Armchair/Shotgun

Issue No. 4 is coming.

Issue No. 4 is coming.

Women’s Work: How We Published an All-Woman Issue Without Planning It

Hi newcomers! We’ve been getting a bit of traffic today after The Millions mentioned on Twitter that all the stories and poems in our latest issue are by women*.

Though the all-female-writers issue was a complete surprise to us, we’re pretty delighted about it and thought we should tell you a little bit about how it came about.

Armchair/Shotgun has an anonymous submissions process. When a piece of work arrives in our inbox, we strip the author’s name and biography off of it and assign it a number. This number identifies the story or poem throughout the editorial process–from assembling the packet, to assigning volunteer readers to help identify outstanding pieces, to the final editors’ meeting at which we choose the works that will make up the issue. We don’t know who wrote a piece until after the final vote, when we go back to our database and match up numbers and names.

For our first two issues, this process resulted in issues that were made up roughly 50/50 of men and women. When we de-anonymized the pieces we’d accepted for Issue 3, we saw that it had resulted in a set of stories and poems that were all by women. Fifteen pieces by eleven women.

Why is this noteworthy?

Because as the VIDA count demonstrates each year, many more men than women get published in literary journals, reviews of books, and other lit-type magazines. More short stories by men, more reviews by men, and more male-authored books that get reviewed. The only category in which women tend to have the edge is poetry.

There are a lot of discussions about why this might be. One theory says that a lot more men that women submit their work–either because there are more male writers or because they are more aggressive at self-promotion. That’s certainly plausible. Could our all-female issue just have been a fluke of submitter demographics?–did vastly more women than men submit their work to us this time? Nope. When we looked back at all the submissions, we saw a lot more traditionally-male names there than female.

The women’s work was just better this time.

We think there may be unconcious bias at work. Perhaps seeing a male name attached to a story makes editors assume the author is more accomplished. Perhaps editors have some cultural baggage that leads them to believe that men write one kind of literature and women another, and that the sort men write is more “literary.” More serious.

The stories and poems in Issue 3 of Armchair/Shotgun, however, cover everything from weapons of war and terrorism to faking deafness at the local pool. From childhood imagination, to pickup trucks, to the accumulated weight of the small and large evils of history. The light and the serious, politics and relationships. We think it’s an extraordinary, and extraordinarily varied, collection of work. And it’s by a fantastic group of eleven women. Enjoy.

*Observant readers will note that there are men who appear in Issue 3. The mag features an interview with Reif Larsen, the photography of Andrew Wertz, and paintings by Steve Chellis. Interviews and artists are chosen through a different process than poetry and fiction; all the pieces that were chosen via the anonymous process are by women.

The Kill Sign by Marvin Shackleford

recommendedreading:



Vol. 5, No. 4

EDITOR’S NOTE


When I first started reading Marvin Shackleford’s “The Kill Sign,” I knew him simply as “Author 32,” one of the many anonymous writers who make up Armchair/Shotgun’s slush pile. By the time I reached the end of the story you’re about to read, I still hadn’t the faintest idea who this author was, but I was a fan. There was a lot more slush to go, and many more stories to select for what would become our second issue, but “The Kill Sign” came up in every editorial conversation. Each editor had their favorite line (mine is the perfect cadence of: “‘Sure,’ I tell her. ‘Yeah,’ I say. ‘Listen.’”), and each of us still laughed after the second, third, and fourth read-through.

When the day came to make final decisions on content and unveil our authors’ names, we reached out to Marvin and the rest to ask that they be a part of Issue No. 2. One by one the positive replies rolled in… all except Marvin Shackleford’s. Had we lost the story to a simultaneous submission? Had we waited too long to get back to him?

It felt like weeks to me (though a quick look at the e-mail timestamps tells me it was a mere 48 hours) before we received the very last reply:

“I’m thrilled to hear y’all enjoyed the story and can use it. Sorry for having been so slow getting back to you; we’re in the middle of planting season, and life’s come to a standstill to ride a tractor. Many apologies.”

For me, this mirrored exactly what I’ve loved about “The Kill Sign” from first read—the story is funny, masterfully written, acutely self-aware, and ultimately moving, and it does all of this without the slightest hint of undue grandeur or pretention. Marvin is an incredibly skilled writer. He is also a regular guy with a job to get done. And his protagonist owes a lot to both of those truths.

It’s easy to fetishize “authenticity,” especially from a writing desk in Brooklyn. But what makes “The Kill Sign” for me isn’t the dialect, nor the cooler full of beers, nor the rambling pick-up truck ride through country roads. Rather, “The Kill Sign” is successful because it’s populated by real people, by characters who disturb me with their callousness on one page, only to make me understand the depth of their feeling on the next. By the end you don’t quite know who to root for, or even if there should be rooting involved. And that kind of authenticity is a rare thing.

Armchair/Shotgun is honored to have published Marvin Shackleford’s “The Kill Sign,” and is pleased as hell to be able to share it with even more folks through Recommended Reading. Whatever Marvin’s up to next, I have a feeling I’ll be a fan. We hope you will be too.


Evan Simko-Bednarski

Managing Editor, Armchair/Shotgun

Subscribe to Armchair/Shotgun



SUPPORT INDEPENDENT BOOKSELLERS


Find more by Recommended Reading authors at WORD, our partner bookseller




The Kill Sign

by Marvin Shackleford

Recommended by Armchair/Shotgun

Get Kindle Get ePub


MY DOG’S ALL THE TIME humping the neighbor’s dog. It happens. Dogs hump. I see these bird dogs in someone’s yard on Jefferson every time I drive by, and half the time they’re humping. They’re good at it. They seem to enjoy it. But I’m not sure this is the case with my dog and the neighbor’s dog. There are problems involving my dog and her dog. Mine, for example, is a mutt, maybe part husky and three or four parts different shepherds or even some wolf, and hers, the neighbor’s, is a fine and well-bred poodle. Not dyed pink or anything but quite fine all the same.

And, really, beyond this being my dog and all that, there’s the fact I’d kind of like to hump my neighbor. Somehow, having our dogs hump doesn’t seem like the best way of advancing aims for human humping. You can’t start a conversation over humping dogs that leads to sex. At least, I can’t, though I haven’t tried. I just don’t find it to be a pleasant prospect—Hi, I’m John Peters, my dog is humping your dog, I live next door, I would like to hump you. While our dogs hump, if necessary.

Or maybe I did try talking to a girl about humping while two dogs humped, once. It was high school, at a party, and whoever’s house we were at had two beagles perched on the back porch steps, big wooden deck under floodlights, and I told Betsy Peller that what they were doing was quite natural and I could give it as good a go as the dogs. I was willing to see what happened. I knew about humping, I’d done a little before, and I felt good about our chances. But Betsy wasn’t entirely enthused. Found it off-putting, apparently. I try to remember what happened to her—seems like she got knocked up and moved to the river, out around Owensboro. Somebody said she decided to live off the government, and it galls me raw to think she wouldn’t give me just one drunk night when we were kids. Then I wonder what kind of a person it makes me, bitter or stingy or what, sitting around and remembering all sorts of stuff like that from almost ten years ago.

Read More

The Kill Sign by Marvin Shackleford

recommendedreading:



Vol. 5, No. 4

EDITOR’S NOTE


When I first started reading Marvin Shackleford’s “The Kill Sign,” I knew him simply as “Author 32,” one of the many anonymous writers who make up Armchair/Shotgun’s slush pile. By the time I reached the end of the story you’re about to read, I still hadn’t the faintest idea who this author was, but I was a fan. There was a lot more slush to go, and many more stories to select for what would become our second issue, but “The Kill Sign” came up in every editorial conversation. Each editor had their favorite line (mine is the perfect cadence of: “‘Sure,’ I tell her. ‘Yeah,’ I say. ‘Listen.’”), and each of us still laughed after the second, third, and fourth read-through.

When the day came to make final decisions on content and unveil our authors’ names, we reached out to Marvin and the rest to ask that they be a part of Issue No. 2. One by one the positive replies rolled in… all except Marvin Shackleford’s. Had we lost the story to a simultaneous submission? Had we waited too long to get back to him?

It felt like weeks to me (though a quick look at the e-mail timestamps tells me it was a mere 48 hours) before we received the very last reply:

“I’m thrilled to hear y’all enjoyed the story and can use it. Sorry for having been so slow getting back to you; we’re in the middle of planting season, and life’s come to a standstill to ride a tractor. Many apologies.”

For me, this mirrored exactly what I’ve loved about “The Kill Sign” from first read—the story is funny, masterfully written, acutely self-aware, and ultimately moving, and it does all of this without the slightest hint of undue grandeur or pretention. Marvin is an incredibly skilled writer. He is also a regular guy with a job to get done. And his protagonist owes a lot to both of those truths.

It’s easy to fetishize “authenticity,” especially from a writing desk in Brooklyn. But what makes “The Kill Sign” for me isn’t the dialect, nor the cooler full of beers, nor the rambling pick-up truck ride through country roads. Rather, “The Kill Sign” is successful because it’s populated by real people, by characters who disturb me with their callousness on one page, only to make me understand the depth of their feeling on the next. By the end you don’t quite know who to root for, or even if there should be rooting involved. And that kind of authenticity is a rare thing.

Armchair/Shotgun is honored to have published Marvin Shackleford’s “The Kill Sign,” and is pleased as hell to be able to share it with even more folks through Recommended Reading. Whatever Marvin’s up to next, I have a feeling I’ll be a fan. We hope you will be too.


Evan Simko-Bednarski

Managing Editor, Armchair/Shotgun

Subscribe to Armchair/Shotgun



SUPPORT INDEPENDENT BOOKSELLERS


Find more by Recommended Reading authors at WORD, our partner bookseller




The Kill Sign

by Marvin Shackleford

Recommended by Armchair/Shotgun

Get Kindle Get ePub


MY DOG’S ALL THE TIME humping the neighbor’s dog. It happens. Dogs hump. I see these bird dogs in someone’s yard on Jefferson every time I drive by, and half the time they’re humping. They’re good at it. They seem to enjoy it. But I’m not sure this is the case with my dog and the neighbor’s dog. There are problems involving my dog and her dog. Mine, for example, is a mutt, maybe part husky and three or four parts different shepherds or even some wolf, and hers, the neighbor’s, is a fine and well-bred poodle. Not dyed pink or anything but quite fine all the same.

And, really, beyond this being my dog and all that, there’s the fact I’d kind of like to hump my neighbor. Somehow, having our dogs hump doesn’t seem like the best way of advancing aims for human humping. You can’t start a conversation over humping dogs that leads to sex. At least, I can’t, though I haven’t tried. I just don’t find it to be a pleasant prospect—Hi, I’m John Peters, my dog is humping your dog, I live next door, I would like to hump you. While our dogs hump, if necessary.

Or maybe I did try talking to a girl about humping while two dogs humped, once. It was high school, at a party, and whoever’s house we were at had two beagles perched on the back porch steps, big wooden deck under floodlights, and I told Betsy Peller that what they were doing was quite natural and I could give it as good a go as the dogs. I was willing to see what happened. I knew about humping, I’d done a little before, and I felt good about our chances. But Betsy wasn’t entirely enthused. Found it off-putting, apparently. I try to remember what happened to her—seems like she got knocked up and moved to the river, out around Owensboro. Somebody said she decided to live off the government, and it galls me raw to think she wouldn’t give me just one drunk night when we were kids. Then I wonder what kind of a person it makes me, bitter or stingy or what, sitting around and remembering all sorts of stuff like that from almost ten years ago.

Read More

recommendedreading:

A quick glimpse at tomorrow’s issue of Recommended Reading:

“I pass churches starting to fill up with black-suited people and I wonder what good that is. The mysteries of Jesus, the everlasting life, all that, what are we supposed to do with it when we can’t even figure shit in this life out? The dying won’t stop right here and now. I don’t know what heaven will do for a dog, anyway. I drive on past the steeples.”

Read “The Kill Sign” along with an introduction by the Evan Simko-Bednarski, managing editor of Armchair/Shotgun, tomorrow morning at Recommended Reading.

recommendedreading:


A quick glimpse at tomorrow’s issue of Recommended Reading:

“I pass churches starting to fill up with black-suited people and I wonder what good that is. The mysteries of Jesus, the everlasting life, all that, what are we supposed to do with it when we can’t even figure shit in this life out? The dying won’t stop right here and now. I don’t know what heaven will do for a dog, anyway. I drive on past the steeples.”


Read “The Kill Sign” along with an introduction by the Evan Simko-Bednarski, managing editor of Armchair/Shotgun, tomorrow morning at Recommended Reading.