Monthly Archives: December 2011


Going through the publication process with my first book is teaching me a lot. For example, when I sent the book out for blurbs, I discovered a brand new blend of excitement and mortal terror that I think only exists when you’re showing other people your book for the first time. I spent a harrowing month with my stomach in knots waiting for the verdict. Would they love it? Hate it? Would their impressions of it be so different from mine that I won’t even recognize the book they’re describing?

Well, I just got the blurbs back from the very first readers of Why We Never Talk About Sugar and not only do they all appear to be talking about the correct book, they had such kind and thoughtful things to say about it that I wouldn’t dare disagree with them! See for yourself:

In Why We Never Talk About Sugar, Aubrey Hirsch posits an uncertain world, offering us her characters at their most confused, frightened, obsessed. As protection against their troubles, these men and women cling often to science, and also to story—and if these two ways of seeing cannot always save them, then still they might provide some comfort, some necessary and sustaining faith, the mechanisms of what greatest mysteries might await us all, when all else is stripped away: an elusive god particle, perhaps, floating inscrutable and gorgeous in its tricky invisibility; or else these many different heartbeats, somehow made stronger by each other’s presence, even amidst such finely-written heartbreak.

—Matt Bell, author of Cataclysm Baby

Why we could never talk enough about Aubrey Hirsch: there’s simply too much to say. Hirsch is a bright shining star of a writer and the stories in her flawless debut collection,
Why We Never Talk About Sugar, are a little disturbing and a little strange and a little sweet but always a lot to hold on to. In stories like, “Certainty,” where a woman is convinced she will get her lover pregnant, Hirsch shows us how to believe in quiet magic. In the title story, Hirsch shows us the charm of her imagination and how carefully she will break your heart. Why We Never Talk About Sugar is a book you’ll keep coming back to, the one you won’t be able to stop talking about because it’s that damn good.

—Roxane Gay, author of Ayiti

Aubrey Hirsch knows that science isn’t theoretical or cold—it’s hot, magical, and deeply human. Each story in Why We Never Talk About Sugar is a Petri dish, a distinct world in which a particle is discovered, a lake vanishes, but the narrative microscope never forgets that what really matters are the characters. This fiction is lyrical and wicked smart, reminiscent of Aimee Bender and Miranda July. So, here’s my hypothesis: Aubrey Hirsch is a bright new voice in American fiction.

—Cathy Day, author of The Circus in Winter

Sounds My Radiator Makes That Kept Me Fully Awake Last Night Between the Hours of 2 and 6 a.m.

  • The one that sounds like someone’s firing bird shot into the pipes
  • The one that sounds like boiling water
  • The one that sounds like my late hamster, Time Machine, drinking from his water bottle (this one is both annoying and sad)
  • The one that sounds like my laptop fan cycling
  • The one that sounds like there’s popcorn popping inside the radiator
  • The one that sounds like there’s someone else in my bedroom kicking the radiator with a steel-toed boot
  • The one that sounds like putting raw chicken in a hot pan

Getting to Know the Market

Re-posted from my monthly column at FFC.

If you’re new to the submissions game, trying to find markets that might fit your work can seem like an impossible task. How do you learn your way around an arena as vast and varied as the world of literary magazines? Mostly, it just takes a lot of time and research, but if you’re looking for some tips on how to get started, I’ve compiled some of my advice below.

  • Read the year-end anthologies. Of course it’s important to support your favorite journals by subscribing, but if you’re strapped for cash, reading the Pushcart Prize volumes or books from the Best American series is a great way to get to know a lot of magazines for one price of admission.
  • Look for themed journals or special issues. Some magazines theme issues by geographical location or subject matter. Looking for a journal with a theme that fits your story can be a great way to learn about new magazines. If you’re looking to find one, Duotrope has a handy theme calendar that’s a good place to start.
  • Don’t just read the magazine, read the bio pages too. When you’re first learning your way around, author bio pages are a great way to find comparable magazines. You already know you like the magazine you’re reading, and other journals that have published the same writers are likely to have a similar vibe.
  • Stalk your favorite writers. If you stumble upon a writer whose work you would liken to your own, see if they have a website or list of pubs somewhere. You can target the same magazines and guess that the editors who liked their stories are more likely to enjoy yours as well.
  • Talk to your writer-friends. This may seem obvious, but sometimes we’re coy about the submissions process. Don’t be afraid to share information about where you’re submitting and why. Everyone benefits from this kind of knowledge sharing.
  • Finally, when deciding where to send your work, be clear about your goals. This is a really important step and one that’s often overlooked. Where you send your stories should depend largely on what you want to achieve. If you’re looking to get a fancy teaching job, you should sub to top print journals. But if your priority is readership, web-based venues are a better bet.

Those of you who have been submitting for a while, how did you learn your way around the literary landscape?