Switchback is a publication of the MFA in Writing Program at the University of San Francisco and appears both online and in ebook format. We are a biannual journal because that’s about all we can handle. We generally open submissions for four months at a time, then catch our breath for two. So check back in with us if you’re unsure of when we’re reading and when we’re resting.

Our next issue will be published promptly on May 1, 2014.
If you wish to be considered for our fall issue, please submit no later than March 31, 2014.

For our next issue, an Editor's Prize will be awarded in the amount of $200.00 to the submission we find the most inspiring, jarring, outstanding, or just downright brilliant. Additional prizes in the amounts of $75.00 and $50.00 will be awarded to the first two runners up. There is, amazingly, no fee to enter! Please read the guidelines below carefully before submitting. On behalf of everyone here at Switchback, thank you for considering us!

General Guidelines OR Things You’ll Want to Know about Us Quickly

1. We only consider previously unpublished works. No exceptions. Thank you.
2. We no longer accept submissions via email or postal service. You can submit your work to us through Submittable. If you run into any technical difficulties in uploading your submission, please contact us at submissions@swback.com.
3. We do accept simultaneous submissions, however, we ask that you notify us as soon as humanly possible if your work is accepted elsewhere. If you’re exclusively submitting work to us, we appreciate the thought.
4. So that we may judge your work anonymously, please ensure your name does not appear anywhere on the submission itself. You may tell us all about yourself, your many literary accomplishments, hobbies, interests, your family background, etc. in a cover letter.
5. If you’re submitting prose, please limit your submission to one story or essay at a time. And make sure your work clocks in at or under 7500 words. Only submit prose pieces of 7501 words if you are Cormac McCarthy, but chances are you're not.
6. If you’re submitting poetry, please submit to us no more than three poems. We like things in threes: Olympic medals, wishes, Cerberus, piano trios. We don’t like things in fours, excluding that last list of things in threes.
7. If you’re submitting art, please include the medium of your art piece in your cover letter, we like to know exactly what we’re looking at. Format all art submissions in .gif, .jpg, or .png with a resolution of 300 dpi or higher.
8. Before submitting, please read some of our back issues to familiarize yourself with the content we choose to publish. It's all readily available on our Web site (completely free and immediate), so there's really no reason not to.

Following these guidelines will help us take you and your work more seriously, but if you must break the rules, break them with caution and good reason (except for those first two, we’re sticklers about them).

Now a quick word from our respective genre editors, they’ve been waiting patiently.


If you are reading this then, chances are, you are considering submitting a story to our journal. For this, despite what anyone might say, you are a person of great virtue. Short stories are hard to write. You know this. You may even be in the process of writing one right now, taking a break to ponder where you might send it when it’s finished. You know that for a story to work, it must combine the weighty language of poetry with narrative elements like plot and character. Short stories are hard to write. They must turn their focus fully toward what English writer V.S. Pritchett described as “something glimpsed out of the corner of the eye, in passing,” and make readers consider that something worthy of their attention. Whatever the subject or genre of your work, whatever structure it follows or point of view it is told from, you know that your story must also connect with the reader on a visceral level. It must pose a question or conjure a laugh, it must surprise us, satisfy us, and then it must demand that we read it again. These are some of the things we look for in your work. Short stories are hard to write. You know this. You are a person of great virtue. We thank you for considering Switchback.

- Joe


What we want: essays, meditations, lists, letters, manuals, artful digressions. We want prose to be quiet and thoughtful, urgent and explosive. We want essays in the form of personal stories. We want essays to be more than just personal stories. We want prose to dissect and assemble. We value engaging subject matter, but we value being engaged by precise, intentional prose much, much more. 

What we don't want: the moralistic, the now-you-knows, the definitive. We want to feel your brain working. Your heart pounding. Make our brains work, our hearts pound. Don't solve anything for us. Just make us think, feel.

If you think you have an that essay fits the above guidelines, then go ahead, send it along. If it doesn't, feel free to send it anyway—we love to surprised.    

- Andrew


We are looking for inventive poetic connections. Send us poems that are fun, intelligent, and inspired by the world around you. We are big fans of pop culture and contemporary events enacted in poetry. Send us informed pieces that use form and structure as essential scaffolding of your poetry, whether that is in a form, prose, or using white space—we want well-crafted, thoughtful poems. We love complexity balanced with simple poetic moments. Switchback accepts pieces from well-read writers, attentive to the American poetry lineage. Just ask yourself, “Is my verse alive?” If the answer is yes, send your poems our way. But please, three at a time.

- Cassie


Oscar Wilde said, "no great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist." If the artist produces something that shifts the perception of seeing something as it really is, then this has the ability to shift the viewer’s perspective, too. Subjectivity is unavoidable. One observer's interpretation of Dalí, or Picasso, or Klimt may be entirely different from another’s. Art can't always be defined by a single emotion. Art should always give cause to reaction. Think of Monet and Lichtenstein: two artists of complete juxtaposition. Perhaps. But why do both of their works hang in galleries? Because it causes a reaction. The artist has captured something permanent, shocking, and beautiful in their art.

If no artist sees things in the same light as they are, then what do they see? They see something beyond the simple reality of what exists in our world, and capture it. They see something exciting in challenging ideals, questioning the definition of what is beautiful. They ask questions that give rise to greater questions in their work.

An artist sees something extraordinary in the ordinary. They don't believe that an expensive camera equals a great photograph. In fact, let's just establish that perfection is a definition to be ignored. Art isn't flawless. Some of the most beautiful photography has captured just a brief moment of something spectacular in the everyday. Explore. Play with mediums. Make mistakes. Take risks. Challenge your peripheral.

- Charlie


Switchback regularly publishes reviews of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry on our Web site. As a rule, we generally prefer to read reviews of lesser known works, of books you’re less likely to come across in the New York Times Book Review or Publishers Weekly, but we’re open to all good writing. Reviews should fall somewhere between 500 and 2000 words. Please state in your cover letter what genre your review falls under, so we may pass it along to the correct genre editor. Publicists interested in sending us catalogue listings or review galleys of forthcoming titles should send a query to editor@swback.com.

Switchback at Submittable Once again, Switchback no longer accepts email or hard copy submissions. SUBMIT TO SWITCHBACK USING SUBMITTABLE. If you experience any technical difficulties uploading your submission, please contact us at: submissions@swback.com.

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