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Editor Interview: Force Majeure Flash Contest

Q: Describe what you publish in 25 characters or less.

A: Wild text-based items

Q: What sets your publication apart from others that publish similar material?

A: This contest is designed to draw on the resources of under-represented authors working near the edges of traditional short form writing. Narrative, structural, syntactic, and even page-order conventions can break down in these flash. We are seeking to be surprised and drawn to what we did not know we loved.

Q: What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to your publication?

A: For the Force Majeure Flash Contest, we would suggest choosing from your most ambitious and rule-breaking flash — works you're not sure how to classify, that defy your own understanding, or that expressed something you didn't know you had in you when you typed them up. We also would suggest, more generally, poking around in our online archive to see what sorts of things we've selected in past years.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: A page that from title to the final period (if there is one!) overwhelms us with its combination of invention, freedom, intimacy, immediacy, and verve. Every year we select flash that we would never have imagined could exist.

Q: What do submitters most often get wrong about your submissions process?

A: The most common mistake submitters make is to send too many flash in the file they upload, and that is rare. Big compliments to the submitters, actually, because the rate of mistakes in the contest is way lower than in our magazine's general submissions.

Q: How much do you want to know about the person submitting to you?

A: Previous credits do not at all matter. We care about the demographic info of submitters, and it does factor into our decision process, but we do not require it, for obvious reasons. We are actively putting work on our short list by authors who are Indigenous and Black, POC, LGBTQIA+, gender-nonconforming, disabled, neurodivergent, border-straddling, poor, and otherwise under-represented. (Since we consider all entries for publication, this helps us also choose flash for the magazine authored by folks in these groups.)

Q: If you publish writing, how much of a piece do you read before making the decision to reject it?

A: We generally read until we decide we don't think it's right. That is, at least one paragraph for flash that use paragraphs. Fortunately, most entries are so short that we read all the way through.

Q: What additional evaluations, if any, does a piece go through before it is accepted?

A: There are multiple rounds of reading as we reach our short list. We then begin to consider whether the flash are like previous contest winners or flashes that have recently appeared in the magazine, what the demographics of authorship are, and the always-precarious weighing of "how much do we like this one compared to how much we like that one." After we settle on winners and honorable mentions, we usually pick several additional flash from the finalists to be published in the magazine as well.

Q: How much do you edit an accepted piece prior to publication?

A: Authors should expect a copyedit for accepted flash. (Our house style is, very loosely, Chicago.) On exceptional occasions we request a line edit, the most common one being a deletion or rewrite of the last sentence. We respect and do choose texts that deliberately break conventions of grammar, syntax, and style, or use the language of a non-dominant cultural group. We honor the request we are making in the contest guidelines for "wild things." Authors always approve final edits and a proof.