The View from the Slush Pile, Part 2

November 10, 2015 § 5 Comments

Jen Palmares Meadows recently returned from NonfictioNOW, held this year in Flagstaff, Arizona, and offers part two of her two-part report on the panel The View from the Slush Pile.  You can READ Part One Here.

Field Notes from NonfictioNOW: The View from the Slush Pile, continued:

Please heed the following friendly advice when observing a panel of literary beasts.

  • Wear unobtrusive clothing. Avoid offensive lotions or perfumes.
  • Interact with panelists by moving head up and down when they speak.
  • While live-tweeting is encouraged, you might missing some nuances of the panel, or risk panelists believing you are bored and texting your bff.
  • Should panel open to questions, cautiously raise hand. When called upon, speak coherently and loudly.
  • To avoid being trampled, devoured, or attacked by fellow observers, refrain from mansplaining. In the event of scorn, drop microphone immediately, and seek safety outside the conference room.
  • If afterwards, you wish to speak with a panelist, adopt a non-threatening stance and patiently await your turn.
  • For a reasonable price, consider purchasing a panelist’s book, and ask them to sign it. Hold the book in your outstretched hand with the cover clearly visibly.
  • Request a panelist pose in your selfie at your own risk.
Stephanie G'Schwind

Stephanie G’Schwind

Panelist #3: Stephanie G’Schwind

Species: Non-writing Editor

Affiliation: Colorado Review (founded 1956, published continuously since 1977, publishes 3x a year, accepts nonfiction, fiction, and poetry)

Further Reading: Essay Daily: An artful placement of needle against album 


Colorado Review accepts nonfiction year round. Of the 1500-2000 submissions it receives each year, about 500 are nonfiction.

The Slush Process: Colorado State MFA student slush pile readers read first. If a work receives the thumbs up from two readers, it gets forwarded to the editor. Sometimes, G’Schwind will go directly into the slush and read first.

Almost all of what Colorado Review publishes is unsolicited, about 80-90%. Of 35 published pieces, 3 might be solicited.

G’Schwind: “We are committed to publishing the work that comes through the slush pile. If you charge a fee, you have to be attentive to that. We don’t read cover letters until after reading the submission.”

Colorado Review never knows exactly what they might like. They once published, ‘The Big Pin,’ an essay on boys’ high school wrestling, a topic they didn’t expect to find interesting.

While the Colorado Review is a traditional sized magazine, they don’t publish exclusively traditional work. They often enjoy pieces that play with form. G’Schwind enjoys longer works, 20-25 pages long.

G’Schwind: “We host experiments.” Colorado Review is not looking for perfect work, but understands that essayists are attempting/trying something. Colorado Review observes a 90% rule. A work might be accepted if it is 90% there, and requires at most, two hours of revision.

ADVICE: Don’t get discouraged. Do the work. You have to read. Read lots of magazines. Read essays. Read nonfiction. Don’t get discouraged.

Ander "Looks Good in Shorts" Monson

Ander “Looks Good in Shorts” Monson

Panelist #4: Ander Monson

Species: Writer, Editor

Affiliations: DIAGRAM (published since 2000, is the second oldest literary journal still publishing, released 6x a year)

Further Reading: New Michigan Press, Essay Daily, Letter to a Future Lover, Neck Deep and Other Predicaments


DIAGRAM is better known for their nonfiction, though they do not differentiate between genres. They also publish poetry, fiction, images, interactives and videos. DIAGRAM receives 200 essay submissions per year, of which they publish a dozen. 70% of its submissions are poetry, and almost all their readers are poets.

DIAGRAM does not charge for submissions, nor do they pay contributors, but they have a faster operation, and aim to reply to submissions within a month.

Monson: “I think cover letters are an opportunity for good or bad pageantry. I am prepared to like or not like your writing based on the cover letter. I’ve always loved cover letters—the bad ones are the best.”

Monson: “By the end of the page, I can reject or forward 70% of the time. You can tell if it’s going to be accepted. But we make sure a couple readers give each piece a read.”

Monson: “I look for forcefulness, particularly towards the end.”

Monson often personally responds to nonfiction submissions because he feels as a creative nonfiction writer, he is in a better position to offer advice on how to improve a work.

Monson: “It’s an honor to read it. Fire it out. Send us work.”

Advice: Don’t be too precious about the submission process. Participate in the ecosystem. Don’t carpet bomb journals. Build relationships with editors—those submissions will get read differently. Please do not send sea turtle essays.


Jen Palmares Meadows writes from northern California. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, Brevity, Denver Quarterly, The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review, Essay Daily, Memoir Journal, and elsewhere. She is currently at work on a collection of Vegas stories.

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