How Leaving San Francisco Got Me Published… in a San Francisco Zine

by Arthur Klepchukov

How do you say goodbye to a brief universe inside you? Find out in my latest flash fiction, “Glimmering Sidewalks,” published in the first zine from The Racket: Quarantine Journal.

What amount of effort went into getting “Glimmering Sidewalks” published?

  • 300 words
  • 2 drafts
  • 15 submissions
  • 14 rejections, 6 encouraging rejections

These numbers are on par with my other flash fiction publications.

I share blog posts like these because every story has a different journey to readers. So if you’re in the doldrums between drafts or facing another rejection, may this encourage you. This process has taught me that publication is always more than one step away. Read on about this story’s journey and you may find what will get you over the next hump.

Inspired by leaving San Francisco

In July 2017, I moved far away from the city where I’d spent three powerful years. I hadn’t lived in a city since I left Kiev, Ukraine before my ninth birthday. After eleven years in the Bay Area, I never thought San Francisco would move me as much as she did. Leaving was a heartache that still haunts me when I see a familiar street in the background of a movie, get a call from a dear friend in the faraway nearby, or have a chance to visit and haunt back.

My view for those three years in San Francisco

About a month after the move, I got the following email:

Arthur:

Hey!

My name is Noah Sanders and I curate a monthly reading series at Adobe Books called The Racket.

Our next event is in September (the 25th) and I was hoping you might want to read.

The theme is SILENCE, and we’re hosting Bay Area writer Shawn Wen as the headliner.

Would love to have you there.

No pressure, just let me know if you’re even slightly interested.
Thanks!
N

The past has a bittersweet way of reaching into the present. Adobe Books is a beautiful store I enjoyed exploring in the Mission. Noah had found me from Lit Camp’s Basement Series, where I read The Price of Chivalry the prior year. This would’ve been my second reading in the city.

I recommended two dear friends from my critique group to read in my place, Allison Payne and Allison Landa. They had a great time. Noah and I said we’d keep in touch if I visit.

Draft 1: middle-of-the-night goodbyes

After seeing the movie Passengers, I woke up and recalled a dream of a generation ship and leaving worlds behind. When I rose and looked out through a dark window just next to bed, I glimpsed the stars. The windowsill hung low enough—almost knee level—that I pictured it being an all encompassing view of the sky. What if I watched the same stars from up there in space and they lit my way to a new world?

A year had passed since San Francisco, still the nearest universe I left behind.

I’d found treasure in her sidewalks. I wanted them to glow for me again. My thumbs stumbled through a rough draft on my phone before I could fall asleep.

Screenshot of "Glimmering Sidewalks" in iA Writer

Draft 2: day-lit revisions

I pored over the language, shared the draft with two trusted readers, and ultimately dropped twenty words. That seems trivial on the surface, but at only 300 words, it strengthened what remained.

Not doing more extensive drafts can feel like laziness. This wasn’t the case with “Glimmering Sidewalks.” There wasn’t major criticism from my readers. I fully believed in the story as it came out. I fell back to a notion I first experienced with poetry in high school. Capturing the emotions invoked at the dawn of the first draft can be the entire heart of a piece. And that’s not worth revising away with the harder logic of rewrites.

Submissions in 2018

I began submitting “Glimmering Sidewalks,” though less assertively than other flash pieces. I wasn’t sure how the ending would connect given that it reveals its genre. I tried a few sci-fi and flash fiction markets.

I visited San Francisco in late June, but Noah and The Racket didn’t have a reading during that time.

Rejection from Strange Horizons

8-day response:

Dear Arthur Klepchukov,

Thank you for submitting “Glimmering Sidewalks” to Strange Horizons, but we’ve decided not to accept it for publication.

We appreciate your interest in our magazine.

Sincerely,

–Alex Stanmyer

First Reader, Strange Horizons
fiction@strangehorizons.com
Submission guidelines: http://www.strangehorizons.com/submit/fiction-submission-guidelines/

Encouraging Rejection from Fantasy & Science Fiction

1-day response

Dear Arthur,

Thank you for giving me a chance to read “Glimmering Sidewalks.” Unfortunately, this story didn’t win me over and I’m going to pass on it for Fantasy & Science Fiction. But I wish you best of luck finding the right market for it and hope that you’ll keep us in mind in the future. 

Best regards,

C.C. Finlay, Editor
Fantasy & Science Fiction
fandsf.com | @fandsf

Rejection from SmokeLong Quarterly

5-day response

Dear Arthur, 

Thank you for your submission of “Glimmering Sidewalks” 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, and thank you for reading SmokeLong Quarterly. 

All the best, 
Editors 
SmokeLong Quarterly 
http://smokelong.com

Encouraging Rejection from Abyss & Apex

20-day response:

Dear Art, 

Thank you for submitting “Glimmering Sidewalks” to ABYSS & APEX. Unfortunately, we have decided not to accept it for publication.

I wish you the best success in placing your story elsewhere, and hope to see more of your work. 

Sincerely, 
Elizabeth Hull, Assistant Flash Editor

ABYSS & APEX
http://www.abyssapexzine.com/

Rejection from Popshot

Never responded. Closed after 77 days.

Encouraging Rejection from CRAFT

66-day response

Dear Arthur Klepchukov, 

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to read “Glimmering Sidewalks” for consideration in CRAFT. Though we enjoyed reading your work, it isn’t the right fit for us right now. 

We’re grateful you chose to share your writing with us. We wish you the best of luck with it, and hope that you will keep us in mind for future submissions. 

Sincerely, 
Editors, CRAFT

Encouraging Rejection from Vestal Review

84-day response

Very poetic. Sorry to say no, and sorry it took so long.

Mark

Submissions in 2019

The four encouraging rejections were welcome. I decided to keep submitting the story to mostly literary journals without any revisions.

I visited San Francisco in August, but missed Noah again.

Rejection from Electric Literature

20-day response

Dear Arthur, 

Thank you for sending us your work; while it was not a fit for Electric Literature, we appreciate the chance to consider it. 

Sincerely, 

Editors, 
Electric Literature

Rejection from American Short Fiction

74-day response

Dear Arthur Klepchukov, 

Thank you so much for submitting your work to the American Short(er) Fiction Prize. We were highly impressed and moved by the stories we received. Unfortunately, we had to make some tough decisions, and we’re sorry to say your piece did not place as a finalist. 

We consider it a privilege to have spent time with your work. Your story and the others submitted with it reminded us of the beauty and potential of the form. We wish you the best of luck in placing it elsewhere. 

We’ll be announcing the prize winners shortly on our website, www.americanshortfiction.org, so check back to see the results! 

Sincerely, 

The Editors, American Short Fiction

Encouraging Rejection from Tin House Online

54-day response

Dear Arthur, 

Thank you for sharing Glimmering Sidewalks with us. Unfortunately, we have decided to pass here, but we hope to see you around Tin House again. It’s a privilege to read your work. 

Sincerely, 

Alana Csaposs 
Editor, Tin House Online

Rejection from Analog

102-day response

Dear Arthur,

Thank you very much for letting me see “Glimmering Sidewalks.”  I’m sorry it didn’t strike me as quite suitable to our present needs.

Sincerely,
Trevor Quachri
Editor

Encouraging Rejection from Palooka

23-day response

Dear Arthur, 

Thanks for giving me the chance to read “”Duskwing,” “Glimmering Sidewalks,” and “Counting”,” though I’m sorry to say we won’t be publishing the work. I appreciate you sending along more of your writing. Your style is unique, and I like the strength of your line and the sound of your voice; there just wasn’t enough “story” in these for me. I hope you submit again via one of the free categories.

All best, 
Jonathan Starke, Editor
http://palookamag.com/submit

Rejection from Pidgeonholes

16-day response

Dear Arthur, 

Thank you for submitting “Glimmering Sidewalks” to Pidgeonholes. We gave the piece careful consideration, and while we are not accepting it for publication, we hope you find a better fit for it elsewhere. 

Many thanks for trusting us with your work. 

Kindest regards, 

Jennifer Todhunter 
Editor-in-Chief, Pidgeonholes 

Rejection from Longleaf Review

76-day response

Dear Arthur Klepchukov,

Thank you for your submission to Longleaf Review. Although your work was not selected for publication this time around, we truly appreciated the opportunity to read it.

Warm regards,
Kate Finegan
Editor-in-chief

Submissions in 2020

Despite the encouraging rejections, I found myself submitting “Glimmering Sidewalks” less and less often. I re-read it and wasn’t moved to make any obvious changes. I also wasn’t reading many stories like it being published, so my submissions waned.

Finding The Racket (again)

Since leaving San Francisco in 2017, I’d been fortunate enough to visit three times. Of all the great literary events and bookstores in the Bay Area, I treasured any opportunity to get involved. Or host a Shut Up & Write(!) meetup. Or simply linger in a beloved café.

Before each visit, I’d email Noah and ask if The Racket reading series was going on. The third time, Noah invited me to read on the theme of REVENGE at Alley Cat Books.

All the readers from The Racket reading series on February 20, 2020 at Alley Cat Books, San Francisco.
Me reading at The Racket reading series on February 20, 2020 at Alley Cat Books, San Francisco.

The reading was one of my best. Noah is a great curator with an ear for variety and surprise.

About a month after, I got this follow up email:

Folks:
Hello!
First off, this is an email to a bunch of (amazing) people. Apologies and such.

Times are weird. People are at home.

I thought we might be able to give back a bit through the simple act of sharing what we’re all (hopefully) already doing.

I want to do a weekly (maybe daily) journal until peeps are out of quarantine. Super simple: 3-5 pieces per “journal” / some art = journal.

If you are interested in being a part of this, please send me work no longer than 750 words. Multiple pieces are fine. Combined this shouldn’t be longer than 750 words.

Send submissions to: theracketreadingseries@gmail.comHope you are well. Reach out if you need anything.

Thanks so much.
N

I didn’t have much unpublished flash fiction except “Glimmering Sidewalks.” I figured why not keep the story alive the way I keep the city alive in my heart? I submitted.

Acceptance from The Racket : Quarantine Journal

5-day response

Art:

Hello!

We just wanted to reach out and let you know that we’ve accepted your piece – “Glimmering Sidewalks” – for inclusion in our first issue of The Racket : Quarantine Journal.

We particularly enjoy this line:

Blinks divided into years.

A Few Things:
1. We’ll be releasing it into the world on Tuesday, April 7th as a downloadable .PDF
2. Attached is the cover. Please share it with whomever you’d like.
3. If you do share, we ask that you remind/encourage your people to submit as well. We want this to be a weekly thing until we’re released from our well-appointed cages and we need submissions to make that happen.
4. Please, keep submitting. 
5. We’ll put a small bio in the back of the issue. It will be the answer to this question:
Describe quarantine in one sentence.


Thank you so much. 
We are so excited to have this piece.
N

I celebrated that my goodbye San Francisco story had found a home, in a San Francisco-based zine no less! Not every rejection necessitates a harsh rewrite. Not every goodbye is goodbye.

I’m proud to share this process and the final story. Read “Glimmering Sidewalks” today.

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