My Life As An Editor
It began in high school when my friend Alma and I published an underground literary magazine, THE PURPLE DRAGON. It continued when I answered a desperate plea from ASPECT MAGAZINE’S Ed Hogan to read poetry–he’d started the mag as an anti-war publication and poetry started pouring in. He and I went on the found ZEPHYR PRESS. Then my husband Robert Winson started FISH DRUM MAGAZINE and our Santa Fe mailbox started filling up. I went on to create the first e-zine in New Mexico, with poet’s techie Miriam Bobkoff, which was SANTA FE POETRY BROADSIDE (sfpoetry.org). Joan Logghe, Renee Gregorio and I founded the collaborative press TRES CHICAS BOOKS and when I was hired over five years ago at Santa Fe Community College we began to publish THE SANTA FE LITERARY REVIEW.
After forty years of small press and literary publishing, I have some advice to writers:
1. The editor is not your enemy.
2. The editor is not making money off your work.
3. Rather, the editor is working for free and often supporting the publication off the household budget.
4. The editor is not a god–rather than using Platonic standards, the editor is using her or his taste.
5. When a magazine or press accepts your work the editor is doing you a favor.
6. If the editor makes a mistake–a typo for example–this is an honest error and not done to torment you.
While I certainly have had writers thank me, often publishing someone is fraught with difficulty. The writer seems to want something–fame, fortune, coddling–that the editor cannot provide. Why is this? Is it that writers generally feel so neglected and needy that they don’t know how to behave?
A journalist once told me that in parts of Latin America writers bring their editors little treats–particularly pastry wrapped in paper. I’ve published probably a thousand writers, and not one pastry!
Editors probably don’t need pastry, but here is what we do need:
1. Common courtesy.
2. An understanding that you are not the only writer. Asking “where is my poem” of a volunteer who reads bushels each day shows a misunderstanding of how a press or magazine works.
3. Thanks on acceptance. Thanks on publication.
4. A friendly unentitled attitude towards the editor.
5. Taking responsibility–it is not the editor’s fault if your work is not a bestseller.
Of course I’m a writer too. I’ve had my work published incorrectly, changed without permission, smudged, and stolen. Do I mind? Less and less. Everything in life has its negative, and as a rule editors have treated me kindly, fairly, and with respect and affection. I’m lucky to have them.
Thanks, Miriam. Always good to hear the other side and be reminded of the hard work of an editor.
Hi Melissa–it makes me happy you are reading my blog! And thank you.
Nice post. And very true.