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Nonfiction editor, Zachary Benavidez, blogs about the value of short films and online publications.

The DC Shorts Film Festival and Screenplay Competition began Thursday and runs through September 16 at various theatres around town. The festival includes screenings, followed by Q&A sessions with filmmakers as well re-screenings in case you missed the first round or just want to see a film again. On Friday, September 14, you can watch actors perform a table reading of six screenplays, an event that should be exciting for the screenwriters among our readership.

Of course, there will be parties and receptions with food and drink, too, but Jon Dann, one of the festival organizers, promises the festival’s focus will be on the films and the filmmakers not the parties (a focus he has noticed at other film festivals).

In the August 31 issue of the Washington Blade, Dann explained why he wanted to focus on 20-minute shorts films instead of longer works: “there’s a hunger for really short content. If the internet is any indication, people like to see a story in a few minutes.”

Dann’s comments can be true of online short stories as well. Consider the success of Every Day Fiction, Smokelong Quarterly, and Flash Fiction Online. The Potomac Review, although best known for our beautiful print issues, also has an online component known as “Hot Openers“.

It has become very clear that the internet is not going away anytime soon. So much of what we do is done online: we check out submission guidelines, read how-to-get-published blogs (see Mike Landweber’s recent post “Getting to Publication” and Robert Giron’s post “Poetry and the Potomac Review”), and many of us submit our work via the web. The internet is where many of us spend a lot of our time, but there is still some resistance to and apprehension about online publication, yet there are so many cool benefits.

Online publication makes it easier to share published stories or poems via email and social media, thereby gaining a wider (and possibly an international) audience. Still, when I served as the editor-in-chief and offered writers online publication at Hot Openers, some writers weren’t sure about the idea, and others pulled their submissions in hopes of finding a home in a print publication elsewhere. I understand the prestige that publication in print can carry: who doesn’t want to look at their bookshelves to find an issue that holds their piece? It’s also useful to remember that not many people have journal subscriptions, but a great many do have access to the web (if via the public library).

At the Potomac Review, we have been talking very seriously about going paperless – paperless online submissions, not paperless issues. (Our print journal has strong institutional support, for which we are very grateful.) Online submissions would mean immediate and free submissions (no stamps), quicker turn-around time between first-readers and genre editors and then between genre editors and the editor-in-chief. It would also mean faster response time to writers (acceptance or rejection), and who doesn’t like that idea? Lots of pluses!

Given the online publication pluses, I’ll amend film festival organizer Jon Dann’s quote about the hunger for short content. People may like to see a story in a few minutes, but they also may want to read a story in a few minutes, too, and the internet certainly makes that possible. As the internet becomes more and more the way we communicate, we must all think about new and creative uses of the medium. So if the Potomac Review offers you online publication, give it some consideration. Your niece studying abroad would be glad to read and share your latest work!

PS: Watch out for more news on whether or not the Potomac Review will move toward paper-less submissions at this blog and at our website. Also FYI, for a fee, some of the films screened at the DC Shorts Film Festival will be made available online.

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