Click any story in the 2-year-old online literary journal CRAFT, and you’ll get much more than short fiction. Each story is tagged with one or two particular elements of craft – interiority, character development, dialogue, setting, allusion, and the like – so that readers interested in studying a specific example skillfully rendered know exactly where to look.
Each fiction writer who publishes on CRAFT’s website includes an author’s note offering biographical information as well as insights into what inspired the story and which elements of craft proved challenging and rewarding. The author’s note, editors explain, frequently moves readers to return to the story with a new understanding of how it came together before publication.
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Tone, editorial content
“We look for pieces with attention to craft, with some sort of technical expertise, and an ability to do one thing in fiction particularly well,” notes editor Katelyn Keating. “This might be a terrific narrative arc or a really well-developed character.”
She and other CRAFT editors pay close attention to the line between allyship and appropriation in fiction. “For instance, in a story told from the point of view of a mother whose young child is determining that they’re non-binary in their gender,” she explains, “we want to make sure that the supporting character who identifies as trans isn’t just a device to deepen the conflict for the main character.”
CRAFT editors find mental illness in fiction submissions potentially problematic as well. “As critical editors, we have to guard against tropes like a mentally ill character who has a convenient episode just to further the plot,” Keating explains.
Along with fiction, visitors to the magazine’s website will find analytical essays and interviews with well-known authors, including Steve Almond and Aimee Bender. Chaya Bhuvaneswar published an essay titled “The Art of Description in A.S. Byatt’s ‘The Chinese Lobster’” (10/11/18). Candace Walsh wrote about “The Queer Gaze and the Ineffable” in Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt (1/22/19) while Micah Perks wrote “How to Link Up a Short Story Collection: A Fairy Tale” (12/18/18).
Both established and emerging writers appear in the pages of CRAFT. Brenda Peynado has published here, as has Kenan Orhan. Kristina Jipson’s “The Shape of Skin” appears on CRAFT’s website on 2/1/19. It’s a story told from the point of view of an older teen placed on the sex offender registry after taking an inappropriate picture in his foster home.
“It explores all sorts of ethics and a very ambiguous gray area, doing the work that fiction does to create empathy while handling a difficult topic,” Keating says.
CRAFT is a good home for stories like this, she adds, because writers can deconstruct their writing process in the accompanying author’s note. “In this case, Jipson is able to discuss the limits and responsibilities of art, and who gets to decide when something is art and when it’s not,” she explains.
Keating cites Pia Ghosh-Roy’s “Eating Strawberries with Strangers” as the type of flash fiction she likes to publish. “It’s a lovely piece of flash, moody and a little bit ethereal, written from the point of view of a woman who’s wandering through a park and sees three women enjoying a glass of wine and sits down with them,” she says. “There are lots of allusions to Virginia Woolf. The piece really resonated with readers.”
Ghosh-Roy’s author’s note about the story, which she wrote in part to explore the concept of urban loneliness, is equally compelling.
“It’s easy to resolve in fiction with a sudden turn in the story that brings the cure of life-changing friendships, but life doesn’t follow fiction in this case,” she explains. “There are thousands living with loneliness in cities heaving with people. And what they often need is not dramatic changes in fortunes and friendships but small encounters of warmth and words, and the kindness of strangers.”
Advice for potential contributors
CRAFT editors want to see double-spaced submissions in 12-point Times New Roman font. They look for essays that present a thorough examination of a specific element of craft in fiction and interviews with writers that focus on the same. They also publish book annotations and reviews for forthcoming titles. They’re eager to receive flash fiction and short stories up to 6,000 words.
“We have an international reading team, and we want your literary fiction from all over the world,” Keating says. “Give us a try.”
Contributing editor Melissa Hart is the author of Better with Books: 500 Diverse Books to Ignite Empathy and Encourage Self-Acceptance in Tweens and Teens (Sasquatch, 2019). melissahart.com