Slush Cookies (not really): Book Bites with Lesley Conner of Apex Magazine

A long time ago, I was a slush reader for Apex Magazine. (Don’t know what slush is? Read on, brave friends!) The experience taught me a lot about writing, submitting, and how much I could read before I needed more coffee. When I teach workshops now, I highly recommend a turn reading slush at a favorite magazine if a writer has the time and inclination.

Today, while Apex Magazine’s subscription drive is on, Lesley Conner, Managing Editor of Apex Magazine joins Book Bites to talk about slush, and cookies…. luckily they are not actually slush cookies. Welcome, Lesley!


A big part of my job as managing editor of Apex Magazine is managing the slush pile, so I thought today we’d talk about that. For some reason a lot of writers seem to look at the slush pile like it’s this big amorphous entity that swallows their story and spits back a rejection weeks or months later. Let’s pull back the curtain and take a look at what really happens.

Apex Magazine receives an average of 800 to 1,200 short story submissions a month. We publish between two and four stories in each monthly issue. How we get from 800-1,200 down to 2-4 is quite a process. We currently have around 30 slush readers – I know, I know, that’s a lot, but we get a lot of submissions! – and they are our first line. The slush readers go in and read all the submissions that are sent to us. The good, the bad, and the ugly. As they read stories, they vote to either “recommend” or “not recommend” each one. Based on these votes, I send the author either a rejection letter or a notice that we’d like to hold the story for further consideration. After that, I read all of the stories that were recommended by the slush readers and weed out any I feel aren’t a good fit for Apex Magazine. The stories that are left get sent up to our editor-in-chief Jason Sizemore, who makes the final decision of which stories to accept. I’m certain that this isn’t the process that every magazine uses, but it works for us.

And I’m very happy that it does. Reading slush is one of my favorite tasks with Apex Magazine. It’s right up there with finding cover art. They’re both hunts for treasures. As an editor, I want every story to be the story that leaves me breathless. I want every author to give me chills and send me rushing to send Jason a text, clamoring for him to read the story and accept it now! So when I settle in to read slush, I do so tingling with excitement, ready for a long day of reading stories that are good, but aren’t spectacular and anticipating the one that is. Such reading sessions are fueled by coffee, and a good cup of coffee deserves a great cookie. It just so happens I have a recipe that fits that bill.

Lesley Conner’s Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip, Zucchini, Banana Cookies (or Everything but the Kitchen Sink Cookies)

Note: The base for these cookies is the oatmeal raisin cookie recipe found under the lid of the oatmeal container, but because I can leave no recipe unchanged, and because chocolate chips are far superior to raisins, I give you this.


  • ½ lb butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 or 2 ripe bananas, mashed (If you don’t have bananas, never fear. The cookies are tasty without them.)
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (plus extra)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups oatmeal I prefer the old fashion variety (plus extra)
  • 1 ½ cups chocolate chips


  1. Heat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until creamy. Add eggs, vanilla, shredded zucchini, and mashed bananas. Mix well.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together 1 ½ cups of flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Pour your wet ingredients into the dry and combine. Add 3 cups of oatmeal and the chocolate chips.
  4. Here’s where things get interesting. Because we added zucchini and banana to the original recipe, at this time you have a VERY wet concoction. This is no good for making cookies. They will end up flat, burnt, crispy yuckiness and that is not good slush reading fuel! So what you need to is alternately add additional flour and oatmeal until you come up with a lovely cookie dough that will hold its shape. If you’ve made homemade cookies in the past, then you’ll know when you have the right consistency.
  5. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake them for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.
  6. This recipe makes a TON of cookies, but luckily they freeze really well (and they taste delicious if eaten straight from the freezer). Plus, they include a vegetable, a fruit, and lots of whole grains, so I think we can call them a health food!

imag0412_1Lesley Conner is a writer/editor, managing editor of Apex Publications and Apex Magazine, and a Girl Scout leader. When she isn’t handling her editorial or Girl Scout leader responsibilities, she’s researching fascinating historical figures, rare demons, and new ways to dispose of bodies, interweaving the three into strange horrifying tales. Her short fiction can be found in Mountain Dead, Dark Tales of Terror, A Hacked-Up Holiday Massacre, as well as other places. Her first novel The Weight of Chains was published by Sinister Grin Press in September, 2015. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters, and is currently working on a new novel. To find out all her secrets, you can follow her on Twitter at @LesleyConner.

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