Cheryl Klein had a fabulous blog entry on Monday, touching on the difficulty some editors have with the rejection process. The entry is largely composed of a couple of paragraphs of an essay by Brian Doyle.
It's a beautiful essay, and having spent several years in the world of publishing--having worked in a publishing house and from my positions on the editorial staff of The Fieldstone Review, along with a couple of other publications--I can totally empathize with him. My favorite lines:
"So very often I find myself admiring grace and effort and craftsmanship, honesty and skill, piercing and penetrating work, even as I turn to my computer to type a rejection note.... So very many people working so very hard to connect, and here I am, slamming doors day after day."
However, as a writer who's eagerly waiting with fear and trembling, many tenterhooks involved and all that, to hear back on a novel query, I also can empathize really well with the fourth commenter to the blog post, who said:
"It's not always that a writer, especially a new one, is trying to get one up on a potential editor by sending work that is irrelevant to him/her. Sometimes, a raw inspiration to write does not come with a guide to the literary world or a guide to those guides."
It seems to me that both sides could use a bit of appreciation of the difficulties the other faces, and remember, after all, that it's humans on the other side of the desk. The editors really are looking for good work, but they're also needing to make money to stay afloat, and sometimes they have bad days.
And the writers, well, sometimes they have taken a huge amount of work just to get to this point, not to mention a huge risk and psychological oomph, just to get to where they're willing to send their stuff (I'm particularly thinking of you here, Ril--you go, girl).
There are times when both are idiots, for sure. But I'd like to think that there are--or at least can be, or should be--moments of humanity and recognition of the Other's perspective within the whole thing. I must believe so, because my writing censors work very hard to make me cynical about the whole process.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
The Human Side of Submissions
I'm a writer, an incurable reader, a narrative theorist, a media researcher, a scholar/author/writer/consultant, a PK, and the Queen of Soup Making. I write a lot, and I've taught a wide range of topics in universities. Along my journey I've picked up a PhD in Communication from Purdue and 2 degrees in English. I've been turning my ideas about communication as author-audience relationships into a communication paradigm that can be applied to a wide range of situations. I'm also writing a historical mystery series. I'm a member of Sisters in Crime, and the co-chair of the Mystery and Detective Fiction Caucus of the Popular Culture Association. My MA thesis focused on connections between T. S. Eliot and Thoreau, who each wondered about how to remain still and still moving. Before I went to grad school, I spent 7 years working for a division of HarperCollins Publishers.