Spy in the Slushpile #7: The Racket

Spy in the Slushpile #7 The Racket
Psssst! Over here! 
Notebooking Daily snuck agents into the offices of your favorite literary magazines to bring you—the potential submitter—the sweet low down, the inside track, the full two scoops of raisins. Everything you need to know to make as successful of a submission as possible will be here, but remember that the number one rule to putting your best foot forward is to take the time to read the journal you're submitting to and FOLLOW THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES. This is vital to show the editors that you respect their time and effort, and because some journals will reject submissions that don't extend the simple courtesy of following guidelines, without even reading it—and no one wants that.

Today we check in with our spy who was sent to the offices of the literary magazine The Racket.

Our dossier: 
The Racket is a short online literary journal based out of San Francisco and edited by Noah Sanders. It is published weekly and considers submissions that contain work(s) of poetry and/or prose with a total combined word count of 2000 words or less. Read. Write. Resist.


I sent my autonomous reporterbot to stand around casually with editor Noah Sanders at The Racket headquarters in San Francisco and see if his innocuous appearance might generate some extra helpful responses and it did! The transcript follows.

1) I always recommend that potential submitters read their most recent couple issues of a journal before submitting there (at least the genre which they're submitting), but if you could recommend, say three or so pieces (or however many) that you feel especially exemplify for one reason or another, what you're looking for, or that you are especially proud to have published and think everyone, whether they plan on submitting or not, should read? 
TL;DR Pieces that exemplify the journal. 
Oh man, I mean, we definitely have a certain vibe that subconsciously filters through into The Racket Journal, but when I’m picking pieces I’m always trying to think how can we push outside of my very legit biases when it comes to the work. That said, I love poetry that has a narrative, that has a little grit in its teeth, that expands past flowery descriptions. Good examples: “Type Place” by Rohan DaCosta in Issue 19, “Cut the Grass” by Jorrell Watkins in Issue Twenty-One, “Suntanned, Windblown” by Lauren Parker in Issue Twenty-Two
2) Is there any genre, topic, theme or stylistic that you are surprised you don't see more of, or that you would like to see more of? For instance prose poems, stories about organized sports (or one in particular), non-conventional family narratives, non-standard typography, alternate history, high sci-fi, hybrid pieces utilizing white space... 
TL;DR I wouldn't kick these submissions out of bed for eating crackers. (updateable, if the interview results in an unwanted flux of submissions)
We recently received a ten-part poetry series about baseball in the future. And it was amazing. Just this super cut-and-dry description of what baseball would be like - for players and fans - in a near, near future where everything was just a touch more technologically evolved.  So, I want to say sci-fi, but not just like bleep-borp, robot-laser-gun-space-ship sci-fi, but strange takes on the mundane, on technology, on this ever more bat-shit world we live in.

3) Hard sells—and not just the standard (though very important) "don't send hateful, misogynist, racist etc" work. Is there a plot, trope, character, motif, idiom or even phrase you would like people to think twice about before using? One that you see a ton, or that stick out when you're reading, in a negative way for whatever reason.
TL;DR Hard sells.
I feel like I’m going to alienate like half of the writers who submit with this answer but I really struggle with just poetry built around traditional nature, uh, stuff. We get a lot of poetry that just feels like descriptions of pretty trees or how rivers make someone feel and it’s rare that I place one in the magazine. Maybe my personal tastes run a little more urban, or maybe I just see to much of them, but they slide right off me.

4) If you could pick 2-3 pieces of writing that you just love that are already out in the world and somehow have the ability to have discovered it in your slushpile, itching for you to publish them, what would they be? 
TL;DR Wish I could've published that!
First, this is the hardest question of all time. Dream Slushpile Time Travel Come Upon: every piece of writing George Saunders has ever published in The New Yorker
More realistically, Elizabeth Stix (a Bay Area writer) published this piece called “The Bear” in Tin House and I’ve heard it read out loud a few times and read it myself way too many times and I wish we could’ve got that one. It’s supposedly just three dreams she had - all featuring bears - and wrote down almost word-for-word  when she woke up and then sent out into the universe. It is very good.
5) To your tastes, how would you describe the sort of "experimental" writing you seek? The idea of categorizing experimental or avant-garde writing is very slippery, as it means different things to different people, and it can even change over time from the same person's perspective. So in this moment, allowing that tomorrow you may feel differently and we won't hold you to it, what are you looking for in experimental writing? Is there a 'soft line' where it begins to lose meaning or goes too far (say, where you think the author/artist's intentions are subverted or hurt by the radical level of experimentation—of course allowing exceptions, we're not issuing challenges here), or perhaps a 1-10 scale with 10 fully embracing the avant-garde and 1 wanting no part of it at all. 
TL;DR The journal's place on the spectrum of 'experimental'.
Experimentation crosses the line for me when it becomes about form over function. If a writer is experimenting but the piece is still rooted in a truth or an emotion or a moment or- then it works for me. If there’s a reason for the experimentation - some sort of thought writ large - then I’m in. But, so much experimentation is just people playing with form or playing with the visual aspect of poetry or just dumping words on a page because it’s “different” and that, well, that does not work for me. Experiment a way people, but do so with agency! 
6) If you could speak directly to a potential submitter as a voice in their head, like their 'submission conscience', neither angel nor devil but bookish nerd that wants the person to have the best chance with their submission as possible, what would you want them to be sure to do or consider when submitting? 
TL;DR Please consider this when submitting.
I know this sounds petty, I do, but think about what font you’re using. And if that font is anything but 12-point, Times New Roman, don’t submit it until it is. If the greatest piece of writing ever written ended up in the submission box in Comic Sans, it probably wouldn’t get published. Maybe. But like, probably not.

7) What do you think differentiates prose poetry from flash fiction (or micro fiction), with the caveat that of course there will be exceptions to all 'rules' in writing, so it's something of a soft 'line' by nature.
Personally, I don’t need a line between prose poetry and flash fiction. If there does need to be a line though, I’d say it’s simply a matter of rules - grammatical, punctuational, etc. I feel like flash fiction still needs to play inside the sandbox of fiction; it has punctuation and “dialogue” in the more traditional forms. Prose poetry on the other hand can drop the commas and the semi-colons and the whole grammar thing off at the babysitter and just do whatever.
8) What other journals do you really enjoy reading, or do you feel especially akin to?
I love Joyland - just really wonderful, off-the-beaten path Fiction. I love Foglifter - a truly fantastic LGBTQ+ publication out of the Bay Area. And though they’re just a reading series for the moment, the folks at Something Ordinary are putting together really amazing line-ups of poets. I’d love to see a journal from those two.
9) Is there any time of year when you receive either fewer submissions, or when you're buried by submissions?  
We’re still pretty new and aside from one tidal wave of submissions earlier this year we’ve had a pretty consistent trickle coming through. I’m battening down the hatches though for the beginning of 2021 though. I feel like “submit to 100 journals” ends up on a lot of resolution lists.

Limited greatly by drone battery power, and with their batteries near-empty, our reporterbot had to get all the way back to San Diego and the two said their goodbyes. But not every journal will be quite so accommodating—because of that we'll keep reporting back from the various assignments of our Spy in the Slushpile.