that evoke a sense of wonder, have deep emotional resonance, and have something unreal about them. We aim for a 12-17 age range: that means sophisticated, non-condescending stories with wide appeal, and without gratuitous or explicit sex, violence, or pervasive obscene language.
Preference for this submission window is under 5,000 words with an absolute limit of 6,000 words. Flash submissions under 1.5k are also very welcome!
Submissions must adhere to Cast of Wonders guidelines. Submissions will be accepted from June 1 to June 14 through our Moksha Portal – we can’t wait to read what you send in!
Please check our schedule for detailed submission window timing. We do not accept submissions year-round.
Cast of Wonders is a young adult short fiction market, open to stories up to 6,000 words in length.
We’re dedicated to publishing fiction that reflects the entire spectrum of the human experience. We acknowledge the realities of unconscious bias and make our best effort to account for it during our review process. Read our full statement in support of lowering publishing’s barriers to entry for authors from historically underrepresented backgrounds below.
All submissions must be anonymous. Non-anonymous manuscripts will be rejected unread, and no permission granted to resubmit. Further detail is provided below.
One of our goals is to further the education of new writers of any age. These submission guidelines are lengthy and extensive. They aim to explain what we’re looking for, what we’ll do with your story, and where you can find further information. If they don’t answer your specific question, please query before submitting a manuscript.
What We’re Looking For
Stories that evoke a sense of wonder, have deep emotional resonance, and have something unreal about them. We aim for a 12-17 age range: that means sophisticated, non-condescending stories with wide appeal, and without gratuitous or explicit sex, violence or pervasive obscene language. Think Harry Potter or The Hunger Games.
Stories are presented in audio format, which means our audience rarely skim past boring bits. We’re looking for fiction with strong pacing, well-defined characters, engaging dialogue, and clear action. We like a proper narrative structure and a prose style not laden with clichés and over-worn idioms. We like fiction that makes us think, but the main elements should be thrilling entertainment, adventure and emotional connection.
- We like all forms of fantasy — high, modern, urban, alternative history, etc. We’re less fond of the complex, intricate or cerebral forms of fantasy more common in novel markets; short stories rarely offer enough room to sufficiently develop.
- We like all forms of science fiction — far-future, near future, space opera, “hard” sci-fi — but it must be accessible to our target audience, meaning a minimum of technical jargon.
- Our horror offerings tend to be psychological, comedic, or situational — not visceral.
We’re happy to read comedy, steampunk, age-appropriate paranormal romance, superheroes and many other genres. All that matters is adherence to our core concept and that critical spark of wonder.
Does My Story Have To Be About Young Adults?
Absolutely not! A good story appeals to all ages. We define YA in two ways:
- the absence of the adult elements described above, and
- usually highlighting a ‘first’ experience, no matter when in life — the first day of a new life situation (school, moving, etc.), a first kiss, a first death or loss, a first moment of self-realization, etc.
We don’t exclusively define YA as stories featuring children or young adult characters, though they are very common. We would particularly like to receive more stories about older people having first experiences!
Too often, we receive stories featuring children which are solidly Middle Grade. Common elements of MG stories are characters reacting solely to external threats with little inner perspective, characters rarely change or develop and instead center on maintaining a timeless status quo, a focus on the immediate world, friends or family, and are often presented in a third person voice. If your story is thematically similar to a Pixar movie or Avatar: The Last Airbender, it might be MG instead of YA.
Some good examples of YA stories without young characters are “Cosmetic Procedures” by Desmond Warzel (a noir horror detective story) and “Gods of Stone” by Jeff Samson (the thoughts of a Gorgon victim).
What About Sex?
Sex is a common aspect of life for people of various ages, genders, orientations or even species. How an author deals with that reality is up to them and the characters of their stories, not us. We won’t reject a story simply because it includes sexual content, but it’s not the sole thing we look for in stories. In other words, just because it’s happening doesn’t mean we want it to take center stage in a narrative.
An example of a story that handles this well is “A Song For The Season” by Eliza Hirsch.
What About Violence?
Sadly, violence too is a reality of the everyday lives of many young people. Like sex, we don’t require our stories to avoid the subject, but we don’t publish stories that center or glorify the violent acts over a survivor’s perspective.
A very well handled example is “Flowers For The Dead” (Parts 1 and 2) by Jamie Mason.
Fairy Tales? Wonder Tales? Huh?
We use the phrase “Wonder Tales” as the generic description of speculative fiction stories based on classic and/or historical cultural narratives. Synonyms include fairy tales, folklore and mythology – all academic terms with their own meanings, origins, distinctions and historical connotations.
This is to help distinguish wondertales as a whole from the subset of stories based on Western European ancestry, which we assign the label “fairy tales”. Good examples include Hans Christian Andersen stories, or older Disney movies. Edd Vick’s “Perdita, Meaning Lost” is a good example.
Fairy tales are popular as a genre of young adult fiction to the point where they cross the line into tropes. We receive A LOT of them. Unless a story succinctly retells one of these narratives in a new and unique way, we generally decline. A good example of one we liked was “Piper” by Ian Rose – a flash piece retelling ‘The Pied Piper’ from one of the rat’s point of view.
Wonder Tales, on the the other hand, are under-represented in short fiction and we’d love to receive more of them. For an example of one we liked check out “The Dun Horse” by Edward Ahern – the retelling of a Pawnee legend.
We don’t accept media-based fiction (for example, stories set in the Harry Potter or Hunger Games universes) or any kind of fan fiction. Fan fiction is GREAT and we enthusiastically support people reading and writing it, we’re just not legally allowed to publish it. Many popular properties allow others to use their settings, characters and plot lines for fan use, but not for commercial sale to markets like us.
Anything In Particular You’re Looking For?
Our editor is always interested in receiving more short stories set in the worlds of existing novels. We refer to these as “off-cut” stories, and love to run them because our audience can immediately dive into the author’s novel to enjoy more of the same. If you’re submitting an off-cut, please let us know so we can make sure your biography includes full purchase links to the related longer works.
The same applies if you have a book coming out soon and want to publish a short story with us to coincide with its release. We’re always happy to try and arrange our episode timing for author promotion. And you can approach us about sponsorship opportunities as well – just email our editor.
I’ve Got A Great Holiday Story, When Should I Submit It?
Check our schedule: we clearly signpost when we want to receive stories for a particular theme or holiday. We aim to run themed episodes every year for Halloween, Banned Books Week (usually September/October), and the End of Year / Winter Holidays.
If you have a story around another holiday or awareness day (for example, in 2018 we highlighted International Non-Binary People’s Day), please send the story during a general submission period, ideally at least 4-5 months prior to the date in question, and make a note in your covering form.
What We’re NOT Looking For
We are an intersectional feminist YA podcast. If you wouldn’t give your story to a teenager to read — or the activity in question is unlawful — it doesn’t belong in our slush pile. Consider instead our recommended list of adult fiction Alternative Markets.
We absolutely, positively do not want to receive:
- Graphical depictions of sexual assault
- Stories that glorify, minimize, or inaccurately represent survivor’s experiences of abuse or sexual assault
- Non-consensual sexual activity (including necrophilia)
- Non-consensual drug use
- Graphical or explicit descriptions of animal abuse
- The trivialized and gratuitous brutalization of women, trans-persons, non-binary people, people of color, people of size, or people with disabilities (We HATE fridging.)
- ANY sexual depictions of children and/or animals whatsoever
The following subjects will be difficult to pass our slush readers but have appeared in stories in the past. Be prepared to address why these topics appear in your story and what purpose they serve. Our editor may challenge you to change or remove them. Pervasive use is more likely to lead to rejection.
- Cosmic Horror, grimdark, or other one-dimensional depictions of despair and hopelessness
- Drug use, especially if not a key element of the story
- Gratuitous, contextless profanity
- Suicide and suicidal ideation, especially when trivialized or tangential to the narrative
- Stories that glorify, minimize, or inaccurately represent survivor’s experiences of school shootings or violence
- Body shaming
- Broad baseless assumptions, such as:
- physical appearance indicates moral character
- ‘all gamers are overweight’
- ‘all athletic girls are gay’
- ‘boys don’t feel emotions’
We are not interested in acquiring fiction that denigrates any culture or perpetuates stereotypes: all stories should be well-researched, respectful, and conscientious.
We are particularly interested in considering stories from younger writers. If you are under 18, please let us know your age when you submit your work and be aware that your parent or legal guardian will be required to sign your contract on your behalf. If your submission is part of a school project, please let us know that as well and we’ll work with you to provide any documentation required by your teachers.
Our episodes are in English, but we accept and encourage translated stories from across the globe. Translation of non-English works of fiction is a growing aspect of short fiction markets, and we want to help bring those works to audio fiction audiences.
If we accept your translated story, please be prepared to answer questions from our contracts administrator regarding the arrangements between the author and the translator.
Cast of Wonders welcomes and encourages submissions from writers of all backgrounds, and would like to see more submissions from people of backgrounds that have been historically underrepresented or excluded from traditional publishing. Some examples include people of color, LGBTQ or non-binary gender people, persons with disabilities, members of religious minorities, and people from outside the United States and Western Europe.
We’re committed to helping new authors of any age, especially those from historically underrepresented backgrounds, gain professional experience. If you identify as part of these or other underrepresented groups, we welcome and encourage you to indicate so when you send us your story. To the best of our ability and available time, we’ll try and provide more detailed feedback on your original story.
Don’t self-reject. If in doubt, please submit. Every submission is another step in the learning process. We take pride in giving the most constructive and helpful rejections our time allows, however please be aware that stories about own voices protagonists that are not by an own voices author is likely to be a hard sell with us.
We are very aware of the ongoing #OwnVoices discussion, but also realize that short story economics don’t lend themselves to sensitivity reading fees for every work. If in doubt, please err on the side of sending us the story (don’t self reject!) with any explanatory notes you feel you want to include. We encourage authors to indicate whether their work is written from an OwnVoices perspective, and we may ask you questions about this if the position is unclear.
We strongly prefer any sensitivity review of your story is completed before it is submitted to us. However, we realize that issues with a story that might benefit from a sensitivity read may only become apparently during the editorial process. We aren’t able to fund such reviews, but will work with an author to incorporate their feedback, and do our best to accommodate them within our own editorial and production timelines.
Cast of Wonders is the broadest reaching Escape Artists podcast in terms of genre, but the tightest in terms of story requirement. As a result, we may occasionally refer a story from our slush pile to the editors of PseudoPod, PodCastle or Escape Pod for consideration. All four shows operate on the same pay scale.
If we want to refer your story to another editor for consideration, we will contact you first and get your permission. If you are unwilling to have your story referred (like, for example, you have other work under consideration with them), you can make a note of this in your submission or let us know when we contact you.
Also, if you have been encouraged to submit to us from another source, please let us know so we can thank them!
We run both reprints and original stories, and have no strong preference between the two. We always fully attribute the original publication of a story in our episodes, and are happy to consider stories previously released on Patreon or under crowd-funding arrangements as reprints.
We also don’t mind if your reprint has previously been published in audio form. We’re confident our range of diverse and talented narrators will bring something new to your story’s production with us.
We are open to submissions of up to 6,000 words. We will reject unread any submissions exceeding the 6,000 word cap if you haven’t previously contacted us for permission. #ReadTheGuidelines
At our discretion we will give permission to submit longer work (usually no longer than 7,500 words). You must wait for a positive response before submitting; if you submit the story after querying but before we have replied, the story will be rejected unread.
- short stories between 3000 and 4500 words in length: they best fit our target episode length of 30 minutes
- flash fiction under 1000 words
Please do not submit excerpts from or single chapters of novel-length works; they rarely hold up as complete self-contained short stories.
Your story is mostly likely to run in its own episode, but may be serialized over multiple episodes or combined with other stories in a single episode, such as our Little Wonders themed flash fiction collections.
Our Moksha portal takes both Flash Fiction (under 1500 words) and Short Fiction (1500 to 6000 words) – just enter the story’s word count when you submit.
Cast of Wonders uses an anonymous review process. This means all author information (including your name) MUST be removed from the manuscript text body, headers, and file name. The manuscript should be saved and uploaded in any standard word processing file type, such as Word, Google Docs or .RTF. We do not accept PDFs.
We have prepared a sample manuscript to show you exactly what we’re looking for. The sample is derived (with thanks) from the Shunn standard manuscript format. It also contains some comments specific to submitting work for consideration to audio venues such as ours.
Inappropriately formatted manuscripts, including those submitted containing identifying author information, will be rejected unread and no permission will be granted to resubmit. #ReadTheGuidelines
We have no preference between American or British English, as long as you’re consistent.
Our submissions portal will request your name, email, the story’s title, and word count. These fields will be automatically anonymized. There’s also a field for you to enter any of the items we’ve asked you to note in these submission guidelines, confusingly labelled ‘Cover Letter’. Please do not supply a full covering letter or summary of the story, either on the submission form or the manuscript. The information we’re after includes: reprint information (if applicable), if the author is a Young Author or previously unpublished, if the author is part of an under-represented demographic, if the story is #ownvoices, or if it skirts our content guidelines in any way/touches on sensitive topics. For this last point, this allows us to assign appropriate readers. We’d also ask that you don’t include any identifying personal information here.
Once you’ve sent us your story, you will receive an automated confirmation via email. Please keep an eye on your spam filter, and query if you haven’t received this confirmation within 24 hours as it likely means we have not received your submission.
We aim to respond to all submissions within 8 weeks. After three months, if you haven’t received a response, feel free to query by email.
Multiple and Simultaneous Submissions
We do not accept multiple submissions from an author at the same time. If you submit multiple stories to the same submission call at once (yes, we do check) we will reject all of them unread. You may only send us a single story at a time, regardless of length.
We don’t mind if you submit your story to us and other venues at the same time (simultaneous submission) unless our specific submission call says otherwise (for example, historically our Artemis Rising and Banned Books Week calls have disallowed sim-subs). However, you must notify us if your story is accepted elsewhere. We may continue to consider it as a reprint, depending on the exclusivity period of your other sale (and congratulations!)
We do not accept unsolicited rewrites. If we’re willing to re-read your story after rewrites, we will explicitly request them and provide detailed feedback. The choice of whether to revise your story in line with our suggestions is always yours, and re-submitting does not guarantee we will purchase the revised story.
If you have been offered the opportunity to resubmit a revised version of your story, you must mention this in the cover note field on Moksha, or your story may be declined unread.
Payment and Rights
Short version: we pay $.08/word for original fiction of any length (yes, including flash!). For reprints, we offer a $100 flat rate for Short Fiction, and a $20 flat rate for Flash Fiction. Cast of Wonders is a qualified market for the SFWA and the SCBWI.
Any personal information we collect (name, address, email, social media links, secret identity, etc.) is held in strict confidence and not shared with anyone unless we are compelled by law or in the event threats are made against our staff. Read more about our use of personal data on EA’s Legal page.
If a third party contacts us expressing interest in an author’s work, we will contact the author for permission before sharing any contact details.
By sending us your story you understand and agree that:
- You are the original creator of the work submitted to us;
- You are the copyright holder of the work;
- You are not prohibited by any prior agreement from the transfer of non-exclusive print and audio rights to the work;
- All information in the submission form is accurate and truthful; and
- You accept sole responsibility for any false statements or encumbrances upon rights not disclosed to us, including withdrawal of contract offer.
- If you are under the age of 18, your parent or guardian will sign your contract and accept your payment on your behalf.
How To Submit
Once you’ve read all the above, click the Moksha link here.
Email the editor, Katherine Inskip. You can expect a response within a few days, but feel free to query if you’ve received no response in over a week.
Thank you for reading all the way through to the end, and we look forward to receiving your stories!
- About the Author
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Stuart Conover is a father, husband, published author, blogger, geek, entrepreneur, horror fanatic, and runs a few websites including Horror Tree!