Saturday, January 13, 2007


I'm a poet too and send work to out to magazines on a regular basis. As I mentioned a few days ago, as an editor I try to avoid working with difficult/abusive poets. As a poet I try to avoid working with irresponsible/inconsiderate editors. I like courtesy all around.

When I send work I expect it to be read, considered and responded to in a timely fashion. Timely depends on the publication, of course, and I expect the publication to give a general idea how long I should expect. If a publication states a 6-24 month response time, I've been forewarned. If I have a problem with the magazine or editor, I don't submit there. If a publication is unable to keep up with submissions, I expect them to stop accepting them until they catch up. If my work isn't wanted, I expect to be informed. "No thank you" is brief and perhaps a little cold, but it's sufficient and meets my requirement. If my work is used, I expect to be notified beforehand and really appreciate a galley/proof. I've had work scheduled to appear in publications that didn't appear, typos in poems that weren't mine and published as "Rob Livingston." It's a bummer when that happens and when it does, I expect an "Oops, sorry about that" and if it's possible, corrected. When the work comes out I expect a copy or link/announcement so I know.

As an editor I've made all the above mistakes. In most cases, they were discovered during the galley process and easily fixed online. In one case, in the first Bedside Guide, I somehow managed to omit 2 poems despite a lot of proofing and care. There was great deal of effort to be perfect, but clearly it wasn't enough. In comparision, as disappointing it was to have a mistake made by someone else regarding my work, it didn't sting nearly as much as when it was my mistake on someone else's work. The two missing poems will appear in the next Bedside Guide and I've made adjustments to my organization process so hopefully it won't happen again.

I also expect my work to be published in a timely fashion. If an editor says June and it doens't come out until September, that's NOTHING. That's par for the poetry publishing course. I always expect a delay -- unless it's Didi of MiPO -- then I expect it to come out a week early cause Didi is uber-punctual like that.

Of course, if an editor holds my work for 18 months before I hear back and a year later when I inquire to when it'll see the light of day I'm informed it'll be at least an additional year, who knows maybe a lot longer. I'm pulling my work. No hard feelings, but that's not acceptable to me. Especially not for an online pub.

As an editor I don't expect (or want) a fruit basket or a love letter from anyone whose work I publish and as a poet I don't expect a statue built in honor of my poems. I expect the usual courtesy that most editors and poets I come into contact exhibit. Yes, that's right -- most poets and editors I deal with meet my expectations -- a few surpass them. It's not the honest mistakes or goofs that stand out, that I remember years later. I'm not grinding an ax for the guy who responded to an acceptance letter with "Oh no, that poem was accepted elsewhere two days ago and I was meaning to write you." My axe grinds for the guy who responded to a personalized rejection with "To be honest, I was sort of hoping for a rejection. With the exception of _____ and a couple of other poets, I don't much like the poems there. If direct and tight means superficial and poseurish, I guess I won't be writing anything like that."


At 10:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to keep a file of incredulous/pleading/bitchy/threatening letters I'd been sent as an editor. One rejected poet actually did say he was going to show up in person to "talk sense" to me. I took that to mean "kick my ass," so I alerted the company dog.

Once a dude sent a cover letter ranting *in advance*--like right on top, before I've even looked at the manuscript, it said "you're too much of a pussy to take a chance on this book." I am not making that up. I laughed for about 10 minutes, then got creeped out and slowly crossed the room to the recycling bin.

What's wrong with people, I wonder?

At 5:44 PM, Blogger didi said...

I am actually holding back some stuff in my box till the asian-american issue gets the time it needs..

regarding sending in poems to editors - I have four poems sitting out there -- one each to four publications. I have decided that if I write something I like, I will send it out -- otherwise it will sit on my computer and eventually get deleted or forgotten. I found that sending out poems is not easy. Not easy at all and I am surprised at how easy it is to submit to my stuff and how my life must be really boring to be able to get things out like I do. I am looking for someone to edit a cuban-american issue of mipo in 2008 and I have not found anyone -- mind you that I am not necessarily looking for a cuban-american - I am just trying to find the best guest editor EVER...anyway what I am thinking is that once I find this person, and the issue is published, I am retiring MiPo. Yes you heard it here first.

Didi Menendez

At 5:52 PM, Blogger didi said...

P.S. Commenting on Shanna's comment - I have had a few threats as well. I just tell them to go ahead and see if I care.


At 8:33 PM, Blogger Jill said...

Is there any way that I can get ahold of some of these "stupid submittor letters"? With the names and pertinent details removed of course... I would like to devote at least one of my classes this semester to lessons on 'how not to act like an ass'? It would _never_ occur to me to rant and rave to an editor-- I just dont understand...? Literally-- these people-- again, no names-- are these for-real writers like, with talent?

Oh gotta go... Jack Bauer is back on tv.... jill

At 10:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would totally pay to read those letters.

At 12:35 PM, Blogger Jimmy said...

I love you, Rob.


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