Is anybody there?

Most of my experiences with literary magazines have not been positive. I understand that editors are swamped. I just wish they would come clean about their limitations.

What story?

You’ve all heard an editor swear passionately that he or she or a trusted assistant reads every submission that comes across their desk, that, by God, they prefer unsolicited manuscripts over the slick stuff their MFA teacher buddies slip them. The first time I heard this was from the editor of The Gettysburg Review. It was at the tail-end of a writer’s conference sponsored by the magazine, and he gave us all a pitch about how he really wanted to see our stuff.

So I sent a story, pointing out in the cover letter that I had heard him speak while I was attending his writer’s conference, and how I knew he wanted to see stuff from new writers. Then I waited – three, four months and nothing. So I sent a letter asking what was up with my story. Again, no response. I’m not saying I think they ignored both the submission and the follow-up letter. It may very well have been that when the poor, harried editor or one of his harried assistants saw my letter and realized there was no way to locate the story to which I was referring, they were simply too embarrassed to write back.

More recently, the staff at Crazy Horse subjected me to an irritating trial by incompetence. At the end of an anonymous note rejecting a story because “it wasn’t quite right” for them, the writer asked if I had any other stories I could send. I immediately fired off another story and my cover referenced their request to see more of my work. No response, nothing. I never even got a form rejection on this story. Follow-up communications were also totally ignored. I’m sure the person who wrote that brief message had good intentions, and I’m sure the impulse was forgotten within minutes after it was acted on.

A fiery end to your deathless prose

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