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Originally published in Sapling #344, June 2016.


Sapling: What should people know who may not be familiar with Little Fiction | Big Truths?


Troy: We publish short story singles (fiction and nonfiction) that are downloadable in a couple of different formats (ePub and PDF). Each of our titles gets its own cover and we try to put as much attention into the design as we do into the words (and into getting them read). In terms of schedule, we publish monthly, though we don’t really consider ourselves to be a magazine.

 

Sapling: How did your name come about?

 

Troy: I was looking for a name that communicated the idea behind the project (short stories, only and always, that were standalone and portable). I went through a bunch of different names and eventually landed on Little Fiction when I saw that the URL (littlefiction.com) was available. That was the clincher, having the dot com. Like it was meant to be.

 

When we added nonfiction, we went through a similar exercise, but this time we wanted a name that worked well with (and played off of) Little Fiction. We went with Big Truths because we also liked how it communicated what we were looking for, content-wise — we like our nonfiction to feel like it’s larger than the subject being written about and for it to dig deep to get to those big insights and admissions.

 

Sapling: What do you pay close attention to when reading submissions? Any deal breakers?

 

Troy: We like stories and essays that deliver a punch in the gut. That’s the stuff that sticks with us (and with a lot of people). Happy endings are for Disney. But there aren’t really any “deal breakers” for me — every submission gets a fair chance, but the stories that don’t have something going on or that lack conflict / tension don’t make it very far with us.


Beth: I look for fully developed characters who have real desires and present conflict, so if your character is flat and sits around staring out a window thinking, that’s probably a deal breaker. I do think all editors have their pet peeves, but in my experience having multiple readers helps address biases against certain types of stories. It would be rare for me to love a dead dog story, but if it resonates with someone else on our staff, I certainly wouldn’t say no just because of that. If a story is racist, misogynistic, or hate-fueled in some other way, it won’t get far with us, either.


Amanda: I look for essays, creative nonfiction pieces, and memoir excerpts that, as Troy says, deliver a punch in the gut, for sure. In particular, I really love narrative essays that go deep into an issue or question that the author is posing—essays where the author isn’t afraid to be vulnerable and lay themselves open to the world.

 

Sapling: Where do you imagine Little Fiction | Big Truths to be headed over the next couple years? What’s on the horizon?


Troy: We just published our first two books — a nonfiction food anthology called NOMFICTION, and a nonfiction tech anthology called RE/CODED — and we have a third on the way (a fiction and nonfiction music anthology called A MIXTAPE OF WORDS). Aside from that, the only other thing on the horizon is to get back to doing what we do best. Getting the books made (which involved a pre-order / crowdfunding campaign) took us away from our regular publishing schedule last year and I dropped the ball with submissions, so it’s more a focus of getting back to basics for us for now.

 

Beyond that… I don’t know. If the books work out, I’d love to start publishing individual collections, but that’s a big “if” at the moment. We have a few other ideas in the hopper, but the key to adding anything new is how we balance it with the continuation of the stuff that got us here.

 

Sapling: As an editor, what is the hardest part of your job? The best part?

 

Troy: For me, the best part is getting to see our writers go on to bigger successes. Like most of our contemporaries, we tend to get in on the ground floor of our writers’ careers, so when they go on to get book deals and the greater attention they deserve, I feel a bit like a proud parent.

 

Hardest part is rejecting work. Even if a story isn’t good, it doesn’t necessarily feel good to drive another nail into it. And because you reject more work than you accept, it does weigh on you after a while.

 

Beth: I love being able to share stories I love and it’s a real joy staying in contact with our writers. To me, there is something very intimate that happens between the editor and writer. As an editor, I connected with what the writer created — like the Athenian concept aisthesis, which is when two souls recognize each other, like a shared breath, an inspiration. I don’t know. That sounds snooty, but it’s a fancy way of saying “I get you.”

 

Of course, the hardest part is rejecting work. As someone who has been rejected a lot, I try my best to write the emails in a manner that wouldn’t crush my spirit. But Troy’s right, the rejections far outweigh the acceptances and you find yourself beaten down by it at times. I’ve found that’s the time to take a break and go to the movies.

 

Amanda:  One of the best parts about editing, for me, is coming across that submission that just blows you away. There’s nothing like opening an author’s submission and finding yourself hooked from the very first sentence.

 

I find rejecting difficult as well — I try to soothe my guilt around it by offering as much individual feedback on a submission as I can. Even when rejecting a piece, I try to let an author know what I liked about it, and where I think the piece really shines. Oftentimes essays are rejected simply because they aren’t a good fit for us, and when that happens, I make sure to let the authors know this as well, and suggest other markets that might be a good fit for their work instead.

 

Sapling: If you were stranded on a desert island for a week with only three books, what books would you want to have with you?

 

Troy:  How Music Works by David Byrne, The Complete Far Side by Gary Larson, and the most recent Essential World Atlas.

 

Amanda: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed, Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges.

 

Beth: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff.

 

Sapling: Just for fun (because we like fun and the number three), if Little Fiction | Big Truths was a person, what three things would it be thinking about obsessively?

 

Troy: It would be thinking about great break-up albums, greasy foods, and the crushing weight of life.


Interview by Yvonne Garrett, Sapling Editor and Senior Fiction Editor, Black Lawrence Press.






More from Sapling and Black Lawrence Press:

Sapling Newsletter | Black Lawrence Press



 
A Q+A WITH OUR EDITORS: BETH GILSTRAP, AMANDA LEDUC & TROY PALMER.
“GREAT BREAK-UP ALBUMS, 
GREASY FOOD & THE CRUSHING WEIGHT OF LIFE”
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