How a Neglected Setting Led to my Quietest Flash Fiction Publication

by Arthur Klepchukov

Photo of three-story, pastel-colored buildings with empty balconies by Tapio Haaja on Unsplash
Photo by Tapio Haaja on Unsplash

Can flash fiction be a pensive cup of slowly sipped tea, among all the espresso shots of flash fiction? Pull up a chair on the balcony and let’s find out. My latest publication, “Imperfect Balconies,” appears in Nevermore Journal. The story is free to read online. Here is the opening:

Imperfect Balconies

When I lived in the hushed city, I spent countless lonely hours seeking company on my balcony. On move-in day, sunlight poured in through the glass wall panorama, golden and warm like a fresh cup my fingers could cuddle. This balcony glowed. A welcoming box that peeked out at hundreds of other balconies, possibilities, lives. 

Read story online in Nevermore Journal

My efforts to get “Imperfect Balconies” published:

  • ~1,000 words
  • 2 drafts
  • 26 submissions
  • 21 rejections, 7 encouraging rejections, 2 never responded
  • 4 withdrawals

I share blog posts like these because every story has a different journey. 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 prolonged journey and you may find what will get you over the next hump.

Draft 1—Back to the Balcony

In Summer 2017, we moved away from San Francisco and to the DC suburbs of Maryland. Our balcony became one of the differences I enjoyed about our new place. San Francisco, and even warmer Berkeley and Oakland where I spent a collective decade, can be too chilly throughout the year to hang out and observe the life beyond your overpriced apartment. Bay windows were more common than balconies.

Maryland, with its lovely springs, long autumns, and ignited summers, would create a lot more balcony time for me. I was surprised how rarely I saw other neighbors enjoying theirs. I hadn’t lived in a place with a balcony since Ukraine, and the last one was largely used as crowded storage.

In Summer 2018, I read Jane Delury’s lovely novel “The Balcony,” which I relished despite a surprising lack of balconies. I drafted “Imperfect Balconies” in September 2018, mostly as a curiosity on whether I can weave a story purely around an element of setting. Or an apparent afterthought, if you were my neighbors. It was one of my slowest, quietest stories, but I appreciated what it invoked.

Draft 2—Reading and Revising for Submission

A few months after the first draft, I read “Imperfect Balconies” at an open mic reading at The Writer’s Center in nearby Bethesda, MD. Only one person in the crowd seemed to really enjoy the story, but it swept me up and made me want to share with others.

My wife and I revised the first draft, shedding about 100 words to get it down to flash fiction length. I began submitting, hoping the quiet piece wasn’t only punctuated by darlings.

Electric Literature rejection, February 2019

20-day form rejection

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

American Short Fiction rejection, April 2019

74-day form rejection

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

Glimmer Train rejection, April 2019

55-day form rejection

Dear Arthur, 

Imperfect Balconies did not place this time, but we’re glad to have read it. Thank you! 

Warm regards, 

Susan & Linda 
Glimmer Train Press

As a fun aside, this was my last Glimmer Train rejection before my acceptance into their last issue.

SmokeLong Quarterly rejection, May 2019

3-day form rejection

Dear Arthur, 

Thank you for your submission of “Imperfect Balconies” 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

Tin House Online rejection, September 2019

42-day encouraging rejection

Dear Arthur, 

Thank you for sharing Imperfect Balconies 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

This was the first encouraging rejection and certainly helped me keep submitting.

Hobart rejection, October 2019

102-day form rejection

Dear Arthur Klepchukov, 

Thank you for sending us “Imperfect Balconies.” We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, the piece is not for us. 

Thanks again. Best of luck with this. 

Sincerely, 
Evan Fleischer 
Hobart 

CRAFT rejection, October 2019

110-day encouraging rejection

Dear Arthur Klepchukov,

Thank you for sending “Imperfect Balconies” for consideration in CRAFT. We enjoyed reading your story, but can take so few pieces, with regret, we do have to decline good work. We’re sorry this isn’t the right story for us right now.

We appreciate your interest in contributing to CRAFT, and wish you the best of luck with this piece. We hope that you will send us work again in the future.

Sincerely,
Editors
CRAFT

The Baltimore Review rejection, October 2019

34-day form rejection

Dear Arthur Klepchukov, 

Thank you for sending us “Imperfect Balconies.” We appreciated the chance to consider your work for the Maryland Writers issue. Your submission was not selected for this issue (we received many submissions and could only accept a small number), but we wish you well with your writing and hope that your work will be a perfect fit for another publication. 

We do accept–and encourage–simultaneous submissions. See long lists of other publication possibilities at http://newpages.com/ , 
http://www.pw.org/literary_magazines?&perpage=* ,
http://www.everywritersresource.com/literarymagazines/ , 
https://www.facebook.com/groups/35517751475/, and 
http://www.thereviewreview.net/ . 

Thanks again. 

Sincerely, 

Barbara Westwood Diehl 
The Baltimore Review 

Local writing rejections, Fall 2019

The Inner Loop is a great DC reading series. I attended their September 2019 event, where my friend Alyssa Oursler had a great reading. I enjoyed their fiction and their poetry, so I emailed my most local piece for their next reading. 29 days later I closed it as rejected as they never responded before the event.

I also submitted to the Maryland Writes! Montgomery County Writing Contest. I only found out I was rejected after following up by email and hearing the winners were already announced.

Not hearing back is definitely a risk with email-based submissions. It may be easier to submit via email, but following up can never happen. Submission managers pretty much always trigger an email notification when readers or editors decide to pass on a piece. It’s nice to close the loop and not leave submitters wondering.

The Rush rejection, January 2020

83-day form rejection

Dear Arthur Klepchukov,

Thank you for sending us “Imperfect Balconies”. We appreciate the chance to see it. Unfortunately, the piece is not a good fit for us.

Thanks again. Best of luck in your writing.

Sincerely,
The Editors at The Rush

The Harvard Advocate rejection, January 2020

47-day form rejection

Dear Andrew Klepchukov, 

Thank you for your submission to the Advocate. Unfortunately, it was not selected by the board for publication. We wish you the best of luck with your writing, and we hope the piece finds a home elsewhere. 

Sincerely,
The Fiction Board

The Hunger rejection, March 2020

96-day encouraging rejection

Dear Arthur,

Thank you for submitting “Imperfect Balconies” to The Hunger. We appreciate the time, creative energy, and vulnerability it takes to create and share your art. 

This was a difficult decision for us, and we are grateful to have had the opportunity to consider your submission, but unfortunately, it’s not quite right for us at this time. However, we very much enjoyed your work and hope you will consider sending us more in the future.

Thank you for thinking of The Hunger, and we wish you the best of luck finding a home for this piece. 

Sincerely,

Lena Ziegler & Erin Slaughter
Editors & Co-Founders
The Hunger
thehungerjournal.com

I love rejections like these. They meet my vulnerability with theirs and nudge me to keep pressing on.

Bethesda Magazine rejection, March 2020

My third and final attempt at getting “Imperfect Balconies” into a local publication or reading…

52-day form rejection

Hi,
Thank you for your submission to Bethesda Magazine’s Short Story Contest. The judges have made their selections and your story was not among those chosen this year.
We encourage you to enter the contest again in the future.
Best,
Kathleen Neary
Bethesda Magazine

I count this as a form rejection since it doesn’t use my name or the name of my piece. The encouragement to enter the contest again in the future could apply to everyone who submitted.

Epiphany rejection, May 2020

102-day form rejection

Dear Arthur Klepchukov,

Thank you for submitting your work, “Imperfect Balconies.” Regretfully, we cannot find a place for it in our upcoming issue, but we wish you the best of luck placing it elsewhere.

At Epiphany we are committed to evaluating every submission we receive thoughtfully and respectfully. Many issues factor into every decision we make either to publish a piece or pass on it, from its consonance or dissonance with other work we’ve accepted to the simple issue of personal preference, which cannot be anything but subjective. To familiarize yourself with the work we do (and some of the work we’ve loved best), please consider subscribing to the journal at http://epiphanyzine.com.

We value long relationships with the writers and artists who entrust us with their work, and hope you’ll keep us in mind for other submissions in the future. Until then, do join our communities on
Twitter: https://twitter.com/epiphanylit
…Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/epiphanylitjournal
…and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/epiphanylitmag

Thanks again and we hope that you are staying safe and sane out there and that all is well for you and yours in these horrific times!

Sincerely,
The Editors

Narrative rejection, May 2020

37-day encouraging rejection

Thank you for sending your work to Narrative. We are always grateful for the opportunity to review new work, and we have given “Imperfect Balconies” close attention and careful consideration. We regret, however, that “Imperfect Balconies” does not meet our needs at this time. We hope that you will keep us in mind in the future.

Sincerely,

The Editors

Catapult rejection, June 2020

83-day encouraging rejection

Dear Arthur Klepchukov,

Thank you for sharing “Imperfect Balconies” with us. We appreciate having had the chance to read your work, and we’re sorry to write with disappointing news—we’ve decided that the piece is not a good fit for our site at this time.

We wish you the best of luck finding a home for this work, and hope that you will keep us in mind for future projects.

Sincerely,
Editors,
Catapult

Orca rejection, June 2020

28-day form rejection

Dear Arthur Klepchukov,

Thank you for submitting your work to Orca. As writers ourselves we truly appreciate the time and effort that goes into crafting short fiction. We know a lot about rejection too, and know that even the most positive rejection carries with it the sting of disappointment. But the nature of literary journals means we have to make judgments—many arbitrary—about others’ work. So although we have chosen not to publish your story, we wish you well in placing this work in another venue.

Sincerely,
Joe, Zac, Renee, David, Zoe, Marci, and Tommy
Orca, A Literary Journal

Ruminate rejection, October 2020

16-day form rejection

Dear Arthur Klepchukov,

Thank you for submitting and giving us a chance to consider “Imperfect Balconies.”

After close review, this submission wasn’t the right fit for Ruminate. We appreciate that you think enough of our magazine to have shared it with us, and we wish you all the best with your work.

Sincerely,
Ruminate Magazine

MacQueen’s Quinterly rejection, December 2020

1-day encouraging rejection

Dear Art,

Heartfelt thanks for brightening my morning with a trio of lyrical stories. Just my cuppa tea! :-) I enjoyed reading them all, and I would be so pleased to publish this pair:

“afterglow” and “Dialing Islands”

————————————————

Clare MacQueen 

Founding editor 

www.macqueensquinterly.com 

www.kysoflash.com 

————————————————

“Imperfect Balconies” was the story that wasn’t accepted here. You can read about how the other two got published.

The San Franciscan rejection, December 2020

3-day encouraging rejection

Dear Arthur,

Thank you for coming to the reading and for your support for The San Franciscan! It’s really wonderful to hear.

I enjoyed reading your submission, you write with such beautiful descriptive language. Our fiction section for our next issue is currently full (I’ve just updated the website to reflect this). We typically publish personal essays and fiction with a very strong sense of place–pieces that really evoke San Francisco and the Bay Area. We also only have room for about one of each in every issue. 

I’d love to read more of your work for future issues (we publish twice a year), especially if you have pieces that evoke that strong sense of place and are focused on the Bay Area. 

In the meantime, I’d encourage you to continue to familiarize yourself with our magazine and definitely check out the print issue if you can. [ Redacted pointers for where to find magazine near my town. ]

Sincerely,
Erica

Acceptance from Nevermore Journal, December 2020

53-day response

Dear Arthur,

Thank you for your submission to Nevermore this period. We are pleased to inform you that we have accepted “Imperfect Balconies” for publication. 

We’ll be publishing this piece online in a few weeks. Unless you have any objections, we will be using the bio you included in your submission.

Many thanks,
Nevermore Editorial Team

I’m thrilled “Imperfect Balconies” found a home—a few days before Christmas no less! If it had gotten over thirty rejections, I probably would have taken a step back and considered another draft. But the encouraging rejections above kept me going. I still believed that this story was far from everyone’s cup of slowly sipped tea, but that it would find a home among all the espresso shots of flash fiction.

I withdrew my 4 pending submissions—The Gettysburg Review, The Sea Letter, The Account, and Thimble Literary Magazine. I confirmed the publication rights—6 months of exclusivity—and wasn’t surprised that there wasn’t a contract. Most new publications, especially online ones, tend to agree on things via email.

The Nevermore editors didn’t suggest any edits, so I proofread the submitted manuscript on my own just in case. I’ve had one case of a manuscript I submitted being published exactly as sent—without even removing standard manuscript formatting like “#” signs for section breaks. An extra close read never hurts; it may be your last chance to catch something. Nevermore Journal did a lovely job formatting my story for online reading.

If you haven’t yet, read “Imperfect Balconies” for free online today.

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