Rhonda Schlumpberger: Behind Space & Time

Tell us about yourself. Are you a writer, reader or a hybrid? Tell us about what you like to read and write?

I read Space and Time, and I also write speculative fiction (at least, I try).

How did you come to be a first reader at Space and Time?

I had finished my MA and shared with my long-time critique partner, Suz J, that I wanted to start reading again. She’s a fantastic “connector” and saw Gerard’s advertisement on Twitter last spring about needing readers. I answered the call and was accepted.

What were some of your favorite experiences?

Gerard and Angela are my favorite experiences. They treat readers in a first-class way—XOXO!

Here’s a funny story. Often, I only skim an author’s profile. While reading for issue #138, I read a story titled “The Dead Don’t Dream” by a guy named “Gordon,” and I fell in love with the story. I sent it forward and moved on. Imagine my surprise when the story was published, and I discovered “Gordon” is Gordon Linzner, the founder and former editor of Space and Time. It goes to show you a great story really does speak for itself.

As a First Reader you read a lot of stories and are the gateway to getting published in the magazine. What is your advice to people submitting work? What are your best tips to getting bumped up?

A great tip is to submit a manuscript in the traditional format of Wiliam Shunn, but first, ask a critique partner to examine the manuscript several times. Critiquers will usually catch issues with style, syntax, and diction, and they’ll make suggestions about structure, character, pacing, tense shifts, and narrative voice. Critiquers are an invaluable source of feedback and will help make a manuscript its best.

My next tip concerns story structure, including the prominent role of set-up, and in short fiction, set-up is usually best when it is illuminated in the opening paragraphs. Often, however, the critical pieces of a character’s goal, motivations, conflicts, and what is at stake are withheld until too late in a story, which can affect a reader’s emotional connection to a character. I won’t send those submissions forward for further consideration.

Conversely, a story that hooks my imagination from the start and has excellent set-up, style, and voice will get my attention. The story that entertains and makes me feel emotional, has tight structure, character development, language, and delivers a powerful ending is a story I’ll send forward.

Who inspires you? Favorite authors, artists, movies.

Many authors inspire me, including classic writers such as Heinlein, Bradbury, and Le Guin, and more recently, I can’t get enough of Pierce Brown, James, S. A. Corey, and Emily St. John Mandel. BTW, I also love Patrick O’Brian. I’m a fan of TV and watch far too many series, but I’ve learned how to write killer dialog as a result. *grins*

What are you working on now? Anything coming up?

I’m writing a co-authored story, a novella about silenced voices, and I’ve always got flash fiction crackling in my fingertips. “Exposed” is forthcoming to Pulp Modern Flash, and “Foremost Discovery” is forthcoming to the anthology Like Sunshine After Rain, which will be published by Raw Dog Screaming Press. I’m a priority editor at Flash Fiction Magazine, so I’m immersed in flash fiction (daily), which I adore.

Tell us everywhere we can find you and your work.

I publish under a pen name, and my stories appear online with Pulp Modern Flash, Last Exit, Bewildering Stories, Silver Blade Magazine, FornaxFlash Fiction Magazine, and online and in print at Amazon in anthologies such as Sunshine Superhighway with JayHenge Publishing, and When the World Stopped with Owl Hollow Press, and Love Across the Universe with Stars and Stones Books. I’m on Twitter @rhondaschlumpb1