Happy Independence Day Weekend! 34 ORCHARD taking submissions now through July 15!

34 Orchard’s Autumn 2022 submissions window is now open! We will only be open from July 1 – 15, 2022, so if you’re planning on submitting, please keep in mind that anything after July 15, 2022, will be deleted unread (and yes, we adjust for all worldwide time zones. So that’s after July 15 at 11:59pm wherever you are).

Please refer to our guidelines for information on how to submit. Check that out here at https://34orchard.com/guidelines/, and we look forward to reading your work!

SIXTY-SECOND SUB TIPS: Final Manuscript Polish Checklist

No manuscript, no matter how hard any of us tries, is perfect; there is always going to be at least one tiny mistake someplace. It’s the nature of what we do. Why? It’s because our brains, when reading, fill things in for us.

One thing that can help cut down on the number of typos/small errors is reading the story or poem aloud; there’s something about the connection between the brain and the mouth that magically exposes items like missing words, misspellings, and even sentences that might be unwieldy or too long.

Beyond that, what are some other items to check before you send your newest baby out into the world? Here’s a checklist we hope will help you, and happy submitting!

MANUSCRIPT POLISH CHECKLIST JPEG

It’s OFFICIAL! We will hold a Release Day Zoom Cocktail Hour for the contributors of each issue’s launch

Issue 5 Celebratory Glass of Wine

It’s always been one of 34 O’s missions to foster a sense of community among its writers, and while we’ve spent the past two years/five issues focused mainly on our magazine and its content, we now have a little bit of time to start better aligning with that mission.

Aside from starting a monthly blog series, we’ve figured out the mechanics (mostly) of holding a Zoom cocktail hour as part of each issue’s launch. A magazine/journal isn’t just a team effort by its staff—its contributors are a large part of its success, and we wanted to find a way to acknowledge that.

We’ve tried this idea previously—our in-person “launch” party, which was intended for only our friends, became an all day, four-session Zoom event due to the fact that we were all on pandemic lockdown. We tried an online Zoom party for Issue 3 for just the writers of all three issues, and while it was very successful and a total blast, we felt the “event” aspect needed some fine-tuning into something a little less formal and overwhelming (it went on for five hours).

Last night, we tried again, with a one-hour cocktail toast limited to just the current issue’s contributors, and were thrilled that it was a really great time. Everyone was relaxed, and the writers got to not only share what they were working on as well as their goals and dreams, they were in touch with each other, which was what we were going for.

Based on its success, then, I’m thrilled to announce we’ll be doing this for each issue: on or near launch day, we’ll hold a one-hour cocktail (or other beverage) toast that evening with any of the issue’s writers who wish to attend.

There’s still one tweak we’d like to make—we may do it the closest weekend to launch, so that we can hold it earlier in the day here in the US and any of our international writers who are in the issue can also attend. We haven’t really figured this part out yet, but bear with us—we will!

ISSUE 5 HAS ARRIVED!

It’s time … twenty-five artists focus on the things we refuse to see. Lovecraftian crazy in the Old West, Kerouac-style bummin’ with a morbid twist, Poe-esque madness on the open sea, Nin-inspired snails and more await. There are seven heartbreaking, chilling poems, a nightmare-inducing tale from Poland, and an exclusive excerpt from a forthcoming speculative memoir. A few familiar favorites, like Ali Seay, Die Booth, and Patricia Bettis, and some fresh new voices. You’ll want to get your eyes on this issue.

34 ORCHARD Issue 5 Spring 2022 Cover

The downloadable PDF is designed so that it can be printed on double-sided paper for easy reading like a print magazine. As always, the issue is free, but there is a donation link should you choose to contribute.

Click here to get your copy!

If you like what you’ve read, spread the word! We’re also starting up some resource content for both writers and readers on our blog, so consider signing up to get those posts right in your email.

SIXTY-SECOND SUB TIPS: Formatting

Welcome to our Sixty-Second Sub Tips series, where we’ll take a close look at various aspects of the general submission process to get skills sharpened and foots in doors! The sixty-second part? There’s a Quick Review Checklist Box at the bottom of each post!

We have lots of goodies planned for this series, including a thorough pre-submissions checklist, can’t fail cover letter templates, and more. We’re aiming for once a month. Sign up using your email in the box at the footer of our website, and you’ll get a notification in your inbox when the next installment is published.

After our first Manuscript Musings post (now that the Spring 2022 issue is in the bag, another one is coming soon), some of our readers asked for tips on proper manuscript formatting.

Why is this important? Formatting a manuscript professionally is critical, because it ensures easy reading and room for notes (on paper or electronically, especially if Track Changes is used), which, in turn, keeps the publication’s workflow moving—which means a faster response time to writers.

Why should you care? The truth: editors have hundreds, if not thousands, of submissions to read and evaluate, and decision-making is always difficult. Anything that can be eliminated quickly is helpful. Therefore, those that aren’t formatted according to the project’s guidelines, or even just professionally, are an easy mark for rejection. In fact, it’s stated in many guidelines that improperly formatted submissions won’t even be read.

Unfair? No. Efficient business. Employers do the same thing when they’re screening job candidates. The similarities between the two processes are staggering: editors, like employers, are looking for the best match.

Professional formatting makes a positive first impression. It sends the message that you’re not only serious about your art form, you consider yourself a professional, which, in turn, indicates that you’re going to be easier to work with. Any manuscript will go through edits before publication, which means you’ll be working as a team with an editor. A properly formatted manuscript tells editors you know what you’re doing, resulting in less time, less hassle, and a better final product.

Scenario: Suppose there are two stories in the pile competing for one spot. They are equally our vibe, and equally excellent. One manuscript is professionally formatted. The other isn’t. I can’t speak for any other editor, but I can speak for myself. This is what would go through my head:

Professionally-formatted manuscript: Wow. This person’s a pro, so I won’t have to worry about having to spend time explaining how the process works or how to use Track Changes. This person will probably take my editing suggestions seriously and will be as open to compromise and discussion as I am, because we both want the best result. This person will probably understand that we’re on a deadline and will respond in a timely manner. The manuscript will be easy to prepare when we send it to layout, because we already know what we need to change to fit our format—three or four quick changes and off it goes. This is going to be a breeze. This is going to be fun.

Improperly-formatted manuscript: Formatting professionally is easy. If this person’s serious about the work, why didn’t this person do it? If it’s a lack of experience, then, does this person know how to use Track Changes? How much time am I going to have to spend walking this person through the process? Will it take forever to get the edits back because there’s a lack of knowledge about what’s a good suggestion and what isn’t? If it’s not professionally formatted because this person believes he or she is so good he or she doesn’t need to follow the rules, then there’s an arrogance there, so … is this person going to balk if I make a small change? Will we be able to come to any compromises if the person doesn’t like my suggestion? If it’s out of laziness, will this person just not respond in a timely manner or not want to do anything further and cause a disruption in our workflow? We’ll also have to strip the entire thing down to text and reformat it, because we don’t know what’s lurking underneath the code that might mess up our layout process later. That will mean I’ll have to compare the original with the plain text to make sure I don’t miss any paragraphing, bolding, or italics, and I’ll probably have to reformat all the smart quotes and everything, which is easy enough with search and replace, but one or two always gets missed, which means I’ll probably have to read it aloud more than once to make sure. I’m anxious about what it will be like to work with this person, and it’s going to be more work no matter what. Ugh.

Guess which one gets the coveted slot?

I have no problem appearing judgmental, because here’s the reality: a manuscript’s appearance sends a message. It’s no different from getting an email from a strange address full of typos requesting money versus an email from a trusted company that’s perfectly polished asking you to consider an investment. Which one makes you feel safer?

Professional formatting is easy. After you do it a few times, it just becomes second nature. As long as the guidelines don’t ask for something specific (like a specific font, or single spacing, or something like that), Shunn or SFWA formats are the way to go. Either one covers all the basics, and your manuscript is guaranteed to look professional—with minimal effort. These links give very specific instructions.

Shunn is preferable. I only included SFWA here because some publications will specify they want that one, and I wanted you to know what it is.

Shunn Classic Formatting for Short Fiction

Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America [SFWA] Format

What about poetry? Shunn has a format for poetry, too, and it allows for the unique layouts and spacing of poems. So, yes, you can still go with a professional format for your poetry without messing with its original intended presentation. I’m bolding this because many poets don’t realize that double-spacing poetry is not required (unless, of course, that was the poet’s intent), and if the poem is visually spread out or designed, that’s okay, too. Editors expect poetry to appear in non-traditional form, but there are still rules regarding font, name/contact information, and other basics that won’t interfere with the character of the piece.

Shunn Formatting for Poetry

If you don’t know how to perform a specific task—such as removing the double-spacing between paragraphs—or a market requires a certain format-related item you’ve never even heard of, much less know how to do, there is no shame in that. We’ve all been there and learned by doing, and you can find anything on Google these days. Step-by-step instructions for your specific word processing program and version are just a search away.

Above all, the most important thing is that your name and contact information appear on the manuscript itself (unless the guidelines specifically tell you to take it off—some publications read blind, so make sure you’re paying attention and remove your info if that is what they ask for. We’ll talk about this in a future installment). Most publications have a team of readers and/or editors, and during the consideration process, documents get shared. In the best case, work can get lost in the shuffle. In the worst? That fabulous poem you wrote could be attributed to another writer. While both of these scenarios are unlikely, would you really want to take that chance? Mistakes happen. Ensuring your contact info is on the manuscript protects yourself and your interests.

Manuscript Formatting Quick Tips Box

We hope you found this helpful! If there’s anything you’d like us to cover, please leave a comment below or reach out to us through our contact page. We’d love to hear from you!

–Kristi

You won’t want to miss Issue 5 on April 25! Announcing our TOC!

34 ORCHARD Issue 5 Spring 2022 Cover

In wall-bound creatures, leucistic birds, and murderous gardens and forests; in natural disasters and terrifying hauntings; in everywhere from modern-day skyscrapers to the Old West, the upcoming issue of 34 Orchard’s twenty-five artists focus on the things we refuse to see, and what that might mean.

We’re excited to announce the Table of Contents for the Spring 2022, which will be released on April 25—and thanks to several generous donations, this issue is even larger than our last one! We’ve even arranged for an exclusive preview of an upcoming speculative memoir, soon to be available from Thera Books. You won’t want to miss this issue!

Cover Art: Darker Beach: The Five of Cups – Annie Dunn Watson

Mister Skinandbones – Selah Janel

Any Little Spot – Ali Seay

Less Than Twelve Hours After She Is Dead, We Begin To Erase Her – Lynne Schmidt

Showdown at Dark Rock – Douglas Van Hollen

Mollusk Madness – Priscilla Bettis

Yet Another Poem About Birds – Robert Bulman

Gone for Good – M.C. Herrington

Bummin’ to the Beat of the Road – Eric J. Guignard

Cell – Victoria Nordlund

Little Red – Paula Weiman

Day One Hundred and Sixty-Four – Sam Berkeley

Mommy Monster – Elizabeth Falcon

Rereading Auden – David Donna

Floor Five – Die Booth

The Mascot – B.C.G. Jones

Not All There – Ken Craft

Lexie – Kimberly Moore

The Price of Survival – X. Culletto

Chernobyl Spring – David Holper

A Cracked Screen – Alice Avoy

Excerpts from Kinesiophobia – Meghan Guidry

Scrapbook – Kevin Grandfield

What if he remembers? – Judi Calhoun

Around Here Somewhere – Jeff Adams

The issue will be up right here on our Issues page on April 25, 2022.

MANUSCRIPT MUSINGS: On Opening Lines

We get so many fantastic openings here in 34 Orchard’s inbox, openings that seize our hands and pull us through that short story without letting go.

We also get openings that aren’t compelling, and we do see common threads in these openers. Here’s some of what we’ve learned, in case you might find it helpful in strengthening your own work.

Please note that none of the examples given are from real submissions. We drank wine and made these up. Any resemblance to anything we’ve gotten in our inbox is purely coincidental, and nor are we suggesting that the “stronger” examples are the greatest things ever written. They’re just for the purposes of illustration.

The Fatal Five

Door: A door knock or door bell

Dream: A dream sequence

Alarm: An alarm going off/character waking up

Mirror: A character looking in a mirror

Phone: A phone ringing or a text message

These aren’t the best choices because they happen in every day life—all the time—so there’s just not much pull. Dream sequences and mirror-peering always tend to feel forced—purely as a means of communicating information to the reader that could be spooled out in a way that forwards the action instead.

Weaker:

Alicia stared at her brown messy hair in the mirror and knew she was late for work again.

Stronger:

Alicia was sure her brown hair was a tangled mess, but she couldn’t worry about that now as she was late for work—for the fourth time that week.

No Grounding

Something completely vague to the point that we don’t know where we are, who’s speaking, or what’s happening in the world. The opening paragraph shouldn’t be involved and flesh out everything, but we do need to know who’s speaking to us, where that character is in space and time, and the potential conflict. Important details can get meted out in the following paragraphs.

Weaker:

There’s nowhere to buy food. Not since they came and took everything. We’re all going to starve.

Stronger:

There’s nowhere to buy food. Not since the aliens landed and stole every morsel we had. My dad says everyone in the neighborhood’s going to starve, but you know—I’m a typical teen who wants to keep her figure trim, so at the moment, it’s actually convenient. I can’t eat Twinkies if there aren’t any, right?

Untethered Dialogue

Opening with a piece of dialogue can work, but similar to grounding, we need to know who’s talking, where the character is, to whom the character is speaking, and what that character’s relationship is to the person being addressed.

Weaker:

“Where are we?” I asked.

Stronger:

“Where are we?” I was standing on a rocky outcropping.

My boyfriend, Tim, was on his back beside me, rubbing his head as he groaned and struggled to sit up. “Are you okay?”

“I think so.” The long fall had knocked the wind out of me, but there wasn’t anything broken, near as I could tell.

Long Descriptions

We’ve noted grounding is important, but long descriptions can kill the pacing. Readers need to be sucked into the action and conflict as quickly as possible so they can go along for the ride. In real life, beholding a lush landscape is everything it’s supposed to be—tranquil, quiet, peaceful, creepy, unsettling. Light or dark, it’s a moment of rest. Unfortunately, it can have the same effect in an opener—and that doesn’t propel the reader forward. A detailed sentence that’s crafted with a couple of amazing images just to create a quick impression in readers’ minds is all that’s needed. The lush descriptions can be brought in later, and in connection with the action, so the story keeps moving forward.

Weaker:

The woods behind my house, down at the end of a long street with cookie-cutter ranch-style houses, were not only dark and foggy on the deepest of winter nights, in the summer—when everything bloomed lush and green and the fireflies were beginning to emerge, flitting among the trunks so it looked like the woods were aglow with tiny fairies—they were carpeted with reddish-orange mushrooms.

Stronger:

The woods at the end of my street were not a place any of us wanted to be—especially in spring, when they were carpeted with weird mushrooms that were rumored to have caused several deaths.

I lived in a typical neighborhood—cookie-cutter ranch-style houses …

Do you have any favorite opening lines? Do you have any questions about how to improve yours? Is there any topic you’d like us to talk about in future editions of Manuscript Musings? Leave us a note in a comments!

–Kristi

The Spring 2022 Submissions Window is Now Closed

Thank you all for your submissions! Our window for the Spring 2022 issue is now closed.

We will be open for submissions for the Fall 2022 issue from July 1 – July 15, 2022—note the change; going forward, we’re now only going to be open for half the month.

We’re also going to make some adjustments to our guidelines to make it a little easier for people to submit and to alleviate some workflow issues, so if you’d like to send us work in the summer, please be sure to read our guidelines page first. They’re not updated as of this posting, but will be shortly.

We look forward to reading your work!

Update: Submissions close tomorrow

There’s one more day to submit—we close tomorrow at 11:59 pm, no matter where in the world that is!

We were overwhelmed by the response we received. We got close to 2000 submissions—many of those with multiple poems attached, so the actual number of individual works was higher.

That said, at least one third of them didn’t follow our guidelines, so those, as we’ve stated on our guidelines page, we rejected or will reject unread.

If you have not yet received a response, we ask for your patience. We still have many letters to send, and we still have some final decisions to make.

Our next submissions period will be open from July 1—July 15, 2022, and we will also be revamping our guidelines. If you wish to submit during that period, please check our guidelines page before sending your work.

Thank you!

Sincerely,

Lucy Noone — Submissions Editor, 34 Orchard