I gathered some of my international published writing friends, those who have published books or have a lifetime of experience in the writing and publishing industry and those who are avid and critical readers of pretty much anything they can get their hands on – and invited them to join me.
And here I must apologize to them. We received over 60 submissions, varying from a few hundred to over 7,000 words per story, but hugely differing in style and quality. We read every submission. We commented on them all and rated every story. I gave my team a hard time in a dusty gold mine. We were reading thousands and thousands of undisciplined, poorly written, rambling words with some ill-constructed stories to get to a few nuggets of gold.
This reminded me of the Phnom Penh International Film Festival I had organized myself a few years ago. I run a movie theater, so why not accept submissions from all over the world by filmmakers who want to submit their movie to an international film festival in Cambodia? And submission was open and free, as I wasn’t planning on an award ceremony or inviting the film makers over with Q&A’s with their movie screening. My theater seats a comfy 32 people max. I got overwhelmed with over 300 submitted films in less than 2 months. To make the selection easier, I invited over my local movie lovers and put them in the movie room for a few afternoons a week. I almost lost a few friends there and witnessed them screaming Nooooooo when something horribly experimental had started on the screen. Or a lengthy movie had started where the cinematography was off the charts, the acting really bad and the story… well… didn’t exist in the end. Some of my judges would storm out of the movie room and demand a stiff drink before continuing.
This happened at a micro level in our mailbox, full of submissions of stories by authors from all over the world. Somehow my few tweets on Twitter and on some Facebook groups about a new magazine opening up for submissions, made people send in their works or even write something specifically for our magazine.
Behind the scenes we go through everything and read every story. There were a lot of stories by people who can write well, but the story just wasn’t there. Or the genre was off. Or the structure rambled. To quote the British comedian Bill Bailey, after a suggestion from the audience did not led to a joke: “It was a long and windy road along the beach, only to find out the café was closed.” That covers a lot of the entries we have received. Not that they were not promising. We got in contact with quite a group of really good writers.