On Editing

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to work in several editorial capacities, starting when I was a senior in college, editing the annual student literary journal. During my MFA, I worked on the graduate/undergraduate literary journal, Red Weather. During my PhD, I worked on South Dakota Review. For three years I edited The Blue Bear Reviewan online literary quarterly. And since 2012, I have worked as editor of Windhover: A Journal of Christian Literature.

This April and May I had the opportunity to serve as a guest editor for Issue 2.3 of wonderful literary quarterly, Driftwood Press. They published my short story “On the Hi-Line” in issue 2.1, and a few months later, the staff asked if I was interested in reading submissions for an upcoming issue. Even though I have a significant workload with Windhover, I decided to pursue the opportunity.

Over six weeks, I read 50 short stories, giving each a “yes,” “no,” or “maybe.” Because of my editorial background, and because of my familiarity with the publication, I didn’t experience much difficulty with voting “no” on pieces. (I’m not trying to sound callous.) The challenge was limiting myself to no more than 5 in the “yes” category and no more than 10 in the “maybe.” As my reading of the submissions continued over the weeks, my “maybe” votes shifted. When I finally finished all 50 pieces, then I devoted time over a few days to “finalizing” my votes, including ranking my favorite 5 stories.

As a result of the process, some of the “maybe” pieces ended up being shifted to “no”s due to limitations, but those limitations forced me to consider why I was voting on pieces in a certain way. I agonized over some of my votes, but at the same time, I kept in mind why I like editorial work so much: discovering and supporting writers whose work I admire. It’s tiring work and time-consuming work, but it brings a level of satisfaction that I find in few other endeavors. You open a submission, begin reading, hoping to be surprised, hoping to be wowed. And sometimes you are. There were a handful of those stories in the batch, and I’m happy to say that my favorite piece of the 50 was eventually accepted for the 2.3 issue.

All of this discussion about editing brings to mind other types of editorial work I’ve done: copy editing and substantive editing. In the near future, I plan to write a post on these other kinds of editorial work I’ve done, work that is, of course, time-consuming but also very rewarding.

One thought on “On Editing

  1. Sounds like a lot of great experience!
    I’m doing volunteer reader and marketing work with lit mags hoping to get into some editorial positions later. I’ll have to check out some of the journals you mentioned. They sound great!

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