The Story Behind The Story, “Just a Matter of Time” by Charity Tahmaseb

I was pondering time management and all the clichés that go with it, in particular everyone has the same twenty-four hours in a day. Then I thought: what if we don’t? What if those whizzes at time management are actually stealing time from the rest of us, leaving us to wander about, wondering where we’d left our car keys.

I put that notion into a high school setting, where there always seems to be a few teens who can breeze through everything. The only reasonable explanation is they really do have more than twenty-four hours in each day.

-Charity Tahmaseb, author of “Just a Matter of Time”


To order a copy of volume three, go here

The Story Behind The Story, “Her Tree Boy Blaze” by Lina Branter

Three separate things inspired my story. The first was a story someone told me about their brief stint in a remote boarding school. Apparently there was an old, abandoned cabin in the woods where students would go to hook up. Then I began to think about first sexual encounters and how even if you give official consent, it can still feel violating. I actually wrote a story about this but it never really worked well so I shelved it. Then I saw a call for submissions for stories about the Green Man (a figure in different world mythologies that represents nature and fertility)  and I realized that was the missing element to my previous story! I needed a Green Man!

-Lina Branter, author of “Her Tree Boy Blaze” follow her @linagordaneer

To order a copy of volume three, go here.  


The Story Behind The Story, A Different Kind Of Cute

I wrote this story for my thesis when I was a grad student at The Solstice Program at Pine Manor College. It came to me during a workshop where we were writing down memories from our teen years. The memory that came to me was sophomore year, homecoming. I had a WICKED crush on a soccer player—this was during my chubby year—and he and I had been doing a little flirty flirt in the hallway and at a few of his games. Homecoming came up and through friends, I was told that he wanted to meet me there. I was so psyched!

So I got together to get ready and drive to homecoming with 19 other girls all at my house. I have a picture of us all, posed in my living room in front of the fireplace. A picture that has circulated FB and was part of our slideshow at the 20 year reunion. We are coiffed and grinning, especially me. I wore a strapless dress because with my new chubby body came big boobs and the dress was black so I felt hot for the first time since putting on the extra 30 from freshmen year.

When I arrived at the dance, I saw him in the corner with his soccer friends and his little sister, who was in my algebra class, shuffled over and said that he wanted to dance with me. . . this was a boy who definitely was in a higher social stratosphere than me, and I was so nervous. A slow song came on and he and I locked eyes, like every teen movie from the 80s and 90s. We met in the middle of the dance floor and he wrapped me in his arms and we swayed together. . . and he gave me little (very wet) kisses on my bare neck. And then. . . .it’s kind of a blur when I look back, but I know there was the heavy stench of alcohol, and I know that he left the dance floor and returned, sweaty and smelling of both throw-up and alcohol.  I know there were slurred declarations of love and that he continued to wrap his arms and lips around me. . . in a way that required his sister to try and peel him off. . . I am pretty sure he was eventually escorted out of the dance. My one chance with my super crush was ruined. . . forever.  We never, ever spoke again for the rest of high school.

To order a copy of volume three, go here. (This is Hannah’s Amazon Author Page, which has all three volumes of Sucker.)

She is NO Sucker, Interview with Molly Cavanaugh, Senior Copyeditor Goddess

6 (somewhat) Random and 2 Serious Questions With Senior Editor Goddess Molly

1. Which story is your favorite from volume 2 and why? (I will not be offended if it isn’t mine J )

This is a tough one, obviously, because all the stories were so great, but since I guess I’m not allowed to say the Acknowledgments (even though there’s such a great shout-out to yours truly in it!), I think my favorite was “Do You Remember Fred?” It’s so hard-hitting, and it really packs in a lot into a very small space—I’m pretty sure it’s the shortest of any of the stories. And, though I wish it weren’t, it’s very realistic.

2. What song best describes your experience with editing stories for Sucker?

“Beautiful,” by Christina Aguilera, because a) wasn’t that a great song?, and b) I always hope the writers know we think their stories are beautiful in every single way, and that my critical words won’t bring them down! We’re just polishing already awesome work to help it stand out as the beautiful art it is.

3. You have detailed your journey with celiac disease on your (super funny and informative) blog Based On A Sprue Story. So, if I come to your house for dinner what would you make for me?

Thank you for the compliment on my blog! I never thought I’d get into blogging, but now I love it. Celiac disease translates to “gluten-free, not by choice.” Because I’m also vegetarian (that one is by choice), I might serve an Indian dinner (based on rice, legumes, and lots and lots of coconut milk); socca (a chickpea-flour pizza/flatbread thing sure to be the next foodie craze); or maybe pineapple fried rice with tofu—that’s on the menu for tonight! For dessert, maybe brownies, made with a blend of GF flours, or ice cream, which is usually GF unless it’s got chunks of glutenful cookies in it. Oh, and if what you’re really asking about is drinks, that’s easy: almost anything other than beer!

4. What advice do you have for writers who want to submit to us?

DO IT. But do it after you’ve given yourself some time to set aside your piece—for at least a few days—then reread and revise it. Ideally, get a second opinion or two from a friend. We love to help you edit, but considering how much competition there is for space, it’s best to come in with something already in good shape. Also, consider writing about male, bi/gay, or other-than-Caucasian characters. If you can do it well, you’ll really stand out in a sea of straight white girls. (No offense intended to straight white girls; I am one myself, after all.)

5. You are an editor by day (for pay!) as well as our editor. What has this career (so far) taught you about writing and publishing?

I’ve learned that everyone really does have an opinion on everything—even things you’d think nobody other than we copy-editing folks would care about, like commas or the spelling of the word tabbouleh (I work on a lot of cookbooks). You need to learn to tread carefully, and know when to cite an authority (the Chicago Manual of Style is God) and when to just let it go. Breaking the rules sometimes pays off. The fine line between “error” and “style” hasn’t become any clearer since I started; if anything it’s hazier.

6. Favorite punctuation mark and why?
Definitely parentheses (I guess that’s two marks). I’m not even going to try to count how many times I’ve used them in this interview, for example.

7. I make all the writers come up with a one-sentence tagline for their stories. Come up with a one-sentence tagline for your life so far.

Although I seem to have become a twenty-something living in New York, I assure you it’s nothing at all like Girls.

8. Did you edit these questions as you read them?  J

Just a little. ;)

Parental Discretion Is Advised

DISCLAIMER: The following material contains adult subject matter. Parental discretion is advised.

I’m serious. Tell the kids under 18 to leave. 

Okay, here is what has been in my head lately:

Literary masturbation=Self-publishing

I did not come up with the GENIUS analogy, that self-publishing is akin to masturbation. That credit belongs to John Winters in one of my favorite articles called “I’m aself-publishing failure”. Read the article. Very helpful. Very inspiring.

I mentioned the idea of literary masturbation and referred to John Winter’s article in a recent blog, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

GET OUT OF THE ROOM, CHILDREN! This is about to get very adult.

I republished MSW recently, and it felt awesome. A self-induced pleasure, of the publishing kind. There was that build up that goes on while revising and editing and proofing and then—bam—I hit “publish” and a rush of sensations and emotions went through me. I was left with a sweet calm inside, a satisfied contentment.

See how this analogy is PERFECT?!

Doing this act of self-pleasure is so, so much easier today and so much more acceptable than 10 years ago when I self-published MSW the first time. Though, some still say it is something to be ashamed of. But we will get to those hater-folks later.

Self-publishing is EASY, and it FEELS GOOD (most of the time, but more on that in another blog post). It’s faster than regular publishing, and you have all the control (see how this analogy really is perfect?). Regular, traditional publishing, however, is not analogous to any kind of sex, at least not in my experience.


Simply put, it’s a hell of a lot easier to get laid than to get published. I think all of us in the biz can agree with that.

DISCLAIMER: This is based on MY experience. SO no HATE MAIL from people who have had an easy, swinging time with their book deal.

So, people of earth, listen up, ALL of you. Yeah, you who just finished that first or second draft of a manuscript and are combing through The Writer’s Market   or Agent Query, and, yeah, you, too, writer who has received numerous positive rejections from a major publisher. And you, who have an MFA and have been published in several anthologies and magazines and have an agent and are on your sixth manuscript, even YOU, you need to listen and listen carefully.

Getting that book published will be a nearly impossible feat. Traditional publishing is like to getting into Brown, 8.9 percent.


ACTUALLY, hold on. I just googled this, and it’s a whole lot worse than that.

“Statistics?  I’ve heard that only 0.03 percent of all manuscripts submitted in the publishing industry in the United States each year actually get published.  That means out of every 10,000 manuscripts which are submitted, only 3 are actually published.”


So, BAD NEWS, folks. Getting published is a whole lot harder than getting into BROWN.

Everyone reading, take a deep breath. I’m sorry to have killed that buzz you had from all of your accomplishments as a writer and all of your efforts climbing the hill towards a book deal. I share that buzz-kill myself.

I know this news is devastating to a writer. Any writer. Newbie or seasoned vet. It devastates ME!

We writers crave to be heard and seen, and we NEED that release of publishing. Our words released to the public. It’s a rush. It’s fantastic.

Thus, that is why the following statistic is not surprising:

Almost 400,000 books were self published in 2012 according to Bowker. And the number of Self-Published Titles Grows Nearly 60% in 2012 according to the website

AND. . . The number of self-published books has quadrupled from 2007 to now!

Now, about those hater-folks. . . Sure, many people who have solid careers as authors and writers claim that those of us who self-publish are narcissistic animals who don’t have the talent to earn the right of a publisher to consider us. I was reading a thread about us no-talent animals and couldn’t believe how ANGRY some people are about those of us who have self-published.

And to those people I say, I am not offended by your opinion. What you claim about us is true sometimes and in some cases. But, I would make the same claim to those in the non-self-published category. There are a lot of narcissistic animals who do get book deals and who have ZERO talent and who have definitely NOT earned the right to get published. Can we all say the word “celebrities”?

But this is not a post about being MAD at folks who hate on us self-published animals. Nor is this a blog lamenting the woes of a self-published author. Nor a post about hating celebrity authors. Some write damn fine stuff. Jamie Lee Curtis has a children’s book I really enjoy called, When I Was Little.

This is post about WHY I chose to and still do, to a certain extent, self-publish. . . even though for all of these 10 years that I’ve been out there I have had an agent, had work published in lit. mags, newspapers, etc. . .even though I have the resume and experience that would indicate a book deal is around the corner. Even though I still very much want and am striving to be published by a traditional publisher. And by the way, there are a lot of us, like me, who have many years, decades into this business and have not reaped the equal and opposite rewards that both experience and talent warrant in EVER OTHER F*$KING PROFESSION.

Yes, I do think I am (somewhat) talented, and finally, I feel and know and understand that talent alone is not what helps you get a book deal. The elusive market is an enormous factor.

Look, it’s been wizards, vampires, and porn for the last decade. My shit doesn’t line up with that. But this could be the year of voicey, contemporary YA fiction. A girl can only dream.

Years ago, when I won the first place award from WD self-pub contest a few folks likened me to the next Judy Blume. I thought, wow, my dreams are coming true because (like many YA writers in my age bracket) when I was nine and reading Judy Blume, I felt, in my whole body, that some day I would write books like hers and people would love those books—I would become a real author.

And it looked like I was on that path ten years ago, when I hit publish and sold over a thousand books pretty quickly and got an agent. . .

While I still am on the path and haven’t arrived at the destination, I have continued to self-publish.

Why am I replaying this tune on self-publishing? Because I republished MSW as a ten year anniversary gift to myself. The original had a lot of errors, and I wanted to clean it up and make it look prettier. I did this republish solely por moi. The decision is a little like a choice for cosmetic surgery. Like a facelift or Botox. While I haven’t done either of those yet, never say never, and I don’t judge those who do. I suppose that this choice really was narcissistic. But it also was for the small group of readers who continue to email me about my Maddie books and who are rooting for me.

The feeling I got when I republished MSW. . .  was good. I mean that good.  Sorry, but it’s true. IT felt SOOOO good.

To republish it using ten years of wisdom was very cathartic. No, I didn’t rewrite the entire thing like I wanted to, that wasn’t my intention. But I gave it a face-lift, so I could feel really good about it being out there. Because, believe it or not, that book continues to sell!

AND. . . That is why, after receiving over 50 rejections for my short story anthology Big, Fat, Broken Hearts a few years ago, I decided to self-publish a literary anthology that would feature my (rejected) short fiction as well as all those other writers out there who were in need of that good feeling that publishing gives.

In just a little over a week, I will self-publish again (along with my staff). Sucker Literary, volume 3. And it will feel DAMNED GOOD!

But guess what, so will getting a book deal. And I don’t think that the two are mutually exclusive.

So keep writing and keep climbing the mountain. But don’t be afraid to take care of yourself once in awhile.








9 Things to Know Before You Submit to Us on Open Door Day- August 1, 2013

From Hannah, our editor and founder. 

1. I’m serious about revising. Like to the point of pain. Like it’s my religion. No kidding. I come from the school of a piece isn’t finished unless you have revised it—minimal— five times. Once I signed with my agent, we revised my manuscript several times. This was in addition to the 5 times I had already revised on my own and with some beta readers. FYI: I also spent 2.5 years in an MFA program where I revised so much, I injured both elbows . . . permanently.

2. No, seriously, I’m serious about revising. If you can’t hang with a potentially intense revision experience, then you aren’t a candidate for Sucker Literary mentoring. Even though it may hurt (physically or emotionally) to revise for/with us, we do it because we believe in your piece. Also, revise with us and keep your own version. If anything, the process can be a learning stretch. Why not?  Also, FYI, I may accept a piece immediately, but it doesn’t mean revisions won’t be part of the process. Conversely, I may revise with you 2-3 times but ultimately not accept it.

3. When making decisions about accepting or mentoring a piece, I ask for help. If I have read a piece too many times and can’t be objective any more, I call upon my Top Readers. This has happened a few times where I have gone for two or more rounds with a writer and still can’t say no but also can’t say yes. At that point I know I am not seeing something. I am unable to see things as they are because I have worked on it too much. Maybe it’s more ready to go then I think. So, this is when I reach out to my Top Team because they know my taste and understand my vision for Sucker yet have their own perspective and set of critical eyes; they can help me to see the piece clearly again.

4. I have rejected some of my favorite writer friends, staff members, and supporters. Even though it’s a more painful process to reject people I care about, I am able to separate the work from my emotions.

5. Sucker Literary is MY vision. As in, MY vision of YA short stories. While I do have a large staff of readers and some PR folks and our awesome Webmaster, the pieces that are chosen to be published are ones that I feel reflect what I want to read. I definitely tend to read more contemporary, realistic fiction but sci-fi is my secret obsession, specifically, gritty, character-driven sci-fi. Ender’s Game, Feed, The Giver, Fahrenheit 451, and Brave New World are some of my all time tops. However, genre does not dictate what I will accept, the quality of writing and the compellingness of the main character supersede all other elements.

6. I created Sucker Literary for HUGELY talented, emerging writers who believe in and are committed to their work and craft. Sucker writers know that what they have to say is important and are willing to work really hard to make their stories amazing.

7. I also created Sucker Literary for teens. I was a classroom teacher (middle and high school) and my day job now is a writing coach and tutor to elementary through college students. Majority of my high school students express HUGE dissatisfaction with the required reading lists and literary anthologies they are assigned to read. Most feel that contemporary short fiction is LACKING in the “cannon”. It’s not that students don’t like to read the classics, it’s that they also want to have the option to read more contemporary work, stories that they can directly connect with and talk about.

8. But I didn’t create Sucker Literary to be taught in high schools. Let’s be honest, some of our stories are too edgy to be used in the classroom. If schools are removing Perks of Being a Wallflower , Sucker Literary doesn’t have a chance. We are here for the teen readers who seek edgy, contemporary short fiction.

9. I like when you show me some love. When you submit, it doesn’t hurt (in fact, it helps) if you tell me what your FAVORITE Sucker Literary story is.

Interview with Web & Design Director, Joseph Lee

We want to make an official welcome and introduce Sucker Literary fans to Joseph Lee of Wolf&Fox Design Studio! Below is just a brief look into the many talents of our Joseph Lee. He also has acted as a YA lit advisor to Sucker Literary and as a reader. We are so lucky and happy to have him as part of the Sucker Literary family! Continue reading

So how long will this all take?

The question every submitting writer wants to ask the agents or editors who have their work.

At SUCKER LITERARY, we try to be very transparent about the submitting/responding process. So I will break down the steps for all of you who have submitted (and those of you who are just curious). Continue reading

The Story Behind The Story: Ann Karasinski’s A Level Playing Field

Author Ann Karasinski
“A Level Playing Field”

Several years ago in our now defunct local newspaper, I read about a woman, a wife and mother, who had died in a tragic accident. Over time the her story began to haunt me.  The newspaper described the woman’s community involvement and named her surviving family members, including a teenaged son.  I wondered how her son actually would survive, how he would remember his mother and see his dad, and how he would see himself.  Eventually, this son took up residence in my imagination and spoke to me through my own secrets and experiences and became Jason O’Donnell. Continue reading