As publishers of a poetry journal, we’ve talked among ourselves about how the writing community shows support for poets, is generous, helps get the word out when someone publishes a new piece. We’ve talked about the reviewing process, how that helps writers on many levels ranging from sales to understanding their audiences more deeply. We’ve talked about being gentle in our criticisms so as not to stifle further development for any writer.
Now that the post-Valentine’s Day sales are in full swing, let us gently suggest that you show some love to the editors in your lives. You know, those people who read all your stuff and try with all their hearts to send the best ones into the world for others to enjoy. The people who try to be kind when they have to say a piece isn’t quite right for their publication. Who anguish over what to say to those who come back at them to ask why, why didn’t you publish my work? Who feel a sting when an angry writer hits them with a strongly-worded email that informs its recipient that they don’t know their ass from their elbow.
Because all that stuff really happens. I’ve long believed that writers, of which I am also one, should do a stint on the editorial side of the business to see how it feels. Lessons of that stint include dedication, tact, a better idea of the wide range of skill and talent any cross-section of writers will demonstrate. Editors often don’t get paid if they’re working with small literary publications. Rather, they commit to doing something they love to help writers get published. How many people do you know who willingly put in long unpaid hours in front of a computer handling other people’s work?
Not many, I’m betting.
Of course, there are plenty of writers who are kind and willing to correspond with editors respectfully, thank us for our time spent considering their work. The feeling of pure delight that erupts when a gorgeous, well-crafted piece of writing comes to us is like nothing else. That, right there, is why editors do what they do.
So, if you’re a writer who has not taken a turn as a member of an editorial staff somewhere, ask yourself why not give back? There’s much to learn about what happens behind the scenes when writers submit their work. There’s also much to enjoy in working with an editorial staff while contributing to the production of publications for the world to read.
If that’s not an option for you, at least send a chocolate-covered thank you to the editors who’ve worked with you. I hear chocolates are on sale right now.