Slushpiles and other glorious whosits

Twice in my life I have procured, through some strange and mysterious machinations to which even I may be unaware (read: emails), internships reading slush. I read for Fantasy Magazine for one summer, which was totally awesome and everyone should go to their website and love them lots because they are fantastic lovely people. And now I’m reading for Shimmer, which is this equally awesome but rather smaller ezine.

I seriously recommend to any writer out there to try at least once in their life to read through slush. Like, you can go through Miss Snark’s (may she swill gin wherever she is forever) Crapometer, or read query contests on agents’ blogs (Nathan Bransford has a buncha them), but these contests are prescreened. There’s an army of commenters giving their opinions – how many read these comments before establishing their own opinions? (I do. haha oops.)

The slushpile is different. There is nothing separating you and the writer except your computer monitor, a couple hundred miles, and another computer monitor. (You know that when the internet is your only protection, you’re basically fucked.)

And then you have to make your own opinions about the stuff you read. And there are editors who reign over the magazine, and their tastes might not overlap with yours. And what happens if you send an author you like a rejection that was meant for someone else? AND WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU REALLY LIKE A STORY AND YOU CAN’T SEND IT ON BECAUSE IT’S THE WRONG GENRE? WHAT HAPPENS THEN?!

An aside. Writers, please: if you send a story to a magazine, make sure it is in the genre they publish. They do not like rejecting good work (hell, I never liked rejecting anything ever), but sometimes they have to. It’s uber sad. Dun do it plz. kthx.

It’s also given me an interesting perspective on rejections. Obviously they still make me sad – but you know when an editor or agent says they “just didn’t connect with the work”? It’s the most frustrating phrase in any rejection.

That has totally happened to me.

The writing is good. The plot is good. The characters are good, too. But there’s something missing. Or something that’s there that’s off. Or something I don’t know. What’s wrong with me? This story is good! But I don’t like it. I just can’t connect with it.

I have become that which I swore never to be.

Of course, I sent the story along. Because even though I didn’t connect with it, I’m not the editor. He might feel differently, and if the story’s good, why not?

Still, reading slush was incredibly rewarding. You really see everything: stuff to do, stuff not to do, how anxiety-ridden making these decisions can be, and how much the people running these magazines want writers to succeed.


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