Without editors, the voices of writers who choose not to self-publish would have little chance of being nurtured or heard. Words would stagnate on post-it-notes and envelopes; in notebooks stacked in closets and files in computers.
Reading would be laborious if books, magazines and newspapers weren’t edited. Imagine the address for Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church being listed under The First Baptist Church of Kimberling City in the Branson Daily News. Instead of arriving at 161 Heaven’s Way, believers seeking the baptist church would drive to potential conversion sixteen miles away.
I spend hours interpreting editors’ descriptions of the material they’re seeking for publication. If I read a description three times and mull it over like a book of Chinese proverbs, I move on, blaming myself for hitting my head without knowing it.
When an editor’s description is translatable in my universe, I read every sample poem, story and back issue available. If a disconnect occurs between the description and sample pieces: A is a two stanza quatrain that doesn’t; it just doesn’t, B is a haibun-ku?, C is, is a Stairway-to-Heaven-long free verse and D is in a foreign language someone forgot to translate—oh, wait, D is in English, I blame myself for being a dummy but congratulate myself for knowing I was hitting my head on my desk.
I park myself in the literary magazine and journal section of Barnes and Noble wishing a college student majoring in English would eject me for too much reading/not enough buying. (They don’t care about the lurker reading poetry and short stories.) Despite my dedication, I lose terse adjectives trying to connect the dots between stated guidelines, the editor’s preferences, the sample work and my rejection letter.
When Red River Review Editor Michelle Hartman was asked by Duotrope’s Digest to describe what she published in 25 characters or less, she said, “Narrative persuasive poem.”
Her longer description is “Poetry which strikes a truth, which artfully conveys the human condition is most likely to be selected. Vulgarity and coarseness are part of our daily life, and are thus valid. Life isn’t always pretty. However vulgarity and coarseness, just for the sake of the exercise, doesn’t generally benefit anyone. Red River Review is open to all styles of writing. Abstract, beat, confessional, free verse, synthetic, formal — we will publish just about anything that has the authenticity and realism we’re seeking. With this said, however, rhymed poetry of any nature is rarely accepted.”
Michelle’s description is straightforward. I read fifty poems from past issues. The poems were cohesive as a group with a narrative element. I submitted Losing Psyche and Someday. I received the following rejection letter:
We wanted to thank you for the opportunity to read your work. At this time we’re going to release the work for publication elsewhere. Best of luck to you and keep submitting!
Ms. Hartman’s rejection letter is the most encouraging form rejection letter I’ve received. (Thanks to Finishing Line Press, the poems were published later.)
The only way I know my work met an editor’s expectations is when it’s accepted for publication. The next best thing is a personal rejection letter; the editor’s gift to the writer. This one from Editor in Chief, Helen Vitoria at THRUSH Poetry Journal is the second from her and most detailed I’ve received.
Thank you for another strong submission!
We enjoyed your poems; in particular we enjoyed: Red Rocks Minus the Amphitheater, however, they are not what we are seeking for inclusion in THRUSH.
We very much look forward to reading more from you in the future and encourage you to try us again. Please feel free to submit again, we only ask that you wait at least three months before re-submitting.
Editor in Chief
I remain uncertain as to what Ms. Vitoria expects from me but what’s important is knowing she believes I’m capable of delivering it. I think of editors as treasure hunters; seeking groups of words as elusive to describe as they are to find. I’m grateful I occasionally deliver a small jewel.