I’ve been away for a while, touring Tuscany from the marvellous argriturismo L’Ozio in Collina. What a wonderful place, if you ever get the chance to stay there take it. We took in Florence, Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa and Lucca, returning to the villa for a dip in the infinity pool and amazingly delicious dinners lovingly cooked by Sandra. It was a truly inspirational 10 days and I’ve been writing about it ever since, working on two short stories set in the area, trying to stave off the reality of a British autumn a little longer.

Rattle Tales has a full autumn planned. There are two more shows (at least) this year and we are on the hunt for submissions. The first is part of Shoreham Wordfest at the Ropetackle Theatre on October 6th and we want short stories and flash fiction for this by Aug 24th. The second sees us back in Brighton on November 22nd at our new venue, the spacious theatre bar at The Brunswick Pub. Submissions for this open on Aug 26th. If you are interested in submitting for either please check out Rattle Tales website for details.

As a seasoned submitter, I thought I’d take the time to explain how we select the stories for Rattle Tales. Submitting to anything is a bit of a rollercoaster at first. Everyone at Rattle Tales has submitted work for print or performance so we all know what it’s like. I have had good and bad experiences with submissions like any writer.  I have had replies ranging from, no acknowledgement at all, to a rejection two years later, to an email rejection after just 20 minutes! My worst was from a very well-respected literary magazine, who sent back a copy of a story with their standard rejection plus the addition (presumably the editor) definitely and totally UNSUITABLE!  scrawled diagonally across it. Rude isn’t it? I have a file of submissions and their outcomes on my computer – next to theirs I put never send anything to them again rude fuckers. I am quite mean in my notes on this file because I know no-one will see it. I have named and shamed all the rudeness, unconsidered and just plain lazy no-shows but only for my own satisfaction. I like to look back over it every time I add to it because it makes me laugh.

I am not ashamed to say I take it personally. It is personal. It is the personal taste of the rejector that stands between you and acceptance. Once you accept this it doesn’t matter how many times you get rejected because it is all down to the trivialities of somebody’s personal taste. Someone else will like it. The only thing that matters is that you know it is good and that you have done your best.

We have a very particular way of selecting at Rattle Tales. There are at least ten of us in the group and we all read every submission. We tried splitting them up and only reading a few each but it didn’t work as well. We reject anything that doesn’t meet the word count (unless it’s by a few words and it’s brilliant – in which case we would ask for cuts to be made.)

When I read the submission I don’t go in for this if the first sentence doesn’t grab me I don’t read on. I think this is nonsense. A first sentence should be strong yes but if it isn’t the most amazing thing you’ve ever read it’s not an excuse not to read to the end. I always read everything from start to finish at least twice. I know most of the other members of Rattle Tales do to. I think you owe It to the writer who has expressed an interest in your event/publication to do so. It’s only fair, they have spent hours writing and refining, shouldn’t you spend a little time deciding. Most of the stories that come into us take about six minutes to read through, so reading it twice takes about twelve minute – is this too much to ask?

Standard rejections are fine if you have spent the time actually reading the stuff. That’s another thing I find annoying. There are several major journals and short story competitions out there that don’t even bother with a standard rejection letter and yet the following year when the time comes for writers to submit new entries (usually with a fee) they get an email, as someone who has entered before blah blah blah…  Am I alone in finding this beyond rude?  Surely if you can blanket email asking for money you can blanket email the results. They are all in my rejections file suitably vilified.

Having carefully read each submission, Rattle Tales makes notes and puts them in order of preference. There being ten of us not everyone’s order of preference is the same. We have a long meeting where we discuss each piece. Often there is huge dispute about stories, like I said before it’s all down to personal taste, we argue, discuss what we like and don’t like, if they will fit into the programme, if they will read well, generate audience discussion and then we simply vote, yes or no. In the end it comes down to a show of hands. If there are two stories we like on a similar subject we vote on which to include. Sometimes we will suggest things to the author, change the title, cut the end. Then we come up with a running order and questions on each piece.

We send out standard rejections but offer feedback if required. About half of the rejected authors request this and to be honest, because the selection process is so in depth, it doesn’t take long at all and we always, always, get a note of thanks.

Submit short fiction and flash to www.rattletales.org. by August 24th for your change to appear at The Ropetackle Theatre Shoreham as part of the Wordfest on October 6th.

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