I enjoy reading issues of Glimmer Train, and this one in particular had some great offerings. Even the stories I disliked the most had something worthwhile to provide. I can find short stories in many places, but the ones in Glimmer Train reveal the best path to a first ever publishing. Here are my previous reviews, from the worst story to the best:
13. “Keller’s Ranch,” by Ming Holden
12. “Dumb Down,” by Hugh Burkhart
11. “The Final Sermon,” by Sommer Schafer
10. “The Cabin,” by Kurt Rheinheimer
9. “Family of Four,” by Samsun Knight
8. “Transit,” by Gillian Burnes
7. “Third World Kroger,” by Greg Schreur
6. “Shadehill,” by Mark Hitz
5. “Beautiful Day For Drinkopoly,” by Marko Gregur
4. “What It Means To Rush,” by Natasha Tamate Weiss
3. “Number 41,” by Kimberly Bunker
2. “If She Doesn’t Answer,” by David Ebenbach
1. “Language Lessons,” by Barbara Ganley
“Ghostly Seduction” was excused from this list. I will not rank a professional with amateurs.
So what do all these stories teach us about the type of writing Glimmer Train likes? If you’re playing to win a spot there, here’s what I would do (and what I will do):
- End on a powerful, long sentence
I can’t believe it took me so long to notice this trait. It’s practically a requirement for this magazine. Take your readers on a sentence-long linguistic odyssey at the emotional endpoint: cover the breadth of your themes in a purposeful, yet languid, pace, then slam on the ending with a final clause that fucks with some heads. Here are some good examples, from this issue:
- You saw all these memories swirling together, and there was peace; you heard a soft Spanish voice whispering to you as the sun came up, and you felt a deep longing for someone, a child maybe, maybe your child, but it faded before you could snatch it. (Bunker, 16)
- I walk across the fields, through high grass, trying to climb over the earth piled up for a big construction investment, careful not to fall (because it looks like I am drunk after all) and smash this big intelligent head. (Gregur, 98)
- He has walked through the rest of his life with a small hitch, and occasionally lets out a short, unbidden sound like the one he made several times the night Bowie ran out of the hospital and came back to find his cabin in flames. (Rheinheimer, 157)
- Now I think of Pigeon’s final moments, legs and shoulders burning as he dragged his body forward through the waves— desperately trying to reach Benny in what ended up a race to an island not half a mile off Riverview’s shores— thrashing toward the rocky beach, not fighting the undertow when it came but, rather, letting his body move with a current, or, I imagine, finally reaching his destination, rising up like a lungfish out of the primordial ooze to touch land and emerge reborn. (Burkhart, 217)
Hell, I don’t even like Burkhart’s story, and that final sentence still sent “Dumb Down” off well. Forget exciting opening sentences. Your readers will remember the last emotion you left them with.
- Focus on what’s NOT in a scene (or, talk about the emptiness of life)
There’s an art to this technique. Instead of stating, “there was no one on the street,” point out things that imply emptiness . For example: “there was only a jump-rope and a tire on the street.” Glimmer Train does like its broken, incomplete protagonists. If you’re going to talk about someone who’s missing an essential part of life (a strategy I recommend), then don’t forget to detail what’s still in their life.
- Concise, yet thoughtful language, in varied sentences.
This advice should apply to all writing. But while emulating Hemingway may make your stories clearer, it won’t impress these editors. Let each of your sentences confirm a love of language.
- Push your plot forward through metaphor
In a previous post, I mentioned how much Glimmer Train loves its good metaphors. All these reviews established how little Glimmer Train cares for plot. Let’s put these two observations together! Create a metaphor for your characters’ internal struggles, and have the developments in THAT drive forward the action on a metaphysical level.
- TELL a story before you EXPLAIN a story
This isn’t necessarily good advice for a novel. But in a short story, you only have a limited amount of time to create something. Some ideas don’t work in certain formats. There’s a fine line as to how much information you should withhold, a line I tend to blaze past in my own work. Glimmer Train will give you the benefit of the doubt for most content. As for storytelling craft? You better be on top of the iceberg.
You can find my previous, more elementary thoughts on getting into Glimmer Train here.