Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wednesday Writings: Inside the Editor's Mind

I did a series of posts taken from interviews with editors of literary publications/ezines in 2008 for The Rose & Thorn Literary e-zine's blog, and thought you might enjoy taking a peek inside their mindset. Enjoy~~

What do you want to say to new writers/poets?

Name: Steven Seighman
Title: Editor/Founder
Publisher/Publication: Monkeybicycle

Just keep at it, and don't let rejection get you down. There are countless venues for your work, so you're bound to find a home for it if you keep at it. And if editors have suggestions for you, it's only because they've often been doing this for quite a while, and want to help you make your work better. At least consider what they say, even if you decide against it later on.

I've seen the literary community (especially online) blow up over the past few years, and it's really a wonderful thing. There are so many great writers out there looking to place their work, and the more options they have, the better. If you have an idea for a journal of some kind, and think you'll stick with it, please take the leap and create it. I've seen some really great journals pop up just in the last year, and I'm really happy they did. So are all those incredible authors.

Name: Timothy Green
Title: Editor
Publisher/Publication: RATTLE
Personal site/blog:

Read more. You don't have to read RATTLE, I don't care what you read. Just find something you like, and read it. For every poem you write, read 10. That should be the first lesson on anyone's list. I only realize this after sitting through workshops, but it becomes apparent in the submissions, too—a lot of people like to write more than they like to read. But you can't be a poet unless you love both. It's like trying to bake a cake without the ingredients. You've got the bowl, you've got the whisk, the oven is set to what? How can you make something edible if don't know what food is?If you enjoy reading and writing, nothing else matters. Especially editors. Don't let the name tags fool you.

Name: Beth Staples
Title: Managing Editor
Publisher/Publication: Hayden’s Ferry Review

Good question! On some level, I still consider myself to be a new writer. But myself-of-today would say to myself-a-few-years-ago: please put your (adorable) butt in the chair as much as possible. There are tons of excuses not to write. Ignore them. What makes a writer a writer is the actual writing. Not the philosophizing or the worrying or the thinking. Thinking is involved. More so: typing. The more you do it, the easier it gets, and the more amazing is the work you produce. When it comes down to it, the actual writing is a lot easier than the torture of worrying you’re not good enough, not prepared enough, not writing enough. The first year of my MFA would have gone a little differently if I’d realized this.

Again, I can’t speak for all editors, but I love when people write or stop in looking for ways to get involved with HFR. Going through the slush pile has helped my writing more than I can explain (and maybe more than I understand). If there’s a literary journal near you, go to them. HFR offers internships, and depends on volunteers to read submissions, organize events, stuff envelopes, whatever. When I meet someone who feels as passionate as I do, I’m thrilled, and I’m happy to make a place for them. Literary journals and literature in general need that passion. Get involved as much as you can. If you can’t get involved, at least support some journals by reading them. Did I already say that?

Name: Cooper Renner
Title: Editor
Publisher/Publication: elimae
Personal site/blog:

READ! Work, rework, and rework again. Get criticism from folks whose literary taste you trust. Cut, cut, cut. Don't worry about what you want the writing "to say"—worry about fresh words and language and approach. Cut weak writing even if it utterly changes the story/poem: the newly created "meaning" may be just the opening you need.

Name: Susan Burmeister-Brown
Title: Co-editor
Publisher/Publication: Glimmer Train Stories

Read good writing. The reading and writing life is a great one to live. Publishing can be elusive, but stay with it. It can, and usually does, take some time to get your work out there.

Name: Reb Livingston
Title: Poet, Editor & Publisher
Publisher/Publication: No Tell Motel & No Tell Books
URL: &
No Tell Books Personal site/blog: &

Remember that most editors are also writers and poets. Almost nobody makes money editing and publishing; in many cases one spends money doing it. It takes an incredible amount of time and work. Time and work taken away from one's own writing. Editors and publishers do it because it’s a labor of love. If you're spending more money on contests and submission fees than you do on buying contemporary poetry (or literature), know your priorities are totally whacked and whether you realize it or not, you're sending your work to the wrong places and it’s not being taken seriously. Editors and publishers who struggle to fund their publications because not enough writers buy and read books, have discovered they can make money (often more) off these hapless writers by running contests. Every year thousands upon thousands of manuscripts (along with entry fees) are sent to completely wrong and incompatible publishers where they don't have any shot at all. If the entrants knew anything about the publishers and publications they were sending to—this would be completely obvious and these writers could save themselves a lot of money and time.

Name: John Amen
Title: Editor
Publisher/Publication: The Pedestal Magazine
Personal site/blog:

Just write, and keep writing. Let publishing be the incidental outcome of the joy for writing. Fall in love with writing.

Name: Cesar Garza
Title: Senior Editor
Publisher/Publication: The Rose & Thorn Literary E-zine

For the love of God, READ and FOLLOW the submission guidelines carefully. Every journal has slightly different expectations for submissions, so I know it can be a pain if you're an active poet and sending out work by the dozen. But the guidelines are set in a way that works for your beloved, overworked, unpaid editors, so please, give them that at least. On a different note, I'd say write with a sense of conviction, not just about your work's focus, but about language itself. Poets, I think, are in a better position (compared to prose writers) to demonstrate the power of language since, in the body of a poem, they use so little of it. Less is more—a cliche, yet undeniably true. Here's a shameless plug: Submit to The Rose & Thorn! After reading the guidelines, of course:

Name: J.W. Wang
Title: Editor
Publisher/Publication: Juked

The best piece of advice I’ve heard is from Tony Earley, who told me the hard part for him wasn’t getting published; what he found hard was becoming a good writer. Once he became a good writer, he had no trouble getting published. Have fun, and be lucky.

Name: G.S. Evans
Title: Coeditor
Publisher/Publication: The Cafe Irreal

It's a long, hard slog. If you're really driven to find expression for what it is you’re feeling, it might be worth the long, hard slog, as the years of slogging do tend to make you a better writer, and able to express that thing you’re feeling better.


The Unbreakable Child said...

Angie, awesome post and awesome advice. Thank you for taking the time to do this, it's great!!

Helen Ginger said...

What a great recap of advice. Thanks for posting it.

Helen Ginger

Deb Shucka said...

Geez, Angie! This was great. A class in a post. Very helpful, inspiring and insight provoking. Do more - please. :)

Janna Qualman said...

Very cool post! And I've bookmarked it, too, since these are great candidates for submitting to. :)

Been praying for you. Hope you're well.

Angie Ledbetter said...

My pleasure, kimmi/Unbreakable and Helen.

Deb S., cruise on over to The Rose & Thorn's blog (Roses & Thorns) and catch the whole 9- or 10-part series. (I forget how many.) :)

Yay, Janna! And thanks, I'm fine as frog's hair this morning. *snort*

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Lots of good advice, thanks!

JOY said...

Enjoyed this great variety of advice! It encourages!

Suldog said...

Thanks for posting all the great advice. There is nothing comparable to hearing from people who are in a position to buy your stuff.

Terri Tiffany said...

This was really very good, encouraging and full of great information! thank you for doing the work and getting these editors to share like they did! THANKS!

Rebecca Nazar said...

Very helpful, thanks.

Debbie said...

I love that "for the love of God, read and follow the guidelines". That applies to all of life. I find myself saying that daily to my high school seniors with their college stuff.

Anonymous said...

This advice has a familiar ring to it. Find something you like and read it, learn it. Great advice. That is why I try to write about our kids and team. I learn from them everyday, more than I teach them.

Anonymous said...

This was very encouraging to me. Thank you for posting it, Angie!

giddymomof6 said...

"There are tons of excuses not to write. Ignore them... The more you do it, the easier it gets, and the more amazing is the work you produce." LOVE THIS! I WAS LIKE WOW! It's so true! And this one cracked me up! LOL!

"Once he became a good writer, he had no trouble getting published. Have fun, and be lucky."

Thank you so much for putting these up here! They're wonderful and so insightful! LOL! I think you've just given me some great excuses to read more too! LOL! Jenni

Angie Ledbetter said...

You're welcome, Carrie, Terri & Rebecca.

Absolutely, Suldog.

Great advice to the seniors, Debbie.

Oren, ain't it the truth? :)

You're so welcome, The Things We Carried.

Jenni, don't know how you have time to do anything else, but glad you got some reading inspiration. LOL

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