May 2016
Daily Writing Prompts

A Pen In Each Hand

  1. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: grunts, share, looking, clings, alter.
    2. Use the phrase “I’m not surprised it didn’t work.”
    3. Write about opposites both being true.
  2. “Tell me again why that’s wrong?”
  3. Use these 5 words: vibes, lyrics, flash, shame, tribute.
  4. Learning from someone else’s misfortune
  5. Include this line: “This song makes me want to dance!”
  6. A long time between days off work
  7. a deafening silence.
  8. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: misused, comes, haunches, unrequited, memory.
    2. Use the phrase, “Don’t go without me.”
    3. Write about fixing something that wasn’t broken.
  9. Use these 5 words: meeting, petty, hard, nominate, psychopath.
  10. “I know where to look that up.”
  11. Start with: After her release from prison…
  12. Going home to more drama
  13. what actually happens during a commercial break.
  14. “I’m using that. Get your own.”
  15. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: excerpt, moaning, public, preserve, south.
    2. Use the phrase, “Are you sure about that?”
    3. Write about a bad day at work.
  16. There’s always one more of them to do.
  17. Use these 5 words: disgusted, king, intimidate, truths, earful.
  18. Becoming aware of someone else’s pain
  19. Include this line: “This is the job I’ve dreamed of.”
  20. Doing something domestic for a friend
  21. a lawsuit over too much ice in iced coffee.
  22. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: reaches, hand, agony, appear, these.
    2. Write about a sequence of numbers.
    3. Write about making something with one’s hands.
  23. Use these 5 words: monster, rigging, victim, anger, exposed.
  24. …and you need yet another password for that.
  25. Include this line: “I fangirled over _____.”
  26. Getting old is not for the faint of heart.
  27. shenanigans at a picnic.
  28. “Put the phone away and talk to me.”
  29. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: killed, unrequited, barking, boxes, light.
    2. Write about doing something you’d never do.
    3. Use the phrase, “There’s no guarantee.”
  30. Write something completely different today.
  31. Your dog hates hugs.

9 Years, 9 Percent: A Look at Toasted Cheese’s Submission, Rejection & Acceptance Rates

Absolute BlankBy Stephanie Lenz (Baker)

Inspired by other journals that do monthly, quarterly, or yearly public posts about their submissions, I did some very rough and dirty math about Toasted Cheese submissions over the last 9 years of our 15-year existence. This includes the last three quarters from 2007 and the first quarter of 2016.

Where did you get this information?

In 2007, I began to use Gmail to help me sort and label my TC email. Anything that comes through with “submission” in the subject line is automatically labeled as a TC submission. That’s one of the reasons we ask that you title your submissions that way.

I also use labels to mark a first-read piece to be rejected or considered for second read. After that, I use another set of labels for a final rejection or acceptance.

For my archive, I have labels for the year a submission was sent and a label for the issue for which the piece was submitted. After that issue is published, the submission is re-labeled for the year in which it was intended to be published. For example, a submission received on November 1, 2015 would be for the March 2016 issue and is filed under “All Subs/2015” and “TC Subs/2016.”

How accurate is this?

It’s not scientific by any means. First of all, these are only my picks, not the picks of TC’s editorial collective. Because these are only my picks, they aren’t TC’s official acceptance and rejection rates. I’m one of the more generous editors. I have more “yes” pieces in my final stack than other editors. Therefore, these numbers probably reflect a higher acceptance rate than TC actually has.

Not everything I choose as a “yes” or a “no” is published or rejected. The information I can access reflects only my personal choices. There are times when a first-read “no” for me is eventually published.

Some writers send their submission to the wrong place. Sometimes they send only to me. Sometimes they send a new submission as a reply to a rejection (those are sent by Beaver). When we manage to catch those, we forward them to the editorial collective even though they’re disqualified. So the overall submission rate may be higher simply because we don’t actually get some intended submissions.

Due to the volume of data I worked with, I’d guess these discrepancies might only reflect a percentage point or two of difference. I feel confident in saying that my personal choices are a fairly accurate reflection of TC’s overall rates of acceptance. When I’ve investigated a month’s or a quarter’s acceptance rate over the years, these numbers fall in line with what I found.

ab_16-05_9-years-9-percent

Background Image: Jose Picardo/Flickr (CC-by-nc-sa)

Okay, let’s hear it.

We had approximately 4600 regular submissions (not contest entries) in the last nine years. Of all regular Toasted Cheese submissions, 60% are rejected on first read, 13% are disqualified, and 2% are withdrawn before first read. This means 75% of submissions don’t make first cut.

Our shortlist is therefore made of 25% of total submissions. Of those, two-thirds (16% of total submissions) are rejected on second read and one-third (9% of total submissions) are accepted for publication. Of that 9%, some are withdrawn (for example, the piece was simultaneously submitted and accepted elsewhere) while some of the rejected pieces are salvaged by an editor (as an “Editor’s Pick”).

Note: writers can submit up to five poems in a single submission; often we accept only one or two of these. The data here considers any number of poems accepted as an acceptance (e.g. 5/5 poems submitted is an an acceptance, but so is 1/5 poems).

These number run pretty parallel to rates we see month-by-month, quarter-by-quarter, and year-by-year.

Our submission rates have been quite steady: an average of 510 submissions per year (over 40 submissions per month, 10 of which pass through to second read); between 500-620 per year during and before 2011; and 410-496 during and since 2012. We have light months and heavy months. January is traditionally the month we see the most submissions, likely due to New Year’s resolutions. All other months are pretty equal.

As I write this, we have had 174 submissions in 2016. At that rate, Toasted Cheese will receive 525 regular submissions.

So when you hit “send,” you have a 1 in 4 chance of being shortlisted and a 1 in 10 chance of being published in TC. And you’re 100% ahead of all the writers who never click that send button.

If you’d like to see us share more in future about our submission, rejection, and acceptance rates, let us know in the comments.

Track Your Submissions

A Pen In Each Hand

By Baker

  1. If you haven’t already, set up a way to track your submissions. Duotrope’s submission tracker used to be free but when Duotrope went pay, so did the submission tracker. Membership is $5 per month, less if you sign up for a year. Writer’s Database has a submission tracker and free accounts.
  2. When you set up your submission tracker, go through your email and add everything you’ve ever submitted. It can be inspiring to remember how many times you gave it a shot.
  3. Set a goal for submitting your work over the next three months, like:
    • Send out a story every Thursday for 12 weeks.
    • Clean out your file of unfinished or abandoned work and polish one piece for submission within 90 days.
    • Submitting poetry? Max out your submission. If you only have one poem slated to send but the journal accepts three per submission, add two poems. You never know what will move an editor.
  4. Read the submission guidelines for a handful of random journals. New Pages runs a nice listing, as does Poets & Writers. Compare submission guidelines for similarities and differences. If you’re curious about why a journal has set a specific criterion, click through to read it and you might discover further explanation at the site.

April 2016
Daily Writing Prompts

  1. A Pen In Each HandThe feelings of the April Fool.
  2. Write about someone who is young but old at heart.
  3. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: fog, pestilence, through, toadstools, built.
    2. Use the phrase “Nobody was injured, but…”
    3. Write about complicated instructions.
  4. Start with: “Tonight I’m auditioning for…”
  5. “Well, that’s a proper train wreck.”
  6. Use these 5 words: mission, waiting, events, echo, time.
  7. Trying to stay awake after lunch
  8. “Stop whining and eat your dinner. Children are starving.”
  9. Everything I knew turns out to be wrong.
  10. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: secret, their, yard, misused, pianos.
    2. Use the phrase “I’m holding it in my hand.”
    3. Write about a late-night snack.
  11. Dividing up stuff after a breakup
  12. Have a character pose topless.
  13. There’s always one more thing you need.
  14. Use these 5 words: anecdotes, suspends, delicious, absolutely, ready.
  15. Unexpected last moment extension
  16. “You’re under contract.”
  17. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
  18. Give your MC some form of punishment.
  19. “I’d like to trade places with _____”
  20. Use these 5 words: text, hopes, impossible, audience, nautical.
  21. I could never get the hang of Thursdays
  22. “Another naked selfie?!”
  23. Maybe if it’s dark they won’t notice it.
  24. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: nothing, muttered, memory, factory, opened.
    2. Use the phrase “What are you going to say?”
    3. Write about a headache.
  25. Book ’em, Danno.
  26. Write about a massive disappointment.
  27. We’re oddly even.
  28. Use these 5 words: coloring, prejudices, profane, trending, blame.
  29. April showers bring May _______.
  30. Write about ‘a state of unlimited freedom’

Spring Three Cheers and a Tiger Winners!

Congratulations to the winners of the 2016 Spring Three Cheers and a Tiger contest!

Gold: “First in Time, First in Right” by Meredith Bateman
Silver: “Bus Stop” by Brian Behr Valentine
Bronze: “Rendez-Vous” by Erin McDougall

The winning entries will appear in the June 2016 issue of Toasted Cheese.

We’d also like to thank everyone who entered. There were very interesting and creative ideas for how a pair of glasses (or do I mean spectacles?) ended up folded and placed under a lamp post! The photo is one I took myself, having spotted the glasses laying there as I was walking by, and I still often speculate about what the real story behind it was. Of such moments are interesting stories made.

We hope you had as much fun writing the stories as I had reading them.

Amanda (The Bellman) Marlowe

March 2016
Daily Writing Prompts

A Pen In Each Hand

  1. beautifully executed
  2. When all is said and done, much more is said than done.
  3. the bad kind of mushrooms
  4. Write about glare.
  5. Use these 5 words: salvage, currencies, diversity, faith, killers.
  6. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: morning, deeds, hand, curled, bookish.
    2. Fighting to stay awake and pay attention.
    3. Write about something unexpected and brightly colored.
  7. a 90-foot-tall billboard
  8. Variations on a recipe
  9. 5% battery left
  10. Make up a smartphone app for your characters.
  11. Use these 5 words: design, copyright, monarch, economy, victories.
  12. Spreading misinformation about the daylight time change
  13. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: plum, border, women, which, world.
    2. Scooping up an armload of _______.
    3. Write about a gadget that doesn’t work.
  14. Rescheduling a stressful appointment
  15. Some good news!
  16. look around to see if they’re looking at someone else
  17. a bunch of middle school boys
  18. A place where there are no landmarks.
  19. Use these 5 words: sweetens, pollution, server, exchange, finger.
  20. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: dismantle, public, dead, plum, excerpt.
    2. Write about hearing from a long-lost friend.
    3. Write about understanding misunderstanding.
  21. a pair of tickets
  22. An awkward position
  23. “It’s taking too f—ing long.”
  24. Perhaps I should have reminded her.
  25. Use these 5 words: acclaimed, celebrate, gaffe, making, judgmental.
  26. Passive aggression with a smile.
  27. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
  28. Obsessively playing a game.
  29. one last photo from space
  30. Going out like a [not-lamb].
  31. there is definitely something fishy going on!

Three Cheers Spring 2016 is OPEN

The Three Cheers and a Tiger Spring Contest is now open.

Entries must be received by 5 PM Eastern Time, Sunday, March 20, 2016.

Write a mystery story that explains the “why” behind what you see in this picture:

A pair of glasses, folded closed with the glass facing up, laying at the base of a lamp post on the sidewalk.

click to embiggen

Word count: Between 2,150 and 2,250 words.

  • Send entries to: threecheers16@toasted-cheese.com
  • Your subject line must read: Three Cheers and a Tiger Contest Entry
  • Paste your story directly into your email. No attachments please.

For complete rules:
Three Cheers and a Tiger Guidelines
General Contest Rules

Fictional Fête: 15 Fantasy Guests

Absolute BlankBy Shelley Carpenter (Harpspeed)

Dear Fiction Readers and Writers,

Do you remember that cool TV show from the 1970s—Fantasy Island? For some of you this may be a way-before-your-time era, but for the rest of you, you might recall a Mr. Roarke and his cute little friend, Tattoo, who entertained guests in their fantasy pursuits. They would wait at the Fantasy Island dock in their matching white tuxedos at the start of every episode. “The Plane! The Plane!” I imagined in my own kid-way what my fantasy would be should I pay the million-dollar guest ticket price for my fantasy to become real. I had many fantasies (which I won’t share!), but sadly I never could afford the million-dollar fee.

I’ve grown up since then and have discovered that there are other ways to a good fantasy that are “off-island.” Here’s one of mine: I’m having a small fête this month. I’ve decided to invite only the people I like: good and bad, famous and infamous alike. The thing is that the guests are fictitious characters from a few of my favorite novels. (I have many favorites!) The venue is my imagination.

Bon Appetite!
Harpspeed

P.S. In case you are curious, my character guest list follows:

Background Image: Jesper Larsen-Ledet/Flickr (CC-by-nc-sa)

Background Image: Jesper Larsen-Ledet/Flickr (CC-by-nc-sa)

  1. Icy Sparks (from Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio)

Ten-year-old orphan Icy Sparks is from 1950s Kentucky who has an interesting trait: uncontrollable tics and some of the most outrageous cursing I have ever heard. She is someone who really says what she thinks. Icy doesn’t know it but she has Tourette Syndrome. I like her very much because she is a precocious, quirky character who changes the other characters in her story. I would vote for her if she ran for president.

  1. Mina Murray (from Dracula by Bram Stoker)

Wilhelmina ”Mina” Murray is a remarkable character and a marvel, she (I can’t recall if I’m remembering Winona Ryder from the 1990s film version) and that modern fancy-dancy typewriter that she uses to type personal letters to her fiancée, Jonathan, who’s under the impression that he’s the hero in Stoker’s horror story—when in fact it is Mina who is the real star. If you don’t believe me—ask Dracula. Mina’s character marks the rise of the modern female detective. If I go missing, please call Mina. Posthaste!

  1. Dustfinger (from Inkheart by Cornelia Funke)

Dustfinger is a supporting character that I followed in Funke’s three-volume story, Inkheart. He is a tragic and talented character who can breathe fire and curiously is also a reluctant hero. He has his own agenda but puts it aside to help the other protagonists. Still, Dustfinger can be unreliable and is sometimes a curmudgeon. Aren’t we all at some time? I enjoyed his dry wit and actor Paul Bettany’s very human portrayal of this complicated character in the film version, too. I think Dustfinger would amaze my guests with his special skills, but I won’t pay him until the show is over!

  1. Hig
  2. Bangley
  3. Jasper (from The Dog Stars by Peter Heller)

Hig is the main character in Peter Heller’s post-apocalyptic story, The Dog Stars. Hig is optimistic, philosophical, and loves nature. He flies around in a small Cessna plane with his faithful dog, Jasper, looking for signs of life and renewal all the while quoting Whitman and Johnny Cash. I think I met my literary soulmate in Heller’s story, if that is possible. If I invite him to my dinner party he will probably bring Jasper and his cranky friend, Bangley, who balances Hig’s optimism with his self-righteous mistrust of everyone and everything and whom I also like very much. You can’t invite one without inviting the other. It wouldn’t be very kind with the lack of people in their lonely world and limited opportunity for socializing. There is plenty of room at my table, and besides, who doesn’t love a good argument with their dinner? Please pass the **** salt!

  1. Mary Beth Mayfair (from The Witching Hour by Ann Rice)

Remind me to warn my guests that Mary Beth is a witch. (Some people are squeamish about that kind of thing.) Not the pointed black hat kind but rather the modern-world kind of witch. She comes from a long line of witches. You could say that it is the family business. I don’t like everyone in her family, but I do like her. She is very kind to strangers and children and exceptionally talented in bilocation and managing money. (Did I mention that her family are millionaires?) In fact, if she ever gives you money, she’ll tell you to spend it quick because somehow coin or cash always return to their place of origin be it Mary Beth’s coat pocket or beaded purse. She’s the bee’s knees for sure! Wouldn’t she be fun to go shopping with?

  1. Laura Ingalls Wilder (from The Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder)

I know what you are thinking—but how can I not invite Laura? She is one of my oldest character-friends. Laura is a protagonist in her own life story that is truly memoir. Heck, they even made a TV series about her life. There’s that, and the fact that she was a big influence on me both personally and professionally. I quite figuratively and literally grew up with her. Her stories kept me company and occupied me on many a rainy day, during the long, boring, sometimes tumultuous middle years up through my teens and beyond. I caught up with her again in my twenties and later again in the classroom. Laura was one of my icons in children’s literature and has earned her velvet chair at my table. Subject closed. Icy will be her dinner partner. Maybe I’ll seat Jasper between them just for fun. Dogs are people, too, you know.

  1. Kirby Mazrachi (from The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes)

When I think of this character, the word tenacious pops up into my head. It’s a perfect adjective for her and if you’ve met her already you will understand and perhaps agree. You see, Kirby, single-handedly went after a time-traveling serial killer who targeted his victims when they were children. It gives me chills just thinking about her adversary, a serial killer—very creepy bedtime reading—and his modus operandi of stalking little girls and then returning for them when they were older. Kirby was one of his victims, but she survived him and decided to end this creep’s career. It wasn’t easy because she had to navigate in a crime story that was also science fiction. How do you track someone through time? Kirby found a way. I’ll seat her next to Mina. They have much in common. Don’t you agree?

  1. Mr. Rochester (from Jane Eyre by Emily Bronte)

Oh my stars! Edmund Charles Fairfax Rochester is wonderful! Maybe you have met him already if you have read Jane Eyre? He is an amazing character. He is probably the best friend anyone could ever have next to Jasper, of course. He is so charming and witty and interesting and mysterious in a beguiling, romantic way, of course. He’s the quintessential Romantic Era hero. He always says what he means and even though he can be aloof and secretive, he never lies… well, except maybe once to Jane, but really who could blame him? I will have to warn my guests not to get too attached to him. He’s already taken.

  1. Scarlett O’Hara (from Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell)

Katy Scarlett O’Hara seems to have a dark cloud hanging over her all the time. But the thing about Scarlett is that no matter how bad things get—and they do get pretty bad by modern standards—she loses her baby, her husband, her friends, and her home to the Yankees. Yet despite it all, Scarlett is always so very optimistic. After all, “Tomorrow is another day.” She doesn’t stay down long. She is an also an opportunist. What I call an optimistic-opportunist because she always finds a way to get what she wants or what she needs, by default—if you can call Rhett Butler a default. I wouldn’t. Anyway, she’s coming and hopefully not dressed in the living room drapes and she will be sitting between Bangley and Dustfinger. Oh what fun!

  1. Ralph Truit (from A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick)

As you might have guessed, I’m a sucker for romance and the American West. Ralph is, too, even though he says he isn’t. He’s the worst kind of romantic—hopeless! Anyway, he placed an advertisement in a Chicago newspaper in 1907 for an “honest and reliable wife” and got more than he bargained for when a woman named Catherine Land answered his advertisement and, let’s say, stole his heart among other things. But don’t feel too badly for Ralph. He had a plan of his own and Catherine was quite surprised, as was I. Ralph will be sitting next to Hig; they are both pretty even-tempered individuals and I think would get on well.

  1. Jim Quick (from Darling Jim by Christian Moerk Holt)

Jim is a storyteller who travels around Ireland, going from pub to pub on his Harley like a bad-boy from the bygone beat generation, seducing young women, stealing from them, and maybe killing them, too. Nobody is perfect! Not even Jim. However, Jim is a wonderful antagonist who picked the wrong women to prey on: three feisty Irish sisters who I think got the better of him—or was it the other way around? I’m hoping Jim will have some stories to share. Don’t worry! I will turn out his pockets when he arrives and hide the butter and steak knives before and after dinner. He’ll be sitting with Mina and Kirby. Those two will keep him out of trouble, no doubt.

  1. Harpspeed

As for me, my story is still being written.

  1. Reader

I left an empty seat for you, dearest Toasted Cheese reader and writer. Come fraternize.

Who’s On Your Guest List?

A Pen In Each HandBy Harpspeed

Dear Fiction Readers and Writers,

It’s your turn. Imagine you could meet a favorite character from a work of fiction. Any character. Whom would you choose? A character from your own shelves? A character from your past? Or how about a character you haven’t met yet? Perhaps, someone who was once recommended to you? (For me it would be that astronaut from the book and the film, The Martian.) A stranger-character? How intriguing that would be!

Now imagine you could invite a dozen or more characters to your house for a party or a backyard barbecue or what-have-you? The trick is to know your characters well, to be select with your choices: Would they like each other? Would they share similar traits or politics? Would you break out the tequila or the sherry or make a grab for Chekov’s gun on the wall?

Please share this occasion with your friends at Toasted Cheese. Tell us who you plan to invite and do tell us why. Or tell us after the fact. Was it a “screaming” success or did you lose a few guests? Did any characters run off together? Any foul play? Just a sentence or two is fine. We can read between the lines. We’re pretty good at that.

Harpspeed
TC Reviews Editor

P.S. A few words to the wise: You may want to steer clear of the psychopaths and vampires. They can be so unpredictable! If you insist on inviting one or more, be sure to have a strong antagonist or protagonist with them to keep them in check. And be mindful: characters can change whether for good or for bad. Those are the best characters and the most interesting guests! They also stay with us long after their stories resolve.