A View from Both Sides

I’m peaved at a couple of literary magazines right now. Back in March I submitted a poem to several different publications. I’ve heard back from all but two. These two really piss me off, because their websites give the impression they are functioning entities when I suspect they have, in fact, suspended publication. I suppose I could write and ask them if this is the case, but why would they respond to my question if they can’t be bothered to kindly reject my submission?

I’m a relative newbie to the whole literary magazine racket, so I guess I’ll chalk this up to learning experience. But it sucks, doesn’t it? It takes a long time to research these journals to find the ones that might be most receptive to my work. Now I realize some of that time has just been pissed away. How hard would it be to update a website? It’s unscrupulous to continue to accept submissions knowing you’ll never use any of them.

Despite my frustration, I press on. I keep researching. I keep submitting. I want to get my work in front of readers. I’m trying to build my reputation as a writer. Along the way, I’ve discovered some journals I really love. Memoir (and) and Contrary immediately come to mind. For every dud, there are a handful of brilliant and respectful publications that make it all worthwhile.

Recently I was asked to join the editing team of a brand new literary journal (more on that in a future post). Being on the other side of the equation is a trip. We’re all still getting comfortable with the whole process of soliciting submissions and selecting work to include in our first issue. We get lovely pieces we can’t use because they don’t suit our magazine’s theme, and we get suitable pieces that require heavy editing. Both cases are a challenge.

Our personal tastes and biases are unavoidably injected into this process. It’s good for writers to realize this. I submitted to a literary magazine for the first time close to two years ago. My piece was rejected and I slunk away planning to never submit again. That was dumb. It’s always good to take a critical look at a piece that’s been rejected because you may find it needs tweaking. But if you still feel strongly about the piece when your editing is done, send that sucker back out. Success in the game is finding an editor with your taste, one who will love your piece as much as you do.

As a writer, I need to develop a thick skin and an unfaltering belief in the value of my work. As an editor, I strive to be honest yet compassionate. I want our new journal to be one of the good guys, a stimulating publication where writers want to place their work and where they feel valued even when a piece is rejected. And I promise, our website will always be up to date.

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