I've been working hard to finish the next issue of Wild Violet. Before I talk about that, let me give a shout-out to Shelly Lanciani and her transcription business, the Transcript Library. She has transcribed several interviews for me for my wedding book, My Wedding, My Way: Real Women, Real Weddings, Real Budgets. In addition, she transcribed both the Eric Flint and Jeremiah Zagar interviews for the upcoming Wild Violet issue.
Her work is professional, consistent, accurate, on time and reasonably priced. I highly recommend her to anyone who needs transcription services.
Now, more about Wild Violet. This coming issue has a travel theme. Let me tell you a little about how I arrive at themes.
Typically, I have material which I know will be running in a future issue, and I look at those pieces I've already accepted. Quite often, a theme jumps to mind, which I use. Otherwise, the themes are often influenced by the season. Regardless, I try to keep them general so that many interpretations can fit.
Not every piece that runs in a particular issue relates directly to the theme. Sometimes, I run things just because they're seasonal, for example. Sometimes I run them because I've been sitting on them for far too long.
Which reminds me, anyone who submits work to a literary magazine should understand a little something about the process. Obviously, different magazines operate differently, depending on their system. I know there are books out there that say if your submission has been sitting a long time, you should contact the editor and find out what's going on. But do this within reason.
Most magazines, in their submission guidelines, state how long it takes for submissions to be reviewed. You certainly don't want to check in before that time has elapsed. If you do contact an editor, stay professional and polite. Really, you won't achieve anything by annoying her. Some writers simply haven't learned that.
Recently, a poet sent me a certified letter, demanding a response from the submission he sent me a little while ago. I knew that I didn't want it, but I've been busy getting the latest issue out. I've now made a mental checkmark next to his name, so that the next time he sends me anything, he'll get a form rejection slip the next day. Sorry, but forcing me to wait in line and sign for a pointless letter pretty much assures that nothing you send me will ever suit our needs at this time.
Editors do remember, both for good reasons and bad. We remember the names of people whose work was nearly there, and we remember those who send schlock that might as well be written on used toilet paper. We remember those who wrote thoughtful cover letters, showing that they had actually read the magazine, and we certainly remember those which are badly written, unprofessional and just plain odd.
With the help of The Gryphon, I'm going to set up an online form soliciting feedback from editors to find out what their pet peeves are, what they're looking for. I'll use that to write an expanded version of my handbook, Stay Out of the Bin! An Editor's Tips on Getting Published in Lit Mags. I think many editors have had similar experiences to mine, and writers could benefit from reading about them.
Admittedly, though, I do have to streamline my process. One of my continual problems has been that, once I put an issue together, I'm so exhausted I don't want to look at anything related to Wild Violet for weeks. So the submissions pile up, and by the time I sit down with them again, it's a huge undertaking. Then I must sort through all my submissions, determine an issue rundown, create graphics, layout the pages, read through everything to fix grammatical and spelling errors, write my reviews and the note from the editor, and finally post the issue. This process takes at least several weeks of very earnest work. Sometimes sorting through submissions alone can take more than a week.
I've been saying for years that I ought to read submissions at least once a week. Then, as I accept pieces, I should begin working on graphics for them so that I don't have so much work to do when it comes time to put together the issue. But somehow I never seem to manage to do that. The summer issue will come out right at the cusp of fall, and yet, I can't kick myself about it. I just need to work more efficiently next time.
That's what life is all about, right? Every time, for example, that I step on the scale and notice a weigh gain, I have to refocus, evaluate what I did the previous week, and decide what I can do better. You can't let it get you down for long, or you'll be immobilized.
I can safely say, though, that it's only a matter of days before the next issue of Wild Violet will go live. And then I get to start the process all over again!
Annoying an editor is not the way to get your work published.