Speed Dating

Writer and Editor Paul Lisicky speed dates for StoryQuarterly at Conversations and Connections Philadelphia.

Writer and Editor Paul Lisicky speed dates for StoryQuarterly at Conversations and Connections Philadelphia.

Conversations and Connections features a two-hour “Speed Dating with Editors” session, during which attendees will sit down with an editor for a 10 minute, one-on-one consultation on a very short story, a poem, or the first few pages of a story or an essay. Editors will not have read the piece in advance, so part of this time is reading and part is consultation and it all happens in one ten minute session. Your conference registration includes on ticket to Speed Dating, and additional tickets can be purchased on site at a cost of $5 per ticket. All the proceeds from speed dating — $5 per 10 minute session — go to the literary magazines and small presses participating in speed dating.

So first of all, bring some hardcopies of whatever it is you think you’d like to work with. You’ll be matched up with an appropriate editor for your genre, so poems will be read by poetry editors, essays by nonfiction editors, etc. You can NOT select the market you want to speed date with, however, so no matter how much you absolutely want/need to speed date with a particular lit mag, or editor, it just doesn’t work like that — it’s not logistically possible. We will have lots of different lit mags and presses available, and lots of different editors, so we think that whoever you’re matched up with, you’ll get good, honest, useful, (and immediate) feedback.

HERE’S A SUMMARY OF HOW SPEED DATING WORKS, TAKEN FROM AN EMAIL FROM EDITOR DAVE HOUSLEY TO 2014 CONFERENCE REGISTRANTS:

Timing: We’ve blocked out two hours for speed dating and lunch. We haven’t assigned times, so feel free to come whenever you like, but what we usually say is that if everybody comes over right at noon, don’t be surprised to find yourself in a line with 100 or so people.

Tickets: You get one ticket to Speed Dating with Editors with your conference registration, and more will be available at the registration desk for $5 on the day of the conference and throughout the speed dating session.

Here’s a quick summary of how speed dating works: you sit down with an editor for 10 minutes. They’ll read something (more on what works best is below) and provide immediate feedback. We’ll match you up with an editor who specializes in whatever you’re writing, so poets will meet with poetry editors, essayists with nonfiction editors, and fiction writers with fiction editors. What we CANNOT do is match you up with the editor or journal of your choice. That is a logistical impossibility.

There will be a line. And some yelling and writer-herding. We’ll allow enough people in the room so there’s somebody with each editor and we’ll have to cut it off after we have all our seats filled. Inside the room, each writer will hand the editor a speed dating ticket – this is important, because the editors are being paid $5 per date, and these tickets are the way we do our accounting, so please remember to hand them this ticket!

Then you’ll also hand off your work, whatever it is (see below) and then sit awkwardly while it’s being read. Then you’ll receive immediate feedback from the editor, you’ll talk, it will be awesome. You’ll start to think, wow this editor is really super attractive, and also I’ll probably win the [insert award here] for this story/poem/essay….

At the eight minute mark, I’ll shout something like “two minutes left” so the editors know they need to start wrapping up. At the nine minute mark, something clever like “one minute!” Then at the ten minute mark, we’ll wrap it up. If you’re lingering, I’ll come over and break you up and will try not to be a jerk about it. Then we’ll bring the next group in and do it all over again.

Over the past several years, we’ve managed to smooth out some of the rough edges from speed dating, but there’s a bit of chaos in its DNA. There are always a few people who really don’t like it, but always many more who find it very rewarding, so we hope you fall into the latter category, and we apologize in advance for the writer-herding and the yelling. It’s unavoidable.

What works best at speed dating: flash fiction, poems, very short essays, or the first few pages of a story or essay. These are the things that we know work for speed dating. If you have something else, that’s cool — let me know what you have and I’ll do my best to match you up with somebody who can provide good, honest feedback. If you are working with something other than what I’ve outlined above, though, just know that you may not get as much out of it as you would with a poem, flash piece, or the first few pages of an essay or story, and I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to match you up with somebody who can really speak to whatever it is that you have.