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Literary News presented by SmokeLong authors and staff

Tuesday, December 14, 2010
The Death of Christmas Cards, or, Tara's Big Fat Holiday Rant

I'm probably going to piss off half my friends by writing this. However, this morning Hallmark pushed me over the edge. Their commercial—of a family of four fighting over which Christmas photo looks best—has sent me into a rant. Mostly because of the end of the commercial, where the mom finally picks her favorite photo, hits one button on the keyboard, and viola—her Christmas cards are done.

Oh, that's because Hallmark will now print and mail your cards for you! That's right—no more pesky pens, no more personalized messages or wishes, no more addressing envelopes, licking them, finding pretty Christmas stamps. As the voice over on the commercial says, "You can have more time to spend with your family."

Sweet, isn't it?

Oh right: except for the fact that the point of holiday cards is to keep in touch with family and friends and let them know you're thinking of them even if you can't see them every day. According to Hallmark, that's the equivalent of exporting your Excel spreadsheet to them so they can print one generic message and ship it off lovingly to all your Google contacts.

Holiday cards just aren't written on or personally signed anymore. Most of the cards sent these days are photo cards with printed generic messages or simply just big photos of friends' children (some of whom you've never actually met) with no message or no indication that the photo is even a holiday card.

Now granted, I know people are busy. I'm not expecting long poetic letters expressing the deep meaning of our relationships. I certainly don't need a typewritten "year in review" detailing all the teeth lost, vacations taken and promotions granted—I'm hoping if someone thinks enough to send me a card I might already know these things have happened.

Writing cards is not my favorite activity, even as a writer. Even so, I always dash off a few lines to let the person/people know I'm actually thinking of them when I'm writing their card. It's nothing deep, and it's not intended to be. But I do hope that it cuts above the noise with the understanding that it's not just another address on the list. These are people I care about. If I have nothing to say to them, then I probably shouldn't be sending them a card.

I don't hate babies. I don't hate your children or your dog or your cat. I love photos. Anyone who's friends with me on Facebook knows that. I just hate the idea that once again, technology has made us so lazy that an act that was once meant to be personalized and heartfelt—on a holiday that's supposed to be about connecting with loved ones, spreading cheer—is now just a mass-produced assembly line for another to-do we can easily check off the list.

I fear what's next: packets of thank-you cards "personalized" with the bride and groom's photo and a generic "thank you for your gift at our wedding" message printed in script font on the side. (Actually, maybe I shouldn't give Hallmark this idea. Actually, maybe it's already been done.)

I'm sorry if I offended anyone. I know that in all the hectic frenzy of the holidays, with all the present buying and decorating and traveling and cooking and eating and entertaining and keeping warm, writing out cards is just another time-consuming task that people dread. I dread it, too. But it's also something that I think can be enjoyable if you think of it as something you want to do as opposed to a chore that has to be done. Shorten your list. Watch a movie while you're writing. Hell, have a drink or two. And for christsakes, just SIGN the card yourself. Add a "have a great holiday!" or a "really loved spending time with you this year!" or a "Go Eagles!" to it, too, while you're at it. I swear it doesn't take that much longer.
posted by Tara Laskowski at 6:18 AM  1 comments

Monday, September 13, 2010
Welcome Our New Staff Editors!

Please welcome our three new staff editors at SmokeLong Quarterly! Nancy, Gay and Brandon will be guest editing for SLQ for the next three weeks, so treat them kindly. They will also be helping with submission selection, writing feature articles, promotion and quarterly story interviews. So you'll be seeing them around.

They are all amazing writers and editors (and they've each appeared in SLQ in the past year or two), and we hope they are as excited to be a part of our staff as we are to have them. Here is some more information about them, as well as a calendar of upcoming guest editors.
Nancy Stebbins is in her last semester at the Pacific University MFA program. Her stories have been or will soon be published in Cezanne’s Carrot, decomP, St. Ann’s Review, and The Los Angeles Review. She lives in College Station, Texas, with her husband and their many (four) teenage children. She is a psychiatrist.

Read Nancy's story "A Fistful of Buttercups" (Issue 28).

Gay Degani has published in journals and anthologies including two The Best of Every Day Fiction editions and her own collection, Pomegranate Stories. Her stories online can be read at Smokelong Quarterly, The Battered Suitcase, Night Train, 10 Flash, Short Story America, Emprise Review, as well as other publications. Nominated for a Pushcart, she has been a finalist or short listed at Glimmer Train and The Fish Anthology and won a first place at Women on Writing's Quarterly Flash Fiction contest. She edits EDF's Flash Fiction Chronicles and blogs at Words in Place.

Read Gay's story "Complicit" (Issue 28).

Brandon Wicks is a freelance writer and illustrator based in Atlanta, Georgia. His fiction has appeared in such journals as Sou’wester and South Carolina Review; his poetry in The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume II: Mississippi.

Read Brandon's story "Northern Migration" (Issue 25)

Upcoming Guest Editors


13-19 Nancy Stebbins
20-26 Gay Degani
27-Oct. 3 Brandon Wicks


4-10 Molly Gaudry
18-24 Andrew Wingfield
25-31 Neil Smith


8-14 Art Taylor


6-12 Jason Jordan
posted by Tara Laskowski at 5:59 AM  0 comments

Friday, September 10, 2010
SmokeLong Dog Collars?

I signed in to check our editors email account this morning and found this treasure in our inbox. The dog collar photos he sent were actually pretty fashionable. I like the slightly dominatrix-y leather one here with the diamond heart. Would look good on a pug!

Dear Sir/Ms,
Good day!
I have visit your website and learn you are selling lots of fashional designs of dog and cat collars, leashes,metal accessories , I really think that is an opportunity for us to cooperate. I beg you some munites for my points.
We are a hardware and leather products manufacturer in China-----Kungming hardware and leather factory, for the leather dog and cat collars ,leashes , we both have these products in our products range , but you know, we can make it with much lower cost in China, and we always make high quality things ,you will have impression if we work together , then you will get more profits ,don't you think it is a good thing for both of us ?
We also make metal accessories ,such as collar buckles ,hooks ,collar rivets ,dog tags and pendants and slide charms, we have more than one thousands designs. I have seen you are using slider letters ,we do have more than fifty designs for your choice ,for collar rivets ,I really think you can use them on your collars then your collars will look much personalizing , how do you think ?
Please kindly visit our website (Deleted) , you will see our catalog on the page ,and if you want higher resolution pictures or you are interest in any of our items ,please let me know I will send you more details .
I am sure this will be a good thing for both of us , please take it under serious consideration , I am looking forward to hearing from you soon ,thank you.
Best Regards!
posted by Tara Laskowski at 5:47 AM  1 comments

Friday, August 27, 2010
sCORe PotS & Smoke!
UPDATE: Steve Almond, author of Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life and other awesomeness, will be the featured reader at sCORe PotS and SMOKE!

Here's the most recent list of readers:

Steve Almond

J. Bradley

Randall Brown

Michael Czyzniejewski

Nicolle Elizabeth

Heather Fowler

Scott Garson

Barry Graham

Joseph A. W. Quintela

Donna Vitucci

RSVP on our Facebook event page!

And the awesome award of the day goes to Beth Thomas, who designed this kick-ass poster for our AWP off-site reading:

posted by Tara Laskowski at 10:42 AM  1 comments

Thursday, August 12, 2010
Job Openings at SLQ!

Want to work for all glory, but no pay? Have we got something for you!

SmokeLong Quarterly is looking to expand its staff. We are looking for a Staff Editor/Blogger and one or more Staff Readers to help us better contribute to the online indie publishing community and keep on top of the hundreds of submissions we receive each month.

Staff Editor/Blogger
We are looking for a Staff Editor/Blogger to write for our blog and web site (general news, occasional reviews, interviews, etc.) and read and comment on submissions for SmokeLong Quarterly. Unfortunately, we cannot pay, but the blogger/editor will be a full member of our editorial staff, be adored and loved by us, and have access to other writers, publishers and other good people.

Staff Reader
We are also looking for Staff Reader(s) to read and comment on submissions under consideration for our quarterly issues. Bonus: the time commitment here is less! We call on our readers occasionally to help us vote and decide on our favorite stories and hopefully give a different voice/viewpoint to our editorial process.

If you are interested in either of these, email us at and tell us a little about yourself and why you are interested in working with us. (If you want to be our blogger, also please tell us a little about what you'd like to write about.) Also send us a list of three stories that you really enjoyed in SLQ in the past year or so and why you liked them (this does not have to be extensive, just a little tidbit so we can get a sense of what types of stories appeal to you).

We'll be accepting applications, gifts, and goodwill until Sept. 1.
posted by Tara Laskowski at 6:54 AM  1 comments

Tuesday, June 22, 2010
The Stats Game

So I was trolling around our fancy web site stats page this afternoon. I will admit that I am fascinated by these things. It's kind of fun to generate all kinds of reports and figure out who's reading our site, how often they're reading it, and where they're coming from.

For example, though our readers our by far mostly from the United States, we have had more that 8,000 views from France so far this year. (Merci!) This is followed up by China and the United Kingdom, with our Canadian neighbors coming in at a disappointing #8.

But by far the most entertaining items to look at on our stats page are the phrases people type into search engines that lead them to our page. Here are some of my favorite phrases people searched for and then used to stumble upon a SmokeLong web page:

"the girl and the snake" (23 visits)
"how long to smoke" (9 visits)
"green monster weed" (12 visits)
"best flash fiction" (20 visits)
"smokelong aquarium" (23 visits)
"steve almond pornography" (13 visits)
"kay sexton glamour model" (4 visits)
"no bras no panties" (4 visits)
"men in hot tubs" (4)
"hot fat mom tub" (4)
"fat guys in a tub" (4)
"taco foot" (3)
"ellen parker clothes" (2)
"sweater nipples" (2)

I'm guessing that some of these people did not really find what they were looking for, but I guess you never know. :-)
posted by Tara Laskowski at 2:19 PM  1 comments

Friday, June 11, 2010
New Leadership at SmokeLong... and Other News
There are changes a-brewin' at SmokeLong, and we thought we'd fill you in on them.


While Dave Clapper is still founder, publisher and downright genius, he has decided to step down from the day-to-day editorial decisions at SmokeLong.

That leaves us — Tara Laskowski and Beth Thomas — taking over as senior editors. We are handling the scheduling of our guest editors for SmokeLong Weekly (more on that in a minute), publication of SmokeLong Quarterly, general communication, and working directly with our contributors. We will also populate this blog more often with news, interviews and other features.

Meg Pokrass, our solicitations editor, is handling special collaborations with authors, as well as features, interviews and multi-media presentations sure to dazzle and amaze. And we are blessed with wonderful staff editor and copy editor in Davin Malasarn.

Find out more than you needed to know about all of us here:


We are now publishing stories weekly as well as quarterly. SmokeLong Weekly started earlier this year, with the intention of diversifying our publishing voice while spicing up our publication calendar.

For SmokeLong Weekly, we bring in a new guest editor every few weeks to read our submissions and choose one story from their week for publication. This has been a great way to get different voices and more variety in SLQ, as each guest editor brings their own unique aesthetic and style to the table.

As the year goes on, we will feature guest editors each month as well as SLQ "Staff Picks." We have posted a schedule of our upcoming editorial calendar below and will update it as we go so you can know who is reading when and target your submission accordingly. You can always check our web site for a photo and bio of the current week's reader.


We are also still publishing our regular quarterly issues and hope to have the latest quarterly at the end of this month. The quarterlies will include all weekly stories from that quarter plus additional stories and interviews.

We are very excited about the changes at SLQ, and we are pleased to be part of a journal that consistently publishes some of the finest very short fiction out there.

Questions, concerns, compliments and free stuff can be emailed to us at


With love,
Tara and Beth

SmokeLong Weekly Guest Editor Schedule

June 14: Erin Fitzgerald

June 21: Kelly Spitzer

June 28: Dave Clapper

July 5: SmokeLong Quarterly Staff Pick

July 12: Tara Masih

July 19: Tara Laskowski

posted by Tara Laskowski at 3:48 PM  1 comments

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