Claire King


The Other Side of the Fence

Posted on: March 2nd, 2011 by Claire - 11 Comments

I find myself sitting on the other side of the fence. Rather than writing and submitting my own fiction, today I’m reading short story submissions for The View From Here literary magazine, where I am now Fiction Editor.

This is a recent development, and making the shift of perspective has not been easy. I now have an inbox full of submissions and more coming in each day. I need to read each story carefully, and then choose around three per month to be published in the magazine.

The first week I read slowly. Wanting to be certain of my decisions, I agonised over each piece and often went back to re-read them, to see if this time I’d ‘get’ them more than on the first reading. Meanwhile the backlog of submissions continued mounting up. Needing a confidence booster I went back and re-read this blog post from Tania Hershman, who single-handedly read and judged 849 stories in two months. Tania’s concluding advice to writers is “Write what you want to write, and don’t be disheartened (if your story doesn’t make it) – send it out again”

Just keep swimming.

There’s the thing. Having a story rejected from a literary journal or a competition is not like getting a bad mark at school. Rejection doesn’t necessarily mean your work isn’t brilliant. As someone making the decisions on which pieces to publish, I had to remind myself of this, because we receive, quite simply, many more great stories than we have space for.  I also went back to read this blog post by Nik Perring where he makes the very same point – even really excellent stories get rejected.

So how do I choose? The truth is that in the pieces that I’ve selected for publication, there’s something about the voice that grabs me from the first paragraph. Something vibrant, something new. These are the pieces that, if I’d read them in a book, I’d be calling my friends to say ‘hey, you must buy this.’ And I’m starting to realise that I simply know this when I see it. So the reading process is getting faster. I still don’t like sending out a rejection, but for many I have confidence that if they are sent back out into the world they will surely find an editor for whom the story resonates.

On the subject of rejection, I’m using a standard rejection. I’m sorry, really I am, because I would love to write personalised notes of thanks and perhaps explanations to each writer. But unfortunately there aren’t enough minutes in the day. This is something I am doing out of a passion for good writing. It’s not paying the bills, contributing to the family or advancing my own writing. So whilst I take the time to read each story properly, I’m opting to save time on the responses.

If you have found this page because you received a rejection from me and wondered why, I hope this helps. And you are always welcome to contact me for more information.

PS: Here is another interesting piece on editing a literary magazine.

PPS: If you would like to submit your fabulous short fiction (up to 5000 words) for consideration, the flavour of the publication is “Bohemian Eclectic”… read more about that and the submission guidelines here.

11 Responses

  1. What a great post Claire. As a submitting writer it’s good to know whats going on at the other end 🙂

  2. Pam Parker says:

    Thanks for this – I think we writers often forget about the other side of rejections. It can’t be easy. I’m now a reader for an online lit. journal and that experience has truly changed my thinking about the volume (and sometimes, unfortunately, the weak writing) editors have to wade through. Thanks.

  3. Marisa Birns says:

    Goodness! Have been away from Twitter because I’ve been busy moving so I didn’t know about your new responsibilities. Congratulations!

    As you’ve pointed out here, stories can’t be everyone’s cuppa, so rejection – no matter how much of a twinge it gives – should not stop a writer from sending to another place. Or trying again!

    Well go to read the links you’ve supplied.

    • claire says:

      Thanks Marisa. Actually I’ve been pretty quiet about the role at TVFH because I wasn’t certain if I would be able to fit in the time commitment on a permanent basis.
      The ability to have confidence in your writing and keep on submitting is so key to success, I think. For any length work.

  4. Emma Darwin says:

    Great piece. A friend turned down the offer of the editorship of a very prestigious poetry mag, because such a huge part of the work is rejecting people…

    And though I do so understand the writer’s desire – urgent need would be nearer the mark – for some kind of response, both about why it’s been rejected and to know that it’s been heard – it just isn’t possible, is it.

    • claire says:

      It’s really not possible. I have questioned myself:
      Will people hate me for rejecting their story?
      Will they never buy my books, always holding a grudge?I hope not. I hope that most writers can see beyond the ‘Not this time, thank you’ and keep on sending submissions in good humour 🙂

  5. Nik Perring says:

    Congrats on the View From Here gig – very cool!

    And what a good post. Well said!


  6. Nik Perring says:

    You ARE very cool.

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