One thing I’m beginning to realize as a fiction editor of a litmag: so much is arbitrary. I have always known that “subjectivity” reigns the literary world…but boy oh boy, it’s another thing to be part of that subjective machine.
I’ve got my rubric for screening the slushpile. I don’t expect a Pushcart Prize worthy story–but there has to be something SPECIAL about the piece that catches my eye. It can be a craft element that that story just hits out of the ballpark, or an idea that has never been tackled before, or language that makes me feel like someone is running fingers through my hair. I’ve got my rubric. And it makes sense to me.
The pieces also have to have a lot of heart. I am truly beginning to see how much a manuscript can say about the human being behind the piece.
But in the end, it’s an entirely subjective process, one that I determine. That’s a wieldy amount of authority. I’m not all that comfortable with that position, but so be it. It’s been a learning experience.
Cover letters–wow. I’ve learned my lesson about those. I accepted a piece with a cover letter that was obnoxious times one hundred. It was filled with boasting. But my editor suggested I take a second look at the manuscript…and I was low on accepted pieces (rotten excuse)…and I thought there might be a little something special about the piece even though I find it hard and glinty in spots.
And what the hey–I accepted it. I took a risk.
Turns out the writer is like the cover letter. It’s been interesting corresponding with the person–boy oh boy. The writer’s correspondence makes me regret my decision to accept the manuscript.
Going to follow my gut next time. I guess it’s not so arbitrary in the end.