Reflections on a decade-long journey to getting a flash fiction story published.

A revised and updated version of this post was published in The Ascent. Please read it there (especially if you are a paying member of Medium) because I get paid a little when my piece is read and clapped for. Thank you. 

Raw Art Review Publishes "Expire"

Read Expire for free in Raw Art Review’s Spring 2019 Collection or buy a hard copy on the publisher’s website.

This story took a long time to place. I don’t think it took so long because it was poorly written. In fact, I’ve had some compliments on it over the years. The editor at 34thParallel (one of the first magazines I ever submitted to) had this to say about it:

Dear R.E.
Let me say I’m impressed by your story; dialect in any form is difficult–damn difficult–for a whole lot of reasons of which I’m sure you’re aware. So I’ll repeat, I’m impressed–damn impressed (if you’ll excuse my language).

Only this April, the editor over at Barren Magazine had this to say about the two dialogue flash fiction stories I had submitted for consideration:

Thank you for sending “Expire” and “Attributes of a Girl” for our review. I really loved the experimentation but (especially “Expire“) we literally couldn’t tell what was happening. I know these responses are annoying but hope it helps a little!

Tahoma Literary Review also found the piece hard to understand. While they apparently made their way through the dialect, they ultimately decided that it didn’t work:

[I]n “Expire,” I found myself working really hard to parse the patois/dialect.

In other words, the form/gimmick outstripped the narrative.

I don’t blame any of these publications for rejecting Expire. It is a short piece and it is purposefully difficult. In fact, that’s the whole point. The form/gimmick is another layer of the theme. In fact, the way the story is presented makes the reading experience mirror the central issue of the story.

If you do figure out what is going on then you realize that the story is about how difficult it is to get a point across when trying to tell a story. The piece is constructed in a way to make it difficult to read. While the narrative revolves around a guy who doesn’t understand a specific word in a story being told about the Titanic, the form of the story itself challenges you, the reader, to understand the story on the page. Expire is printed as a block of text, using only dialogue without any dialogue tags, and one of the speakers in the story uses a black American vernacular. It’s not easy to read.

Expire is hard, and it’s meant to be hard. So I’m not surprised that I’ve received both positive feedback and criticism. Yes, I’m a little surprised it took me a whole decade with at least 33 submission attempts to get Expire published, but published it is at long last by Raw Art Review.

One of the differences with Raw Art Review is their commitment to trying to get a work. And that’s why I think they published this story where others didn’t. Bullet ten of their current submissions guidelines says this:

“Editors assume you are smarter than we are. We will strive to understand your intention ; stay open-minded and try to avoid imposing our presumptions on your work.”

Trace Sheridan, the editor with 34thParallel who was “damn impressed” with the use of dialect in the story, asked to see some more pieces alongside it. She ended up publishing the story Bad Weather instead of Expire. I don’t know exactly why she or her team didn’t publish it, although I think they would have had I had more stories like it—dialogical and dialectical—since she asked to see some more pieces while also asking, “Is this part of a larger set/collection of pieces?” And, at the time, no, it wasn’t a part of anything larger than itself.

Expire did eventually inspire me to spend a year writing dialogues. It was a good year. And I came out of that year with a good collection. Truly, I owe a whole book to Expire that I wouldn’t have otherwise written. Expire not only set the tone and implicit theme of the entire collection, but as a story that took a decade to get published, it reminds me that storytelling is a difficult art, even when you accomplish perfectly what you intended to do, like I did with Expire. It is one of my best pieces. And like many great pieces of storytelling, it says something that not everyone can hear and not everyone will like, but it says what it has to say boldly from the first word to the last little piece of punctuation.

Rusting Sunken Ship

 

 

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BIG – New Publication

BIG - New Publication

My thirteenth dialogue to be released is BIG. Okay, it’s actually a rather short story, but it’s subject is big and is fittingly appearing in the Gypsum Sound Tales anthology COLP: Big. All the stories in this collection are themed big: Big is home to a collection of stories that feature large, enormous or gigantic characters and concepts and, in this situation, it is most definitely a case of bigger is better.

My story is called The WaveIf you’re so inclined to read some short stories about big things, you can purchase a paper copy or you’re free to grab a Kindle copy on Amazon.

COLP: Big

 

Illegal Turn

Illegal Turn

This week’s story for my weekly writing challenge of fictional tales told totally in dialogue is Illegal Turn. The story revolves around a first date and an interloper who just doesn’t follow the rules of the road (or dating for that matter).


I managed to get in a lot of editing and short story writing this past week. Overall it was very relaxing. Yes! Writing is relaxing for me mentally. That is, I feel healthier and better for having spent more time at it than usual. The other thing I also did was send out some submissions. So maybe another acceptance letter will be on its way . . . in like six months to a year (publications run on their own particular time tables).


The weather turned wintry for a while, hopped back to summer for a day, and has parked at fall, which is where I hope it stays for a while. I like the electric feel of fall air. Too bad it’s so rainy during the Autumn these past several years. All the rain knocks the leaves to the ground, leaving few trees to admire in their autumnal regalia.

If you’re in a fall mood, may I suggest you check out Irony, published by 3:AM Magazine.

Bench of mixed messages

Iowa’s Emerging Writers

Iowa's Emerging Writers

My story-in-dialogue, Everything in Its Right Place, has been published in an anthology: Iowa’s Emerging Writers. This is my fifth dialogue to be showcased by a publisher, and the first one available in a print book. You can pick up a copy of Iowa’s Emerging Writers or find your own state’s showcased authors by following this link.

Thanks to anyone who buys a copy, as it helps me out just an a bit.

Take it easy, bookworms.

Iowa's Emerging Writers Anthology

Hiss, Squawk, Bellow Mutter

Hiss, Squawk, Bellow, Mutter

The characters Hiss, Squawk, Bellow, and Mutter in my new dialogue are business men, and they talk just like their names imply. It’s a part of the new dialogue collection I’m writing.

About the Series
Dialogues is a series of short fictional stories written entirely in conversational form. So far, there are 11 works written for the collection. A new dialogue arrives every week of 2018. Follow me on Medium or subscribe via email to keep notified there.

 

In Case You Missed It
In other news this week, I had two publications come out. One, about a lost little boy, was published in The Creative Cafe. The other, about a kid with a body hair fetish, appeared in Literally Literary. Check them both out, please!

 

 

Read featured dialogues and links to available dialogues on Randal’s Medium series

Business Pyramid to Success

Baby Who

Baby Who

Klavdiya: We should call the police.

Galina: No. Think about how bad that will look.

Klavdiya: But we need help looking.

Galina: Our jobs are on the line, Klavdiya. I know that this isn’t where you want to be, but this is my career. And I’m not going to lose it because we lost our cool and called the police.

Klavdiya: We should call the police because we lost a baby.

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Wonder where the baby went to? Well, if you do, keep following because this piece is a part of my next planned book: Dialogues: a Collection of Creative Conversations. #workingtitle

 

Read featured dialogues and links to available dialogues on Randal’s Medium series

Callout48

Standoff with Bigfoot Deep in the Remote Woods

Callout47

This week’s dialogue is Standoff with Bigfoot Deep in the Remote Woods. ]

This piece is a part of my weekly challenge to write one dialogue a week for all of 2018. This one is fairly experimental with no breaks between the words of the bigfoot character. Don’t know if I’ll seek a publisher for this crazy little piece, but it’ll be in the book once I find a publisher after the year’s end.

 

Happy monster hunting, bookworms.

Standoff with Bigfoot Deep in the Remote Woods by Randal Eldon Greene

Read featured dialogues and links to available dialogues on Randal’s Medium series

Expire

Expire - Dialogue - Short Story

The first story for my 2018 challenge has been listed. Expire explores the difficulty of conversation, conveying meaning, and comprehension. It’s a fitting first piece, as the general theme of Expire will be explored if not explicitly then implicitly through the very form of dialogues themselves. Thanks for following me on this journey as I write this dialogue series. Whether you follow the blog or follow on Medium*, I appreciate all the support, claps, and likes.

Rusting Sunken Ship

*To navigate through the series, just click or swipe right to progress forward, left to progress backwards. If you have the app or you’re subscribed to the series, it saves your progress so you don’t have to read it all at once.
Note: some web browsers will ask that you “read on a larger screen” when it comes to series. This is an EASY FIX. Simply zoom out a bit, or you can go full screen. Either option works. F11 on most PC keyboards is a great shortcut for going full screen and back. Hitting the control (Ctrl) key while using the scroll wheel on your mouse is the easiest method for zooming in and out (assuming you have a mouse and it has a scroll wheel).You can also read the series on your phone by using the Medium app.

Expect a post about one new dialogue every week of 2018.

 

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Holiday Book Haul

Holiday Book Haul

I only asked for one book this year, and I ended up with seven. So bookworms, here’s my 2017 Holiday Book Haul:
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This 1947 treasury came from my mother-in-law. It has many authors I’ve heard of and a few that I haven’t. Broken into 19th century Europe and America and “Our Time” Europe and America, I feel like some of these authors aren’t known to me not due solely to my ignorance (though some undoubtedly are) but because we simply don’t read them anymore. I like the fact that this book is compiled by a woman, as most of my anthology collections with a single compiler have a male selecting the stories. I’m hoping I’ll find some unique stories in this little book.

The Odyssey by Homer translated by Emily Wilson
I read Robert Fagles translation of the Odyssey a little over a year ago. While I own the Samuel Butler translation and do want to read Robert Fitzgerald’s translation, I’m curious what I’ll find in the first ever female translation of Odysseus’s journey home.
Here’s the first line(s) from Emily Wilson’s translation: Tell me about a complicated man. Muse, tell me how he wandered and was lost when he had wrecked the holy town of Troy.
Compare that to the Butler translation: Tell me, O Muse, of that ingenious hero who traveled far and wide after he sacked the famous town of Troy.
And the Fagles translation: Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy.
In truth, while I’m only working with first lines, I’m in love with the imagery of the Fagles translation. Wilson’s is the second best, and maybe more “correct” or accurate. But the more truthful hero is not the ingenious one, nor the complicated one (though Odysseus is both ingenious and unarguably complicated), but he is the man of twists and turns. I’ll enjoy the Wilson translation, I’m sure, but hopefully she doesn’t sacrifice too much of the poetic for the sake of accuracy in translation.

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Destiny and Desire by Carlos Fuentes was the sole book on my wishlist this year. I heard about it on Michael Silverblatt’s Bookworm radio show. Fun fact: it’s narrated by a decapitated head floating in the ocean. My besite, Mike, bought this baby for me.

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My bestie also bought me Le Morte D’arthur by Sir Thomas Malory with original spellings! Seriously, probably my favorite surprise book this Christmas. I can’t wait to jump into it sometime this year.
Here’s a sample from “How Uther Pendragon Gate Kyng Arthur”: Whan hit was delyverde to thes kynges, Ban and Bors, they gaff the godis as frely to theire knyghtes as hit was gevyn to them. Than Merlion toke hys leve of Kynge Arthure and the two kyngis, for to go se hys mayster Bloyse that dwelled in Northhumbirlonde. And so he departed and com to hys mayster, that was passynge glad of hys commynge. And there he tolde how Arthure and two kynges had spedde at the grete batayle, and how hyt was endyd, and tolde the namys of every kynge and knyght of worship that was there. And so Bloyse wrote the batayle worde by worde as Merlion tolde hym, how hit began and by whom, and in lyke wyse how hit was ended and who had the worst.
And you thought you had the worst spelling day ever? It just goes to show that spelling standards do change, so it’s okay if you make a typo or misspell a word or two now and again. In a few hundred years everything you’ve written will look an awful lot like a misspelling or a typo to readers anyway.

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LitMag, a new literary magazine. This is their inaugural issue. My lovely wife gave me this book. The picture is a wee bit blurry, so here’s just a few of the famous  authors they’re publishing: William H. Gass, Harold Bloom, John Ashberry, and Kelly Cherry. I didn’t check, but I believe they rejected a short story of mine that I submitted at some point in 2016. The wife didn’t know, but that’s okay; it’s not like a rejection would keep me from buying or subscribing myself! I’m taking this magazine to read in my downtime at work.

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Old issues of the Iowa Review hold some of my favorite writings. Even long before I lived in Iowa, this was a review I turned too for good prose. And now that I’ve lived in Iowa for a couple of years, it’s about time I picked up this review again. This issue was also a present from my wife.

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This last one is also from Libby. No, we don’t have any kids yet, but we hope we will, and the wife wants to make sure I know my colors for when the baby comes. This year I’ll be spending many hours studying how blue is the color of sky and blueberries, how green is the color of peas and frogs, and so on and so forth. I’m just glad she got me a book and not a doll with a changeable diaper, which is just one of many baby-related skills I’ve yet to try my hand at, let alone master.

Let me know what was in your holiday book haul in the comments below. Have a happy new year.

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