Thursday, September 3, 2009

Guest in Progress: Julie Wakeman-Linn

I’ve told you that Julie Wakeman-Linn is a bundle of energy: writer, teacher, editor, and conference organizer. (I'm guessing she also has a personal life!) You saw one side of the picture in her previous post–about putting together a do-it-yourself writer’s retreat—and here she explores another facet of her busy life: editing the Potomac Review.

This piece is adapted from a post on the Potomac Review blog, which you should check out. And after reading Julie’s piece, I’m sure you’ll be fired up to learn more about the Potomac Review:

--to read work published in the journal, go here
--to subscribe (only $20), go here
--to submit your work (electronic submissions accepted), go here
--main site:

Advice on submitting to the Potomac Review
Open season on Editors; Open letter to contributors.

Fall is my favorite season, beautiful trees and lovely long walks; the academic year is beginning with all its possibilities. For the past four years, fall has also become the opening of the submission period or reading period for The Potomac Review.

Next Tuesday, I throw the switch and the online submission manager comes alive again. I both shudder and thrill at the thought of it. Why—a couple of clicks from all those eager writers and poets and my editors and I could be inundated. So here is my request and my advice – think about The Potomac Review before you click. Take a look at our website, lay your hands on a recent copy. Believe me –it has changed from 2005. We are no longer only regional but rather international in scope.

The next step if you want your work to rise out of the ranks of the electronic or paper slush is to craft your opening paragraph very very carefully. Give us a problem happening to a lifelike character right away. Hint at setting –no paragraphs of exposition or description. Ideally, your opening paragraph will be rewritten after the story’s ending is solid; think of it this way – does the opening take on new meaning, more layers when the story is finished? Does the ending “shed light all the way back to the beginning of the story?” (Thank you to my writing professors for that gem).

Think about the length of the story also. Long stories are harder to write and harder to publish. I find that most stories over 5000 words lose energy and focus, so trim, trim, trim. Watch out for strings of adjectives and preposition phrases gone rogue.

Cover letters are often the subject of much laughter in the offices of the Potomac Review and I’m afraid we laugh at them and not with them. Don’t address your letter to the previous editors—Eli and Christa are great people but they aren’t the ones reading your work. Do mention if you have read a story in the Potomac Review that you liked. We love it when you read us and of course, subscribe. If we have met you at one of our two terrific conferences, mention that.

Finally expect that the whole process takes time. Here’s an approximate timeline-- Your story arrives, in a week or two, it gets handed over to an associate editor who is also teaching and writing. The first read usually takes a month to go out and come back to me. If the associate editor likes the story, it makes its way to the ‘maybe’ editor who screens for me. She is very good and very quick. Then if she likes it, I take it over. I read it, mull it over, think about it, hand it around the office and read it again. Then even if I love it, I’m still thinking about the composition of the entire issue. This series of steps usually takes 4-5 months to give fair reading by multiple people. I may be crazy but I look at every story that comes in, even if it is just a glance.

If my editors and I are hooked by the first line, first paragraph, first page, we will keep reading, so work on those elements. I’m waiting for stories to thrill, challenge, or amuse me. Send them along. I love fall. ~~Julie Wakeman-Linn

About: Julie Wakeman-Linn, Editor in Chief of the Potomac Review, teaches at Montgomery College and writes in the moments around the grading and the editing. Her novel, Chasing the Leopard, was a finalist for the 2008 Bellwether Prize, and her short fiction has appeared in online and print journals including The Chimaera ( ) and Enhanced Gravity (www.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.