The Ideas on the Train

Your characters are most obliging about bringing you the best story ideas.  JK Rowling once said that she was sitting on the train one day and Harry Potter walked right into the carriage, lightning scar and all, and that was where it all began.

Stellacolourcoverpic450I got some help that way in a very different setting. I was hanging about in a lowish rent care home corridor, waiting to help move an enormous television into an elderly acquaintance’s new bedroom.  I liked the staff and the friendly women who sat in the corridor chatting, just as if it were a park.  Corridor Park.

I asked myself, What if I lived here?  What on earth would I do with myself?  How do you wake up every morning knowing that people are responsible for you, but you are responsible for nothing but agreeable behaviour towards those around you (there seemed to be some possibilities for rebellion here).  We all need a good reason for getting out of bed in the morning.  What would that be?

Just then Mrs Stella Ryman entered Corridor Park.  I wondered, could watching television get a person through the day?  Heavens, no.  Complaining about the food?  Possibly.  But by this point Stella had a better idea.  And so she became… (tag line approaching)… an amateur sleuth, trapped a down-at-heel care home.Issue 7 cover

Stella Ryman. You’d be cranky too.

Stella Ryman and the Case of the Vanishing Resident can be found in Pulp Literature
Issue 7.

Thank you to all the wonderful writers who have been sending in stories over the last two weeks.  Our inbox is now bursting!  It will take at least two months to sift through these stories and choose content for 2016 so please be patient.  However, if you haven’t heard a yea or nay from us by November feel free to send an inquiring email to see if your story has slipped down a rabbit hole.

While you wait, consider entering the Raven Short Story contest that opens September 1st.  This contest is for fiction from 500 – 5000 words and offers a $500 first prize. Earlybird rates are on until September 15th, so don’t delay!

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A Branch and a Turning Point

poorthingnogreyI love the story “Poor Thing” by KM Vaghela. Fellow editor Jen Landels suggested that I draw the branch that the story turns on. I hoped to show the turning by pointing branches towards each possible outcome: up or down. A detail from a Filippo Lippi painting was most helpful.

You can read ‘Poor Thing’ in Issue 2 of Pulp Literature, along with gripping tales and poetry, beautifully written by JJ Lee, Mary H Auerbach Rykov, Milo James Fowler, Sarah Pinsker, Kris Sayer and other terrific storytellers and artists.

Issue 2, Spring 2014

Issue 2, Spring 2014

We think you will love this issue so much that we are making it the first milestone reward on our Patreon page. When we reach $200 a month we’ll give Issue 2 to all our patrons for free! 


Keep Your Eye on the Ball

My brother played Little League baseball, and his position was catcher.  I loved his extra-large glove, a padded catcher’s mitt that had could receive fast-balls without bouncing out or bruising his hands.  As a player, my brother was like most catchers: undervalued.  He was just the place where good pitches ended.  He was merely the guy hanging around to toss the ball back to the pitcher.  The pitcher was the star in the middle of the field, where the action was.

How wrong that concept is.  The catcher is the heart of the team, the guy who keeps the ball in play.  The catcher is the guy who, more than any other player, has his eye on the ball.  Not only on the ball, but on the batter, to figure out how the opposing team is trying hit.  Catchers see it all.  My brother was especially picked for this position because he was constantly on the alert, using his ADHD hyper-focus to stay on top of each pitch, each play, to prevent each runner from reaching home base.

As writers, we often think the glory of a story resides in the action.  We often get excited in the first draft stage, in love with the movement of the plot.  But as writers, we shouldn’t think like pitchers, we should think like catchers.  We need to hold our ground and keep our eyes on the ball, at all times.  We need to be the person who captures the bullet-sped ball and hurls it back where it belongs, instinctively.  We need see the big picture played out as we watch the field from the privileged spot right under the umpire’s eyes.  We are the only player looking out from the point of view of the crowds, who knows what the audience witnesses.  Like the catcher, it is the writer who puts the whole story together, knows where each play can be made, is able to tag out the opposition out before they can slide into home.

Write like a catcher.  Keep your eye on the ball.sue 3

Sue is Pulp Literature’s Acquisition editor.  You can hear her interviewed by Kathrin Lake of the Vancouver School of Writing on Vancouver Co-op Radio, 100.5 FM at 2pm today.

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Storytelling and the Writer’s Mind

It seems as if our writers’ minds are working all the time.

Take your third act, for example. Everything you’ve outlined and drafted from the start results in shifts in your story, and your subconscious writer’s mind is keeping track of it all, each interwoven strand, keeping the sense of the whole story. This way you take some small but important aspect of the beginning and with it affect something vital at the end, which will resonate throughout your tale.

One great example you’ll remember from Lord of the Rings.  Bilbo’s kindness in not killing Gollum, who would have killed him, is echoed repeatedly in Frodo’s less certain relationship with the wicked creature, and at last forces the outcome of the third act showdown.

Do you remember the posy of unusual flowers Allaigna received from a stranger in Verse 4 of Allaigna’s Song (Pulp Literature Issue 2), which comforted her when she was alone in the woods in Verse 13 (PL #5)?  Without too many spoilers I can let you know you’ll see it again in Issue 8 and further down the road, its significance growing each time it appears.

Isn’t it grand how much our writing minds know? We learn these things instinctively as readers, but grow even more as writers as we employ our craft over and over on scales as small as a clever word choice and large as the whole world we created.

We are open for short fiction only from now, August 10th, until the 24th.  Please see our submission guidelines before sending in your stories.

We strongly suggest reading an issue or two before submitting.  You can purchase sample issues on our sidebar, or receive free access to the digital files of Issue 1 for a minimum contribution of $1 on our Patreon page.


Are You a Patron?

MuseWhat do Marie de France, the Medici family, and the Earl of Southampton have in common?  They we all great patrons of the arts.  Without their support the world would not have had the romans of Chrétien de Troyes, the art of Michelangelo, or the plays of Shakespeare.

The arts have always required patronage, whether in the form of deep-pocketed individuals or government subsidies.  Here at Pulp Literature Press we receive no government funding, and subscriptions alone do not cover all our costs.  We have funded the first eight issues of the magazine through two Kickstarter campaigns supported by you, our loyal readers, supplemented with bridging loans at the end of the year when things get lean.

However, this feast and famine model requires a huge annual effort that sucks away the time and energy we would rather put into selecting, editing, illustrating, and publishing the wonderful stories that arrive in our submissions inbox.  This year we have switched our crowdfunding model to Patreon, where we can generate a steady stream of income.  This will guarantee our bank account always has the money to pay professional fees to the writers, artists and, eventually, the editors who contribute to the magazine.

How does Patreon work?

Patreon allows you, the individual, to become a patron of Pulp Literature by pledging a monthly amount to help fund the magazine.  You can pledge as little as $1 to show your support, or as much as your heart and budget allow.  Thank-you rewards at ascending pledge levels include ebooks, print subscriptions, and the keys to our digital library.  In addition, as we reach funding milestones we will release free ebooks, new material and extra perks.

If you enjoy our magazine, the writing tips on this website, or our monthly newsletter, please consider leaving a tip in the jar. Just $1 a month will help set up a stable budget to keep these stories alive.  Join the ranks of Marie, the Medicis, and the Earl, and become a patron on

Thank you, and happy reading, dear patrons!

Jen, Sue, and Mel

bedside reading

New Submission Guidelines

After a thousand personal rejection letters, it’s time to do a more complete summary of what we’re looking for at Pulp Literature in terms of the stories we want to read and print.  Of course, the best way to understand our mandate and magazine would be to purchase a sample e-copy, but short of that, here are some common themes we’ve found oft repeated in our letters to submitting authors:

    • We are looking for entertaining, accessible stories.  We do appreciate clever and poetic turns of phrase, but first and foremost we want a story readers can sink into late at night before they go to bed.  We want to stretch people’s minds, but not give them a headache.
    • We take a limited amount of downer stories.  We receive so many brilliant but depressing stories that we must pass on all but the best gems.  We strive for emotional balance in each of our issues.  We want our readers to leave refreshed and entertained, not as if they’ve left a funeral.
    • We aren’t satisfied with a joke.  Some writers send shaggy dog stories that end with a twist or revelation that is funny, but not a story.  A story is about a person, not a plot twist.
    • We take all genres, not just pulp.  Because our title says “Pulp” Literature, some authors assume we want guns and blood.  The “pulp” in our title refers to cheap pulp paper, which we someday hope to use.  We want our magazine to include a balance of all genres, including fantasy, romance, mystery, literary, etc.
    • We take more short fiction than novellas.  While we try to have one longer work of 15-20,000 words in every issue, that is only one story out of a dozen.  This means we are pickier and wait longer to reply to novellas, usually requesting a re-write.  We’re not saying to only send us short works, but do realize what the odds and time requirements are for novellas.
    • We want both plot and character.   We like some action along with those intriguing personalities, and we want to see characters that grow and change throughout the story arc.
    • We have high standards.   We want stories we can treasure, words that show the love and sweat and effort of strong storytellers.  These are the works we get excited about polishing so they shine to brilliance in our publication.

We are having a brief open submission period for short fiction only from August 10 – 24th.  Please check our submission guidelines carefully before sending us your brightest gems.


small writer

The Value of Feedback

Writers love feedback.  No, let me clarify: Good writers love feedback.  I have just finished sending out critiques for Hummingbird contest entrants who paid an extra $15 to get comments back.  In addition to the magazine earning some spare change in the process, we’ve also earned deep thanks from most of the writers.  To quote one author, “I can’t thank you enough for your kind words and thoughtful, measured critique … your feedback really does help me see how it can be the best version of itself.”

I get rather chuffed about this kind of thanks.  (Translation of ‘chuffed’ for North Americans: very pleased indeed.)  In fact, it’s rather addicting.  When we began sending out rejections two years ago, I took pains to write a personal note to each author, giving a bit of a reason for the rejection, or a tip on how to improve the story.  I often received notes of  thanks.

Those days are over.  Until now, I’ve been able to review every comment from every slushpile reader and moderate every response that gets sent out to our loyal submitters.  I’ve enjoyed making friends along the way.  But the price to the magazine has been high.  It has taken long hours to sift so carefully through every submission — time that could be better spent on workshops, marketing, and editing our accepted content.

For this reason I regret to say we will no longer be giving personal feedback with every submission. This means the editors will have more time to do higher level editing, writing, and promotion for the magazine.  It also means that authors who would like feedback from an editor have a choice of paying the extra fee during our contests, or outright hiring us, with proceeds going to the coffers of our non-profit press.  We also have the fabulous Brewer award level on our Patreon page that lets writers get 20 pages of critique every three months.

sue 3Thanks for making me chuffed!

Susan Pieters is our acquisitions and developmental editor.  She looks forward to the next round of submissions, which is opening soon!

book &Pen small

Pulp Literature Granted Non-Profit Status

bedside readingWe’re happy to announce that Pulp Literature Press has been awarded Canadian Not-For-Profit status. This accurately reflects our mandate of putting payments to authors and artists first.   As publishers, we are proud of the high ethical standards this requires of us.  Our mandate and priority is to put creators first and we’ve discovered this is the best way to build a community of trust where the highest quality of art can be produced.  Have a read for yourself, sample an e-book and discover one of the most beautifully designed anthologies on the market — and all for the price of a beer!