I Miss Slush

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I want to read slush again.

The last time I read slush, I was working on my MA in literature at Ohio University. I read poetry and short fiction for the New Ohio Review. It was… um… interesting.

Okay, it wasn’t interesting; it was grueling and each time I did it I started to lose faith in my ability to sort the good from the bad. Often, in fact, it made me feel like there was no such thing as good writing or, if there were, I wouldn’t recognize it anyway. That feeling would pass after a cup of coffee and some cartoons (or the rare gem in the slush pile), however, I really started to dread the task.

I dutifully put in my time as a reader and vowed never to do it again.

Yeah, well, what the hell did I know? I used to think Doctor Who was “boring” too. I’ll never be free of the shame.

Like most uncomfortable writing-related tasks that have nudged me out of my comfort zone over the years, I think I learned a lot from reading slush. It may not have felt productive at the time, but the act of repeatedly examining and articulating the flaws in the prose/poetry I was reading really beefed-up my critical eye. (Now I’m picturing a beefy eye. Gross.)

Obviously, understanding what makes a story fail is invaluable to a writer and slush is a cruel, effective teacher. Slush is sorta like if Yoda and Professor Snape had a baby –a baby with the supernatural ability to summon comma splices. Also, that baby loves two page descriptions of one-room apartments. You get the idea.

I was recently reminded of the benefits of slush while reading Writers Workshop of Science Fiction & Fantasy edited by Michael Knost.  In the section “Short Fiction: A Roundtable Discussion with Short Story Editors,” John Joseph Adams argues, “the best thing a writer can do is probably read slush” (228). Adams further notes, “the lessons you’ll learn won’t be immediately obvious” (228).

Tell me about it.

But, now that I’ve had some time to reflect, I actually miss wading into the slush pile. Now I just need to figure out how to land a gig as a reader. Any advice?



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