The Crew Was Complete

Est. January 18, 2001

Stephanie “Baker” Lenz*
Theryn “Beaver” Fleming*
Amanda “Bellman” Marlowe*
Erin “Billiard” Bellavia*
Lisa “Boots” Olson*
Ana “Broker” George

Reviews Editor
Shelley “harpspeed” Carpenter

*Founding Editor


General Editorial Correspondence: editors[at]
Submissions: Submission Guidelines
Contests: Contest Guidelines
Article Queries: Article Guidelines
Book Reviews: Review Guidelines

Email Tips

In an effort to reduce the amount of spam we receive, we have replaced all the @ symbols in email addresses on the site with [at]. To contact us, replace [at] with @.

editors[at] is our address for general editorial correspondence. To ensure your email is read, put a meaningful description in your subject line, e.g. “Volunteering to Host at the TC Forums.”

submit[at] is for submissions only. Subject lines of submissions should be formatted as per the Submission Guidelines. Please note: Submissions sent to editors[at] will not be read.

Mission Statement

In 2001, we created Toasted Cheese as a place where writers could get honest feedback on their work, receive reliable information, discuss issues related to writing, and share links to publishing opportunities while creating a community. We also wanted to create a quality literary journal that was open to emerging writers as well as seasoned veterans.

Toasted Cheese has changed over the years but certain things remain the same. Our crew has a passion for excellent writing. We love to see it submitted to TCLJ. We love to cultivate it on our forums. We strive to produce it ourselves. TC is a site created by writers for writers, all of us learning from each other.

Everything at Toasted Cheese is free, including our extensive archive of original content: articles, exercises, writing prompts, podcasts, and more. There’s no membership fee (nor is there a minimum posting guideline but we ask that you give in order to get). We never charge a reading fee, either for regular submissions or contests. TC doesn’t accept advertising.

We hope that TC will help you achieve your definition of success—whether that’s making the NY Times bestseller list, getting a short story in print, or asking for feedback for the first time.

Welcome to Toasted Cheese and best of luck with your writing aspirations.

The Snarkers

Snarkers Emeritus
Ronda Brink
Suzanne Wiles Chapman (Barrister)*
Teresa Hichens-Olson
Tawny McDonald (Butcher)*
Rhia Perkins (Kittlekatt)
Mollie “Bonnets” Savage
Steve “Macfisto” Simpson
Trina Talma (Banker)

*Founding Editor

Thanks to everyone who has supported us along the way!

Special thanks to our former hosts:
Jo Chandler
Sheila Gallant-Halloran
Jennifer (Peacefrog)
Dee Ann Ruffel
Janet Mullany (Elailah)
Erica Ruedas (Gargoyle)
Kelly (ibroker)
Jennifer Justice (Kyronae)
Scott Langston (scottasaigon)
J. “jaywalke” Walke
Lindsay Vaughan
Faith “fmwrites” Watson
Erica “pinupgeek” Ruedas
J.E. “jenoonan” Noonan

Baker, Billiard & Bellman
Baker & Billiard
Barrister & Bellman
Boots & Beaver (behind the camera)
Billiard & Bellman
Baker & Bellman
Macfisto & Bonnets

The Snarkers and our Crew



I engage with the Snark—
every night after dark—
In a dreamy delirious fight:
I serve it with greens in those shadowy scenes,
And I use it for striking a light
~Fit the Third: The Baker’s Tale

Stephanie ‘Eden’ Lenz
Managing Editor, Toasted Cheese Literary Journal
Judge, Dead of Winter Writing Contest
Facebook Page Administrator
Forum Administrator

I write and edit from western Pennsylvania (go Bucs!), I’m married, and I have two creative children. I write every day except one weekend day, depending on my schedule, or on family vacations.

My work has appeared in Bound Off, 5923 Quarterly, Northpoint, Journal of the Blue Planet, Flashquake, Blue Moon Journal, Passages, Kudzu, Every Night Erotica, Amoret, Mind Caviar, and Abby’s Realm, as well as the anthologies Harlan County Horrors and Best Women’s Erotica 2003. My one-act play has been performed in Pittsburgh. I’ve won NaNoWriMo a few times. I’ve held every possible position at a weekly newspaper from stringer to managing editor to The Only Person Who Can Unjam the Copier. My current writing goals are to write more genre fiction, to research agents, and keep up my goal of daily writing.

When it comes to TC’s submission queue, I like to see free verse poetry about small topics or moments, short stories that are character-driven with a strong sense of setting or place (stories set in Florida and Pennsylvania have an edge, as I’m a dual native) and great dialogue, and creative non-fiction about something specific that’s new to me. The best way to make final cut for me is to show me something that stays with me after I’ve stepped away from the screen. For Dead of Winter, the horror fiction I like to read is most often paranormal or gothic. I prefer Southern gothic but I also enjoy gothic stories set in New England, the American Southwest, and the UK. I also like dark fantasy and magical realism in horror fiction. The best ways to find out what appeals specifically to me are to look up any “Baker’s Pick” or to read the DOW winners in every March issue.

I like superheroes, cake, Walt Disney World, science, quoting movies in conversation, BBC TV, penguins, and lip gloss. I dislike cheese food product, selective ignorance, the comments on news stories in social media, explaining jokes, doing math in my head, ventriloquist dummies, and clowns.

@edenza | Writing Portfolio | NaNoWriMo | LinkedIn



The Beaver brought paper, portfolio, pens,
And ink in unfailing supplies:
While strange creepy creatures came out of their dens,
And watched them with wondering eyes.
~Fit the Fifth: The Beaver’s Lesson

Theryn Fleming
Editor in Chief, Toasted Cheese Literary Journal
Judge, A Midsummer Tale Writing Contest
Website Administrator

About me: I’m an INTP, in Emma Goldman’s hat on the Political Compass, and a radical feminist. My most popular Toasted Cheese article, by far, is “Keeping a Commonplace Book.” My personal favorites are “Starting Will Always Be Hard” and “Slow Writing.”

What I’m looking for: I’m particularly interested in work by and about women and their experiences (but not female characters written for the male gaze). I also enjoy reading work from writers outside of North America. I encourage female writers, especially those with underrepresented perspectives, to submit (even if you’ve been rejected before).

Fiction: Genre-wise, I prefer fiction grounded in reality: stories set in the real world with a strong sense of place. Elements of magical realism are fine but I’m not inclined to science fiction/fantasy. I do enjoy a good mystery.

Flash: Not just a short story with a word cap. Flash is its own thing: part poetry, part prose, a liminal space between fiction and nonfiction. Think of it as a snapshot in words. Look at our flash archives to get a feel for it.

Creative nonfiction: I’m looking for narrative nonfiction, not a persuasive essay. CNF weaves a story out of real life: it has characters (real people), a plot (real-life events), and a setting (real places). A CNF piece is reflective, meaning-making, not argumentative.

Poetry: I like to see thoughtful and surprising word choices, a structure that demonstrates a willingness to prune. The best poetry is like bonsai. You can win me over with one perfect line. Not interested in: stream-of-consciousness rambling, prose chopped up with random line breaks.

Peruse my editor’s picks and the A Midsummer Tale winners to familiarize yourself with my aesthetic.



Friends, Romans and countrymen, lend me your ears!
(They were all of them fond of quotations:
So they drank to his health, and they gave him three cheers,
While he served out additional rations).
~Fit the Second: The Bellman’s Speech

Amanda Marlowe
Editor, Toasted Cheese Literary Journal
Judge, Spring Three Cheers and a Tiger Writing Contest
Forum Administrator
Technical Advisor

Me? Well, my mild-mannered alter ego is working hard at work and observing how all the world’s a stage and all that good stuff… SuperBellman, on the other hand, is busy staring at the laptop all night long, and trying to write something longer than 1000 words, and wondering if the laptop is laced with kryptonite. My primary writing focus at the moment is children’s literature, which is my favorite reading material, and poetry. It’s possible I’m a member of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators. Depends on when and how often you look at the list—I’m like Schroedinger’s cat that way. I also read a lot. A week without a book finished is a week not worth living. My family keeps threatening to put me into a Readers Anonymous program. “Hi, My name is Amanda, and I’m addicted to Bujold and Pratchett…”



The maker of Bonnets ferociously planned
A novel arrangement of bows:
While the Billiard-marker with quivering hand
Was chalking the tip of his nose.
~Fit the Fourth: The Hunting

Erin Bellavia
Judge, Dead of Winter Writing Contest

Who am I?

I’ve been working on the answer to that question for 30+ years. I’ll let you know if I ever come up with a satisfactory answer. 😉

I grew up in western PA and now live in Buffalo, NY where I am a substitute teacher and adjunct college instructor, teaching freshman composition.

I’ve spent most of my professional life writing in one way or another, writing for a newspaper, writing press releases (and various miscellany) for a non-profit organization, and now teaching writing. I’ve been a “writer” for as long as I can remember, though. In grade school, I used to carry around a notebook and make up stories about my friends. I’ve had short stories published in Woman’s World, Journal of the Blue Planet, No Noun Sense, and of course here at Toasted Cheese. I’ve also had one nonfiction essay published in a collection called Inspiration for Greeks. I won NaNoWriMo for the first time last November. I’m currently thinking about revising my novel, and playing around with a nonfiction proposal. You can read my day-to-day musings and ramblings at erin-go-blog!



The Boots and the Broker were sharpening a spade—
Each working the grindstone in turn:
But the Beaver went on making lace, and displayed
No interest in the concern:
~Fit the Fourth: The Hunting

Lisa ‘Deoris’ Olson
Judge, Fall Three Cheers and a Tiger Writing Contest

A writer without a writing degree, I usually write short stories or stories with a fantasy element to them. I dabble in the much-mocked fan fiction genre and spend most of my online time at an Amazon writing and role-playing group called Themiscyra. In real life, I’m from Portland, Oregon where I live with my husband, our two full-grown sons, one anime-friendly girlfriend, our ten cats and two dogs and occasionally one gorgeous granddaughter. I’ve had a few humorous short stories published at the Journal of the Blue Planet and have won NaNoWriMo three times. When I’m not writing about swords and the women who wield them, I can be found reading and commenting at Maxim Tremendous or hosting the fall Three Cheers contest with Ana. You can follow my tweets at @deoris1 where I spend most of my days when nobody at work is watching.



The crew was complete: it included a Boots—
A maker of Bonnets and Hoods—
A Barrister, brought to arrange their disputes—
And a Broker, to value their goods.
~Fit the First: The Landing

Ana George
Editor, Toasted Cheese Literary Journal
Judge, Fall Three Cheers and a Tiger Writing Contest
Sunday Writing Chat Host
Calendar Editor

Ana George is a pseudonym who cohabits with a distinctly middle-aged scientist in the Boston ‘burbs. The fiction they write is published in her name; the science they write is not. This cozy relationship is, as you might imagine, the occasion for much oddity, some of which finds its way into the aforementioned fiction. Several Ana stories have been published by (thanks!). There are a few sonnets and a half-finished novel also waiting to have something done with them.

Besides writing and science, making vocal music (especially polyphony from the Spanish Renaissance) helps pass the time. As does fixing stuff around the house, playing with the computer, and, of course, reading, often with three books in progress at a time.

Ana loves getting email related to writing.


harpspeedShelley Carpenter
Reviews Editor, Toasted Cheese Literary Journal
Candle-Ends Forum Host

…Isn’t it odd how much fatter a book gets when you’ve read it several times?” Mo had said when, on Meggie’s last birthday, they were looking at all her dear old books again. “As if something were left between the pages every time you read it. Feelings, thoughts, sounds, smells… and then, when you look at the book again many years later, you find yourself there, too, a slightly younger self, slightly different, as if the book had preserved you like a pressed flower… both strange and familiar
—Cornelia Funke, Inkspell

Hello! I am one of those “late-bloomers” who came into writing at the advanced age of thirty-something. Then my mother corrected this untruth when she pulled out a few written keepsakes of mine from a forgotten drawer. Some of my old papers had a waxy sheen and yet were still quite legible, dated and endorsed by a much younger me: an animal flash fantasy story, reminiscent of The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse (still my very favorite picture book), some pretty awful poetry penned in parochial school, and a few colored pencil drawings from my time with Captain Bob Cottle, the TV artist.

Since then I have worked as a freelance writer and newspaper correspondent, a graphic designer and presently as a reading teacher, navigating children through the curious and fantastic parallel worlds of fiction and nonfiction. I have a B.L.A. in English and Art History and an M.Ed. I read and write fiction and non-fiction—novel, short story, flash, and essay, pulling out my pencils and paints in between.

I am delighted to be the Reviews Editor at Toasted Cheese and look forward to spending more time engaged in all of the above.


J.E. Noonan
Forum Host (Word of the Week)

I spend most of my “real” time working as a network administrator for a major controls manufacturing company. Born and bred in upstate New York, have lived there happily all my life. I read voraciously (history—Civil War, WWII; thrillers; horror; actually just about anything on the printed page), write when possible.

Married for 25+ years to my lovely wife Linda, stepfather to John and Bryan, recently a father-in-law to Cheryl and grandpa to Jordan and Carissa. In addition to reading, I enjoy computer strategy games, painting in oils, walking and eating (not necessarily in that order).

I tend to write “straight” stories with the injection of a single fantastic element, so I guess the result would be termed fantasy. Currently working on my first full-length novel, presently 35000+, COLUMBUS.

Thanks for reading, everyone!


Erica Ruedas
Forum Host

I have been living in my imagination for as long as I could remember, and somewhere along the way, I decided to start writing some of it down. I have been writing off and on for more than 10 years, and after 3 successful Nanos, I decided that writing is not just for November. In my day job, I fix software and databases, but at night I am a dancer, writer, and photographer. I like to write about belly dancing and curly-haired anti-heroines. I’ve never published anything, mostly due to laziness, but writing is just one of those things I can’t not do.

Retired Crew


BonnetsMollie Savage
Editor, Toasted Cheese Literary Journal
Calendar Editor

The maker of Bonnets ferociously planned
A novel arrangement of bows:
While the Billiard-marker with quivering hand
Was chalking the tip of his nose.
~Fit the Fourth: The Hunting

Creativity. It’s everywhere, and something I revere. Whether it’s the written word, a flower arrangement, a tasty meal or a homemade tool, I find joy in its creativity and its creator. One of the joys of an on-line community like Toasted Cheese is how we share and support our creativity. I’m delighted to host the non-fiction forum, because I both enjoy reading and writing non-fiction. Some of my work can be found in the print publications AB Bookman’s Weekly, Cyclops, and The Ozark Organic Grower. Some of the ways I celebrate my creativity are organic market gardening, whimsical yard art, whole foods cooking, historic museum work and, of course, writing.


fmwritesFaith Watson
Forum Host

Everyone can feel comfortable posting in my midst; there’s nothing to worry about when it comes to me. I have Zen freckles, and am happy to try to help everyone whose path crosses mine.

I have a primordial fear of things without eyelids, and/or with small bones. So, I humbly withdraw in advance from any critique involving vivid images of birds, fish, snakes, baby mice or tree frogs. Plus owl pellets, for related reasons.

I am usually barefoot but have a closet full of heels. And I’m not afraid to use them.


lindsayLindsay Vaughan
Forum Host

I was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, and I started writing at the age of six. Short stories and poetry are my forte, although I do have one (unpublished) novel under my belt. I am working on a second one now, a YA novel inspired by a 9th century Irish legend, featuring monks and poets and pirates, oh my!

Although I now reside in Takoma Park, Maryland (a peaceful haven of old hippies and artists on the outskirts of D.C.), I spent the years between 2001 and 2007 in Ireland and England. While there I was co-editor of Dreamvirus Magazine, a journal of poetry and fiction, and I worked as a Collections Assistant at the Natural History Museum in Dublin, cataloging their collection of dead birds. This position inspired a bird-themed book that I am working on with my partner, a musician, artist and writer who is far more prolific than I am.

As well as our passion for writing, we share a forbidden love for run-on sentences and a small apartment with our two cats, Dexter and Milo (aka President Taft). While I am pursuing my undergraduate degree in Psychology, with the hope of eventually working as a gerontological social worker, he stays up late trudging toward his MAT in Special Education. We will never have the time to accomplish everything we would like to, but then again, who does?


MacfistoSteve Simpson

Twenty-two years ago, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis yanked me away from the TV and showed me what the written word could do. A year later, I wrote a vampire story for seventh grade English class and the teacher told me, “Keep this up and you’ll write a novel someday.” I liked the sound of that, even if she was a crackpot prone to nicotine fits. I pursued journalism in high school and college until Someone gave me the idea of becoming a shrink. So I became a psychologist and even married another one. We while away our days speaking psychobabble and spoiling our dog in Sierra Madre, California, a nice little town in the only mountains around Los Angeles that haven’t burned to the ground. I have a private practice and teach Clinical Psychology, but the words of my crazy English teacher haunted me. So I wrote a novel. Now I spend my nights rewriting the thing and chewing holes in the carpet as stress relief from writing 10,000 drafts of a query letter. I like running, college basketball, rock and roll, and video games. But I love writing.


jaywalkeJ. Walke
Forum Host

J. Walke is a writer and actor who lives in the mountains of Virginia. This is hopefully the last stop on a tour that has covered twelve states over fifteen years. He writes travel stories, some serious literature that his characters insist on turning into sci-fi/fantasy, and clangs around in the various drama forms. In his spare time he backpacks on the Appalachian Trail, collects ghost stories and volunteers for the local search-and-rescue team.

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