So I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but there’s this short story magazine out there called Glimmer Train. It’s good, you should subscribe to it. When you look for it online, a lot of people are bemoaning how hard it is to get a story accepted by them. But what there isn’t a lot of out there are descriptions of the stories themselves: how good they are, where they falter, what their inclusion in this magazine says about them as a whole. Glimmer Train is favorable to new writers, holding writing competitions for people who have never been published before. And if I’m going to get into this magazine, I had to see what they like. 

I began reviewing Glimmer Train stories in order to find out what content they like to see in their submissions. I’ve only covered one issue in detail, and have plenty more issues to read before I stop. But even so, I think I can put together a decent guide on what topics and techniques you should cover if you want a better chance of getting into this magazine. For completion’s sake, I put down below a link farm of all the stories in the Fall 2014 issue, so you can get my thoughts on what works for individual stories. They're listed in order of where they appear in the magazine, and ranked by the number next to them from best to worst.

Stowaways (#7)

The X-250 (#9)

Walang Hiya, Brother (#6)

The Hate (#1)

Speak to Me (#10)

Miss Me Forever (#2)

What We Saw (#3)

Hialeah (#4)

Maghreb and the Sea (#8)

Here for Life (#11)

The Orange Parka (#5)

Without further ado, here’s the beginner’s guide of what you aspiring writers should try if you want to get accepted into Glimmer Train:

  • Talk about a non-American culture, or at least a non-mainstream one. A Middle Eastern or an Asian culture’s a plus. The more obscure from an American perspective, the better. If a story’s set in America, than it damn well better be from the perspective of an immigrant.

  • Master your metaphors. This is where the richness of Glimmer Train stories lays. It’s also the part of my writing I’ll have to work the hardest at if I want to make it here.

  • Focus on character beats and quiet moments instead of plot. I don’t recommend this for all writing, but it’s perfectly acceptable for the plot to move on while the protagonist just lets it go on. Better ye, have the impotence of the protagonist in regards to influencing the story’s direction connect to your central theme.

  • Isolated and lonely characters are great. You’ll have to have them talk to someone, of course, but even then your protagonist should be apart from the world around them in some way.

  • Bring rich descriptions to the table. Even in minimalist stories, paint a vivid picture.

  • If you must bring in the fantastical, stick to ghosts. It’s the only thing outside of normal life that I’ve seen Glimmer Train allow in their fiction. And who doesn’t love a good ghost story?

  • Do a non-linear narrative if you can. It’s hard to do, and not required, but accomplishing that will score you extra points.

I hope this guide helps you get accepted into Glimmer Train! I’ll be adding more to it with each issue I complete. Be sure to notify me if the magazine accepts you after using these tips.