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Decisions, Decisions 8 February 2010

Posted by Camille Gooderham Campbell in Uncategorized.
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So, an editorial decision is just that — a decision. And like any decision, it is subject to all the factors of the moment.

How badly do we need stories to fill the calendar right now? At the end of the month, when I’m desperate for pieces to fill open spots in the upcoming calendar, and I’m actively hunting for one more humour piece and two to three speculative genre pieces, chances are that I’ll feel a little more generous toward a marginal piece if it would meet one of the urgent needs of the moment. In fact, if I have 48 hours left before the calendar posts and I’m still a story or two short of a full month, that critical decision sometimes becomes one of panic rather than a calm, cool intellectual selection — not “is this good?” but “will this do?” At the start of the month, when I’ve just put a calendar to bed and have at least two solid weeks before I start to worry about the gaps in the next one, I can afford to be more critical and pass up something borderline on the chance that something else decent will come along before I get into a jam again.

How does this stack up against what I’ve just been reading? After a string of uninspired failed-relationship and spousal-murder pieces, dead-cat and dead-baby stories, and a few more variations on the bad-humans-punished-by-wise-aliens-or-deities theme, even Jesus-on-a-motorbike starts to look halfway decent in comparison. On the other hand, if I’ve just read something that blew my socks off, even a very solid and moderately original piece is going to suffer by comparison. And because we have to keep up with the avalanche of incoming submissions, I can’t just read one thing at a time with palate-cleansing breaks in between. Comparisons are odious, yes, but they’re part of this game.

What’s going on in my world? When I’m busy up to my neck, with a stack of book orders to fill and queries to answer and authors to pay, an editorial team to manage, potential problems to defuse — and a teething baby on top of everything else — maintaining a calmly objective frame of mind is challenging, to say the least. I tend to trust my slush readers’ opinions more when I’m under pressure, when there isn’t time for debating and conferring. I never intend to be hasty in my decisions, but sometimes there just isn’t the leisure to reflect critically on every aspect of a piece before giving it a final yes or no. Did a slush reader like it? Did I enjoy it? Did I notice any hugely glaring flaws? Okay, done.

There are times when I say yes to something, send out the acceptance, and then later wonder what it was I’d liked about it (sometimes EDF’s readers hate these ones, and sometimes they love them — there doesn’t seem to be a predictable correlation between my post-acceptance doubts and subsequent reader reactions). There are also times when I say no, send out the rejection, and then wish I’d said yes after all. The fact remains that something made me say yes or no, and it’s futile to second-guess that all the time.

But here’s the thing:

To snarky commenters who think that what gets rejected can’t be worse than what we’re publishing… yes, it can. A lot worse.

To snarky commenters who think they know something about the quality of what we’re rejecting… no one is objective about their own work, or their spouses’ work, or even their friends’ work. If you’re not one of our slush readers, you don’t know anything about what we’re rejecting, beyond your own little circle, so don’t pretend that you do.

To snarky commenters who think gratuitous rudeness makes them look insightful and clever… it doesn’t.

My decisions may not be perfect, but they’re my decisions to make. So to snarky commenters who think they could do better… go start your own magazine.

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Comments»

1. J.C. Towler - 10 February 2010

Hey Camille,

First visit to your blog, but I’m bookmarking you now.

You don’t need to be a mind-reader to detect elevated stress levels here.

I can’t speak for others, but I imagine my sentiments are shared: I have made EDF a regular part of my routine, and reading a new story every morning is sometimes the highlight of the day. Whether I enjoy it or not isn’t necessarily a barometer of whether the story is good or bad. I just appreciate the ability to read and offer commentary.

There was recently a span of several months where I just wasn’t finding time to write or even read very much: EDF became a link to creativity that was otherwise absent.

So, I know the snarkers can get you down. I’m a moderator in another forum and feel the pain. Even one comment can set off a chain reaction of misery that drags you along with it. Please know that the vast majority of your readers appreciate what you and the rest of the EDF team do and hope that you continue doing it for a long, long time.

–John

2. Camille - 12 February 2010

Thank you, John. It always helps to hear that what we do is worthwhile.


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