Essay: Our Highly Reasonable Guidelines for the Speckled Unicorn Quarterly

Our Highly Reasonable Guidelines for the Speckled Unicorn Quarterly

  1. At SUQ we look for only the highest quality prose from writers world-wide.  It is true that at least some of the editors are sophomores at the (online) South-Eastern Junior College of North-Western Northern Virginia, but the extraordinary number of submissions we receive each issue and the third place award we won in 2001 for best Northwestern Virginia online Junior College Quarterly Magazine allow us to be as finicky as the scores of adopted cats we keep in the office to assist us with the heavy reading.  We at SUQ aspire to embrace a world rife with high quality short fiction, equal or better to Neil Gaiman’s.  Confession:  we have a thing for NG.  Also, unicorns.  Also Neil Gaimon riding unicorns.
  2. Submissions are open during the entire month of June, minus the first and last weeks, but all submissions must be received on the third Friday between noon and four thirty p.m. Any deviation from this plan will receive many frowny faces.  Also, possible instantaneous deletion.
  3. We do receive submissions in July, also on the third Friday, but there is a $35 convenience fee—payable via Paypal or via drone-delivered cases of artisanal kimchi at exactly forty degrees. Neither, we realize, are particularly convenient.  However, it is more convenient than using the post office, no?  Those people blow.  Any technical problems are likely your fault, but if you doubt this please contact our IT department at
  4. We like the Oxford comma. Use it.  Awesome sauce!
  5. One space after a period. Failure to use one space after a period will result in a one year ban from submitting to SUQ.
  6. All short stories must entail rich character development, a full story arc, an epiphany, rich secondary characters, some murky reference to Norse mythology, vivid and exotic setting and expressive prose that reads like poetry but isn’t all weird and caesura-y format-wise. We also, per line item #1, like literate unicorns.
  7. Maximum length is 250 words. This includes the title.  Any stories that exceed 250 words will be automatically deleted, set on fire and the ashes will be blasted into space at your expense.  You will also receive an invoice for the approximate value of our time that you inconsiderately wasted in your inability to follow stated directions.
  8. Please include a high quality JPEG headshot from the shoulders up. Only 350-400 ds will be accepted and failure to provide a high quality JPEG will result in the immediate demolition of your submission and subsequent social media shaming.  We also might print off your low quality head shot and use it as an urination shield on the right side of our vintage pull-chain raised panel cherry toilet.
  9. No “oddball fonts.” Anything other than 12-point Ar Delaney with a one inch margin is an “oddball font.”  Failure to follow font guidelines will equal, well, very very bad things.  Things that will make you feel oogy and apt to nest in a fetal position.
  10. The title of your submitted masterpiece must rhyme with ice cream. Or at least some particular kind of ice cream.  g., “Blocky Bload” would be acceptable.  “Blue and Glue” would not be acceptable unless you can prove there is a kind of ice cream called “Flu and You.”
  11. No co-authors, co-conspirators or collaborative works.   Works by you, for us.  We don’t like too many chefs in the stew.  Usually this is a recipe for a Norovirus, aesthetically speaking.
  12. Your name, title, social, e-mail, phone digits, birthday, sign, mother’s maiden name and that of all living and deceased pets and favorite 80’s hair band should appear in the upper right hand corner of each page.
  13. Please include a bio written in the second person. The bio must (we repeat must) be less than 50 words—who do you think you are?—and should be written with poetic flair, sans caesura.
  14. Links to website, Facebook page, Facebook author page, Twitter handle, Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin, Snapchat,, Bebo, Cloob, Netlog, Elftown, Fetlife, and Plurk are all required and failure to produce these with your submission will result in immediate demolition of your submission and subsequent required hazing rituals (featuring lemon Jell-O, Lionel Richie and a basket of tacks) will follow.
  15. Submissions only accepted via G-mail accounts. In the subject line you must include the “safe word” listed below (weeding out all bots!) plus your name, genre, title, hometown, phone number and name of at least one of our cats (see pic of staff with labeled cats below).  Any submissions not including the requirements will be considered spam and sent to a watery grave.
  16. The word “epoxy” must appear in your story. However, your story cannot be entitled “Epoxy.”  That’s a cop-out.  “Epoxy” cannot be a character or pet mongoose, etc.  But it must appear.  Be creative.
  17. We will not not read any paper submissions. IDK, evah.  Submissions sent via snail mail are used to line the litter box village in the corridor, yo.
  18. We are open to any genre of fiction. However, if your story leans toward mystery, literary fiction, magical realism, fabulism, realism, metafiction, historical fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, romance, steam punk or flash fiction it may be automatically used as paint ball target practice and you will be shamed on various social media sites in seven plus languages.  We realize that these restrictions might conflict with our Neil Gaiman fetish, but he’s Neil Gaiman so he can get away with it (you can’t).  Learn the basics first, dude.  Your stuff is like finger painting to NG’s Sistine Chapeling.
  19. We hope to respond to all submissions in a timely fashion. If you don’t hear back from us in eighteen months please feel free to e-mail us a “friendly reminder.”  Or it can be less than friendly, but please enclose the confirmation number and safe word with your “friendly reminder” and we will respond in at least eight to ten months after receiving your missive.  We have day jobs, too.
  20. Absolutely no simultaneous submissions.
  21. Happy submitting! Your chances of acceptance are at least .0001%.  Be strong, stay positive and never give up!

Nathan Leslie’s nine books of fiction include Root and Shoot, Sibs, and Drivers.  He is also the author of The Tall Tale of Tommy Twice, a novel, and Night Sweat, a poetry collection.  His work has appeared in hundreds of literary magazines including BoulevardShenandoahNorth American Review, and Cimarron Review. Nathan was series editor for The Best of the Web anthology 2008 and 2009 (Dzanc Books) and edited fiction for Pedestal Magazine for many years.  He is currently interviews editor at Prick of the Spindle and writes a monthly music column for Atticus Review.  His work appears in Best Small Fictions 2016.  Check him out on Twitter and Facebook as well as at

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