Will Allison, who has just published a book, and used to be a fiction editor at STORY in the 1990s has an interesting piece at MaudeNewton on his days as an editor at the magazine and working with Laurie Henry and Lois Rosenthal. He has this to say about reading a slush pile:
I did have some trouble getting up to speed, though. Having only recently left the world of MFA creative-writing workshops, I was used to dutifully, painstakingly giving each and every manuscript its full due. Lois didn’t play that. If a story failed to hook her by the first page or two, she was on to the next. I was struck by her ability (and Laurie’s) to plow through a bin of manuscripts in a couple of hours, emerging with only a handful of stories requiring closer attention. It wasn’t just that she read with great confidence — in her taste, in her ability to recognize quality — but also with great impatience. How dare an unworthy story waste her time!
In 1991, I won 7th prize in their first college fiction competition. I was a college freshman. Many of the people who placed where in MFA programs. I thought that was it. I had it made. I kept sending stories and STORY, including Will Allison kept writing rejection slips. I have a little stack of notes. Eight years later, still not in. I never got into the magazine. In fact, they stopped the contest several years later because of a lack of wonderful material. STORY closed in 1999, and Will Allison talks about why it closed in his piece.