Swink: unpublished writers’ prospects

On Monday, Mark Sarvas reported on the launch party for Swink magazine’s second issue, which includes stories from Sam Lipsyte, Neil LaBute and Carol Test, whose “Conversational English” won the magazine’s Literary Award in Fiction prize.

The issue’s “damaged darling” is a collaboration between Dan Chaon and Stacy Richter. And Michael A. FitzGerald contributes a piece called “I Heart Denis Johnson.” The magazine’s second online theme issue, What We Want, is also out now.

I contributed an online story to Swink last summer, so I’ll keep the rhapsody short: I think it’s one of the most exciting literary publications to appear in the last few years. Perhaps the best stories in the magazine seem so fresh because the editors encourage submissions from unpublished and emerging writers.

If you’re looking for an incentive to send them your best work, read what editor Leelila Strogov had to say late last year about about the way Swink handles writers’ submissions. She answered my questions via email.

How does Swink approach slush pile submissions?

For starters, we don’t refer to it as the slush pile. We refer to all our unsolicited manuscripts as just that — manuscripts or submissions. Unlike some magazines, we go through unsolicited manuscripts first, and only after that turn to soliciting as a means of filling in the gaps. So, the typical “slush pile” actually takes priority in our world. While we love publishing authors we admire, there is an excitement about finding a piece you’re crazy about in a stack of paper that reaches your knees. There’s also a unique satisfaction in corresponding with a writer who’s clearly excited to be published by us versus an author who is established enough to be published pretty much anywhere he or she wants. My favorite response from an emerging writer was from a guy who simply responded to my acceptance email with: “I’m freaking out in my cube right now.” Reading his piece made my day; reading his email made my week. (His essay will be in our forthcoming issue–it’s phenomenal.)

What’s the average turnaround time for the manuscript of an unpublished, unagented author?

We treat agented and unsolicited manuscripts exactly the same way. (We read them in the order they come in.) Response times vary from 2 to 5 months. Our New Year’s resolution is to try not to keep anyone waiting more than 3.

Approximately how many stories by previously unpublished writers appeared in Swink’s inaugural print issue, or among the online offerings?

We’ve published quite a few authors who have very few publishing credits prior to publication in Swink. First-timers in print, however, amounted to 3 fiction writers in Issue 1.

Is preference given to graduates of MFA programs?



Newsletter Signup

Subscribe to my free newsletter, Ancestor Trouble.


You might want to subscribe to my free Substack newsletter, Ancestor Trouble, if the name makes intuitive sense to you.