“Reading Willow” Published in The Common


What expectations transcend distance and life changes? I explore that in under 400 words in my latest flash fiction publication, “Reading Willow” in The Common.

What amount of effort went into getting “Reading Willow” published?

  • 2 drafts
  • 5 submissions
  • 2 rejections
  • 2 withdrawals

These are lucky numbers, especially given that this story didn’t earn any encouraging rejections. Read on about my process.

Flash Fiction Inspired by A Walk in The Park

When I moved back to the DC suburbs in Maryland in 2017, my wife and I consciously sought things to enjoy in our new surroundings. Few things could replace San Francisco for me, but Maryland is greener. We found a willow tree in a nearby park and our first walk up there inspired this flash piece in October 2017.

After letting the piece incubate for about a month, I wrote another draft with the revision techniques from David Galef’s Brevity: A Flash Fiction Handbook.

Redivider Blurred Genre Contest rejection, February 2018

Redivider sent me a previous encouraging rejection for a longer story. They responded with an 83-day form rejection:

Dear Arthur Klepchukov,

Thank you for submitting to the Redivider Blurred Genre Contest. While your submission, Reading Willow, received careful consideration from Lincoln Michel, it was not chosen for this year’s contest. We hope you’ll give it another shot this spring for our Beacon Street Prize, and when we host the Blurred Genre Contest again in the fall!

Raina & Jaime


I deemed this a form rejection because it didn’t encourage submissions to Redivider’s regular reading period. Admittedly, contest rejections are harder to parse—if any response comes at all besides an announcement of winners.

SmokeLong Quarterly rejection, January 2018

I’d also earned an encouraging rejection from SmokeLong for their Kathy Fish Fellowship. However, “Reading Willow” earned this 38-day form rejection:

Dear Arthur,

Thank you for your submission of “Reading Willow” to SmokeLong Quarterly. We gave the story careful consideration, and though we are not accepting it for publication, we hope you find a better fit for it elsewhere.

Thanks again for trusting us with your work.

SmokeLong Quarterly

Finding The Common, 2017-2018

I found a copy of issue 12 of The Common in San Francisco’s City Lights Bookstore while we still lived there. I enjoyed it at one of the silent reading parties at Hotel Rex. The Common seeks work with a strong sense of place. Last May, I sent them “A Dam Fine Town,” another short story, which earned a form rejection after 95 days.

I kept The Common on my list of deadlines, and decided to submit again despite not being encouraged to do so. “Reading Willow” had a conflict partially centered around its sense of place, so it felt like a good fit.

Publication Process with The Common, Summer 2018

I was thrilled to see this 89-day acceptance in early June:

Dear Arthur Klepchukov,

Thank you for sending us “Reading Willow.” We very much enjoyed this piece. I was immediately taken by the voice, the unique observation of place and sense of simplicity. I thought the story had a nice arc and lots of emotion for such a small number of words. We are interested in publishing “Reading Willow” on TC’s website, contingent on a few minor revisions. Primarily, we thought there were a handful of spots that could use greater clarity. Please let me know if an online publication interests you and I will follow up with our edits.

PS. “The Next Thief” is one of my absolute favorite stories we’ve published, too.

Megan Tucker Orringer
Associate Fiction Editor
The Common

The “The Next Thief of Magadan” by Vladislava Kolosova was my favorite story in Issue No. 12 of The Common. I mentioned it in my cover letter. I’m a believer in sharing a reason for why I’m submitting to a particular market; giving praise to a recently published story is a simple way to do so. It’s lovely to see an editor respond to that.

Publication Process with The Common, Summer 2018

I withdrew “Reading Willow” from Tin House Flash Fridays (after 112 days) and Willow Springs (after only 4 days).

Megan and three others from The Common provided feedback on my flash. It was remarkable to get input from four qualified folks on a 400-word story! In my brief publication journey thus far, I’ve only had one round of edits for my other accepted pieces.

I appreciated the feedback from those with more experience. Being asked to make additional changes after the first round surprised me, but being asked to put forward the clearest words is always a healthy challenge. This is part of why I believe in the journey of reading, submitting, earning rejections, and working through an acceptance. I believe it led to a clearer story than what I originally submitted.

I’m proud to share this process and the final story. Read “Reading Willow.”

Need some inspiration for your flash fiction?
Check out David Galef’s Brevity: A Flash Fiction Handbook.

Submit and share your victories

Learn to submit with my free submission resources:

3 thoughts on ““Reading Willow” Published in The Common”

  1. I’m thankful for your post here about the process. a few questions:

    -What is meant by “89-day acceptance/38-day rejection”, et al? Does this mean it took them 89 days/38 days (respectively) to either reject or accept your piece?

    -Did you submit another piece to the same publications while you were waiting for the first piece? Or is that what is meant by “simultaneous submission”?

    -How did you get that Paypal button?



    1. Hey Billy, happy you found this helpful.

      1. Yes, 89-day acceptances means it took the editor of the publication 89 days after I submitted to send me an acceptance.

      2. Submitting another piece to the same publication while they’re still considering your work is frowned upon and uncommon in my experience. Editors already have too much to read, thus the response times varying wildly across different publications.

      You may be thinking of “multiple submissions.” That means multiple pieces can be sent to the same place at once. If allowed, you’ll see something like “we allow multiple submissions” in submission guidelines. This usually means multiple pieces will be submitted together.

      A “simultaneous submission” is one piece sent to several editors simultaneously.

      3. I got the PayPal button from PayPal and included it in WordPress.

      Happy submitting!

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