The latest issue of Poets & Writers had a short piece about how to submit work to Tin House, which is one of my favorite journals. There was the usual editorial information, and then this:
"What do you not want in a submission?
This is not particular to our submitters, but here’s the thing: For such a small insect, cicadas sure show up a lot in poetry and fiction. It sounds silly to take issue with it, but the point is that it smacks of device, which in turn interrupts the dream. Watch out for stuff like that."
I’m guilty, having included cicadas in more than one story (but I’m sure those aren't the cicadas they're talking about because I'm sure my cicadas work, haha)—but the larger point is useful: always to work hard to come up with the new, the fresh, the words unspoken.
You can’t always know these things, of course, but one helpful thing is to take any opportunity you can to read manuscript submissions for a journal or a contest. There you’ll see for yourself the swarms of cicadas or stories that start with the alarm clock ringing or how often female characters drink tea from mugs in the morning.
Speaking of Tin House, the journal is currently reading for an upcoming theme issue that sounds great: “Games People Play.”
From the website:
"We’re looking for fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and interviews revolving around the idea of play and sport. From poker to mind games to soccer, we want unique voices and ideas about games, play, and sport, from the personal to the cultural, from the inside and the outside, positive and negative, from within big-business sports to profiles of privately obsessive participants in willfully obscure games. At this stage (of the game, race, rally, inning, hand, match, set, clash, etc.) we are open to suggestions. The deadline for unsolicited submissions to this theme issue will be November 1."
Details are here.