The Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast will be open for submissions in January 2024 for short stories in the lesbian historic fiction genre, to be produced in audio format for the podcast, as well as published in text on the website.
I strongly advise authors to review these guidelines thoroughly before submitting. If your submission doesn't meet the requirements, you will have wasted both of our time.
- We will accept short fiction of any length up to 5000 words, which is a hard limit. We will be publishing four stories. (If we get some really great flash fiction, there’s the possibility of doubling up if the total meets the word count limit.)
- We will be paying professional rates: $0.08/word.
- The contract will be for first publication rights in audio and print (i.e., the story must not have appeared in either format previously) with an exclusive one year license. (Exceptions can be arranged by mutual consent for “best of” collections within that term.)
- Instructions on how to submit are given below. NO SUBMISSIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED OUTSIDE THE SUBMISSION PERIOD OF JANUARY 2024.
- Do not send us stories generated in part or in whole using Large Language Models such as ChatGPT, etc.
What We’re Looking For
- Stories must be set in an actual historic culture--i.e., a specific time and place in history--and the plot and characters should be firmly rooted in that time and place. (No time-travel or past memories, please.)
- Stories may include fantastic elements that are appropriate to the historic setting. For example, they can include fantastic or supernatural events or beings that people of that era considered to be real. Or stories may be modeled on the fantastic literature of a specific historic era and culture. The limits to this will necessarily be subjective.
- Stories must be set before 1900. We love to see stories that reach beyond the popular settings of 19th century America and England unless you do something new and interesting in them. I try to balance a diversity of settings and if you aren't competing with the rest of the 33% of stories with 19th c Anglophone settings, you have an advantage. [Also: see sensitivity note below.]
- Romance is optional, and romance stories should have some other significant plot element in addition to the romance. A developing romance tends to take up a lot of plot space and we've all read a lot of "girl meets girl but they're the only two lesbians in the world." There are great stories that could be done with existing couples, friendly exes, or networks of like-minded women, just for a change.
- We are not looking for erotica. Sex may be implied but not described. (It’s difficult to include both erotic content and a substantial non-romantic plot in short fiction. I’d rather that stories focus on the plot and characters.)
- Stories should feature lesbian-relevant themes. What do I mean by that, especially given the emphasis the LHMP puts on how people in history understood sexuality differently than we do? This is where we get into “I know it when I see it” territory. The story should feature protagonist(s) who identify as women, whose primary emotional orientation within the scope of the story is toward other women. This is not meant to exclude characters who might identify today as bisexual or who have had relationships with men outside the scope of the story. But the story should focus on same-sex relations. Stories that involve cross-gender motifs (e.g., "passing women," "female husbands") should respect trans possibilities [see sensitivity note below].
- Stories need not be all rainbows and unicorns, but should not be tragic. Angst and peril are ok as long as they don’t end in tragedy.
- Authors of all genders and orientations are welcome to submit. Marginalized authors are strongly encouraged to submit, regardless of whether you are writing about your own cultural background.
- If you want a somewhat less formal discussion of what sorts of stories really catch my eye, I wrote a blog about that.
Please feel free to publicize this call for submissions.
- Do not send submissions before January 1, 2024 or after January 31, 2024. Submissions sent outside this window will not be considered (with allowance for time zones). Seriously. I had someone (twice!) send me submissions in mid-summer. I remember these things and you won't do yourself any favors.
- And evidently I need to point out that you should not re-submit a story that has previously been rejected, unless you have prior approval to do so. "Prior approval" could mean "when I rejected it previously, I said that I'd love to consider it again if you addressed X, Y, and Z." It can also mean, "Before you send it to me, you email me explaining when it was submitted previously and asking if I'd like to see it again." It especially helps if you've worked to make it even better than it was before, because the overall quality of the submissions goes up every year and you'll have stiff competition.
- Simultaneous submission (i.e., having the story out under consideration at more than one market) is ok, but explain that in your cover letter. My turn-around time for acceptances is short enough that it's unlikely to be a problem for me.
- Send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Submit your story as an rtf or doc(x) file attached to your email
- The file name should be “[last name] - [story title, truncated if long]”
- The subject line of your email should be “LHMP Submissions - [last name] - [story title]”
- There is no need to provide a synopsis or biographical information in the cover letter.
- By submitting your story, you are verifying that the material is your own original work and that it has not been previously published in any form in a publicly accessible context.
- Submissions will be acknowledged within 2 days of receipt. If you haven’t received an acknowledgment within 5 days, please query.
- Based on previous years, I will generally have the submissions read and responded to within the first week of February. If you haven't received a response by mid-February, please query as the email may have gone astray.
Use your favorite standard manuscript format for short fiction with the following additions:
- In addition to word count, please provide the date/era of your setting and the location/culture it is set in. (These can be in general terms, but it helps for putting the story in context, especially if it uses a very tight point of view where the time/place are not specifically mentioned in the story.) If you are including fantasy elements and think I might not be familiar with the historic background for those elements, a very brief note in the cover e-mail is ok.
If you don’t have a favorite manuscript format, here is a good basic format:
- Use courier or a similar monospaced serif font, 12-point size
- Lines should be double-spaced with paragraphs indented. (Use your word processor’s formatting for this, do not use tabs or manual carriage returns.)
- Do not justify the text, leave a ragged right margin.
- Margins should be at least 1-inch or equivalent all around
- On the first page, provide the following information:
- Your name (legal name, the name I’ll be putting on the contract)
- email address
- (standard formats generally require a mailing address but I don’t need one at this point)
- word count (please use your word processor’s word count function, rounded to the nearest 100)
- date/era of story
- location/culture of story
- Centered above the start of the story, include the title, and on the next line “by [name to appear in publication]”. This is where you may use a pen name, if you choose.
- Please use actual italics rather than underlining for material meant to appear in italics.
- Please indicate the end of your story with the word “end” centered below the final line.
As I will be reading stories electronically, there is no need to include page numbers or a header on each page. (If this is part of your standard format, you don’t need to remove them.)
Notes on Sensitivity
I strongly welcome settings that fall outside the "white English-speaking default". But stories should avoid exoticizing the cultural setting or relying on sterotypes or colonial cultural dynamics. What does that mean? A good guideline is to ask, "If someone whose roots are in this culture read the story, would they feel represented or objectified?"
What do I mean by "stories that involve cross-gender motifs should respect trans possibilities"? I mean that if the story includes an assigned-female character who is presenting publicly as male, I should have confidence that you, as the author, have thought about the complexities of gender and sexuality (both in history and for the expected audience). It should be implied that the character would identify as a woman if she had access to modern gender theory, and the way the character is treated should not erase the possibility of other people in the same setting identifying as trans men if they had access to modern gender theory. This is a bit of a long-winded explanation, but I simultaneously want to welcome stories that include cross-gender motifs and avoid stories that could make some of the potential audience feel erased or mislabeled.
A note on transfeminine characters: I am completely open to the inclusion of stories with transfeminine characters who identify as women-loving-women. This is a complicated topic for historic stories, though, as this is not a motif with much known historic grounding before the later 20th/21st century. (In all my research, I've found only one possible, fictional example that was not presented as gender deception for ulterior purposes, and no non-fictional examples of any type that don't involve intersex persons.) If you're submitting this type of story, you may have to work harder than usual on making it work in the historic context.