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”
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.