Fall is my favorite season, beautiful trees and lovely long walks; the academic year is beginning with all its hopes and possibilities. For the past four years, Fall has also become the opening of the submission period or reading period for The Potomac Review.

Next Tuesday, I throw the switch and the online submission manager comes alive again. I both shudder and thrill to it. Why—a couple of clicks from all those eager writers and poets and my editors and I could be inundated. So here is my request and my advice – think about The Potomac Review before you click. Take a look at our website, lay your hands on a recent copy. Believe me –it has changed from 2005.

The next step if you want your work to rise out of the ranks of the electronic or paper slush is to craft your opening paragraph very very carefully. Give us a problem happening to a lifelike character right away. Hint at setting –no paragraphs of exposition or description. Ideally, your opening paragraph will be rewritten after the story’s ending is solid; think of it this way – does the opening take on new meaning, more layers when the story is finished? Does the ending ‘shed light all the way back to the beginning of the story?” (Thank you to my writing professors for that gem).

If my editors and I are hooked by the first line, first paragraph, first page, we will keep reading, so work on those elements. I’m waiting for stories to thrill, challenge, or amuse me. Send them along.