Friday, September 30, 2022

Six Questions for Keely Gardiner, Managing Editor, Flash Fiction Magazine

Flash Fiction Magazine champions original, creative, and engaging works of fiction which run between 300-1000 words. The stories can be of any genre, but the emphasis should be placed on a complete story. We need to see a narrative arc, conflict, and character development. Flash Fiction Magazine accepts submissions all year around. Our general submissions are always open and free. We also offer paid developmental feedback options, as well as running flash fiction contests, with a 1st place prize of $500! Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: You started your association with Flash Fiction Magazine as a Reader, I believe. What is it about FFM that made you want to become Managing Editor?

Keely Gardiner: I have been with FFM six or seven years now and in that time, I have watched the magazine go from strength to strength. Our team has grown exponentially too, and I love working beside such excellent, skilled, and creative people who care about polishing and publishing quality flash fiction. 

Becoming Managing Editor was not something I planned, but I’m proud to be heading up our stellar team, supporting them and our FFM authors.   

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?


  1. A killer opening line. I want to be drawn into a narrative straightaway. Be it an usual premise, vivid image or compelling narrative voice, I need to be hooked.

  2. Emotional resonance. The narrative needs to move or connect with the reader on an emotional level. This doesn’t mean the story needs to be sad, more that what happens in the piece should carry weight and meaning. My favourite thing is when a story continues to rattle around in my head long after reading. 

  3. Stories that seek immediacy and brevity because we are a flash fiction magazine.

SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

KG: As a reader, I hate to be told everything. Part of the fun and challenge of reading is connecting all the dots from what the author shows you. The strongest stories work to strike the perfect balance between showing vs telling.

Equally, this applies to twist endings. Twists are so difficult to pull off without feeling contrived, and there’s nothing worse than getting to the end of a story and feeling lied to or tricked by the author. 

SQF: What do you look for in the opening paragraph(s)/stanza(s) of a submission?

See the “top three things” question and answer above. But if I had to add to that, in the opening paragraph of a flash story I want to feel grounded in a place and time or an event. The opening of a story should act as the foundation of the narrative. I like to be dropped into a story where the author uses concrete and specific description to immerse the reader in a scene. Show us clear and crisp details.

SQF: Many editors list erotica, or sex for sex sake, as hard sells. What are hard sells for your publication?


FFM doesn’t publish erotica, children’s lit or fan fiction. Although, a well-written sex scene that enhances the story is all good. 

FFM is open to most genres and styles as long as the writing is strong and there’s a clear narrative arc. That’s one of the great things about FFM, we pride ourselves on publishing an eclectic mix of stories, however, writing about writing is usually a hard sell for us. It’s not that writing about writing can’t be great, it’s just that we receive such a large volume of this type of story that we’re all burnt out on them. 

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

KG: I always double back to word count. We have a strict 300 -1000 word limit, but we received a lot of stories that we can’t consider for publication because they’re either under or over our word count. It’s frustrating having to reject stories because they’re too long or too short. Checking the word count is usually one of the first things we do, so, in all likelihood, if you send a submission outside of our limits it won’t even be read. Turning away good writing for what might be viewed as a technicality to some could seem harsh, but our readers and editors are busy people and don’t have the time to cut down lengthy stories or stretch out pieces that fall short.

Thank you, Keely. We all appreciate your taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

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