As Managing Editor of The Forge Literary Magazine, I read a lot of submissions. As a writer, I send very few. I am really bad at sending subs out. If I get a rejection my reaction is along the lines of thinking my story isn’t good, instead of thinking perhaps it simply didn’t chime with whoever read it. The coolest writers I know tell me they send their work out many, many times until it is accepted. I know how ridiculous I am, but I usually wait another few months (six months, maybe a year) and then send the piece out to another venue. Two form declines and that piece is dead to me. Which is obviously stupid. I am vowing here and now to change that. I think I actually get a bit ashamed when my work is rejected as if I was delusional to think it was publishable. At the same time I know I am a good writer. It’s yet another of those fucksy things that co-exists and makes little sense.
Every time I read for FLM I am hoping the piece will be brilliant. I imagine that’s true of all editors. I mean, why read if not to discover wonderful writing? An immediate acceptance is super rare at FLM (although I did just that recently when I accepted a piece nobody else has read because I simply loved it and it was exhilarating to read something that good.) More likely is a yes vote on an admired piece which takes it to the Editorial Table where the Editors of the Month consider it. The majority of pieces sent to us are declined, but if someone gives a maybe vote it will then get passed to another editor for their opinion. Two maybes is a pass to the Editorial Table. I am telling you this because I voted maybe on a flash a couple of months ago. Another editor also voted maybe so it has been under consideration for a while. People have read and commented, but nobody has said they want to keep it and today, when I was going through the stories we’ve hung on to, I figured I’d decline. I read it again and was blown away. This isn’t a maybe piece, this is a hell yes piece. It’s terrific. Apparently I can’t even trust my own judgment to remain consistent. This is one of those revelations which is obvious, I know, but it feels useful enough to me that I’m hoping it might be useful to someone else. I can’t count the number of times I’ve told people that writing and reading is subjective. As is music. As is film. As is… etcetera. And yet I take rejection as a personal judgment rather than someone’s subjective opinion. Two months ago I gave a considered maybe vote to a piece that today I want to publish. Nothing has changed in that time, the words remain the same. Perhaps the first time I read it I was tired, I was in a different mood. But good writing is always good writing. This is why it’s useful to get more than one opinion. But although others liked this flash they too gave it a maybe. Today it’s a yes. A definite yes. I will remember that the next time I get a no.