When Deborah Insel put the finishing touches on a short story about a piano teacher and a student, she thought it might well go the way her other manuscripts had in the past 10 years. Into the rejection basket.
Then, one March day, the former English teacher from Bethesda got a phone call that would let her add a new line to her resume. She would be published in the Antietam Review, a small regional publication that is quickly becoming known to writers who are looking for literary distinction as well as commercial success.
"Elation," Insel said about her reaction to that phone call. "After years of working -- and no one reads anything you write -- suddenly you find out what you wrote means something to somebody."
The Antietam Review, in its third year of publication, is striving to publish many such somethings for its readership of 1,000. Once a publication that catered to writers from Washington County, the review now is publishing short stories, poetry, drawings and photographs from artists in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.
"We needed a broader base," said Ellyn Bache, editor-in-chief for the 1985 issue now being distributed by the Washington County Arts Council in Hagerstown. "You don't find that many people in Washington County who are producing the quality of work that we wanted. And one priority of the magazine is that it had to produce things we could be proud of."
The review, which is published once a year, began in 1982 as a collection of short stories. Today, it is a 44-page magazine that was recently described by Writer's Digest as one of the best writers' markets in the country.
That is a description that Bache says should offer hope to both beginning authors and to the experienced, published writers the review is looking for.
"It's horrible before you get your first story published," said Bache, who has been the editor for the past two years. "Nobody talks to you and it's difficult for people to take you seriously . . . Our purpose is to make these people's work -- which we think is good -- available to the public. And we also hope to give the writers some exposure to magazine editors and other editors who are looking for new writers."
Insel's story, "The Duet," was based on memories of piano lessons she took while growing up in Takoma Park -- plus a few imagined twists that deepened the relationship between the teacher and student.
Bache, who accepted Insel's story with a few changes, said the review is looking for stories that might not be commercial successes but do show the author has promise and emotional creativity.
"People read the title of the Antietam review and think we want articles about the Civil War -- like what life was like for my great-grandmother during the those years. That really isn't what we want at all," Bache said.
"We're looking for high quality literary fiction under 5,000 words."
For Insel, a 35-year-old mother of two, her first published work "seems to have made it easier to get published." The evidence? She's awaiting publication of a short story -- a tale about the relationship between a father and son -- in Family Circle magazine soon.
Anyone interested in receiving a copy of the Antietam Review can send a $2.50 check to Antietam Review, 33 W. Washington St., Room 215, Hagerstown, Md., 21740. Persons who want to submit manuscripts should do so before Oct. 1.