Editor’s Desk – Week of October 2, 2015

October 2, 2015

Dear Intrepid Readers,

The Great Pumpkin is coming!

At the end of the month, anyway.

Last week, we launched the newest installment of NonBinary Review—the 1001 Arabian Nights issue. This collection includes a selection of stories from the original text, as well as the contributions of 35 new poets, authors, essayists, and artists from across the globe, as well as the work of 15 Alphanumeric writers. The issue is a diverse, multi-textured collection of voices from different continents, backgrounds, experiences, gender identities, and walks of life—each artist’s take on the stories of Scheherazade, with words, narratives, and images, holds a prism up to the light and watches its rainbow bounce across our digital pages. We hope that you’ll take a moment to download the Lithomobilus app  and load the new issue—as well as the five preceding issues of NonBinary Review—and enjoy the vibrant, innovative pieces that make up our magazine’s interpretation of 1001 Arabian Nights.

We’re also hoping that you’ve been keeping up with our First-Person blogs, guest blog posts, and book reviews over at Rhizomatic Ideas. We’ve been lucky enough to receive advance copies of books from the most exciting poets, fiction writers, and essayists in independent literature, and we’re excited to be able to bring reviews of these books to you every week, as well as bite-sized blogs that cover a wide cross-section of topics that are pertinent to the modern writer working in the age of digital. If there’s a subject that you’d like to discuss in a blog forum, an author you’d like to profile, or a book that you think our readers need to know about, we’d be glad to read your work. Or if you’d like to review a book, but don’t quite have an idea in mind for what you’d like to review, drop us a line—we’d be happy to send you a reviewer’s copy that might just be the best book you almost never read! To find out more about blogging for us, or to ask to be assigned a title to review, contact us at blog@zoeticpress.com –or submit book reviews through our Submittable portal.

   This week, we noticed an article making the rounds on social media—“Cheat! It’s The Only Way To Get Published,” by Theodore Ross, originally published by the New Republic.


Before we go any further, and before you get deeper than the second paragraph, we would like to tell you, as editors—IGNORE WHAT THIS AUTHOR SAYS ABOUT NOT FOLLOWING THE GUIDELINES.  An informal poll (read: my Facebook page) of editors from a variety of tiered magazines indicates that 10/10 editors agree that we put guidelines on our submissions page for a reason and that non-compliance or willful disregard of guidelines will likely result in a default decline, with the submission unread: if an author doesn’t see fit to read the guidelines page, many editors don’t feel obliged to read the submission. After all, the submission/curation relationship between authors and editors is one that relies on a mutual respect, in order to be successful. Editors should respect the fact that in many cases, authors offer up their creative property for free, allowing many magazines to have material to publish. Likewise, editors provide pages and forums where authors can share their work with readers who are actively receptive to and searching out creative work to read.

The larger question that this article has raised across the board, however, is the question of author integrity in publication. The 2015 Best American Poetry collection includes the work of Michael Derrick Hudson, who, by his own admission, used deceptive tactics to place a significant amount of his body of work—including the poem included in the collection. More to the point—this author clearly didn’t see any problem with his methodology: he wasn’t “caught” by an editor; the only reason this story is even public is that Hudson included his tactic for using the pseudonym Yi-Fen Chou in his contributor’s note. Which raises the question: What is publication actually worth? Why is it that we want our work to be published? And most importantly—at what cost to our integrity and ethics are we willing to sacrifice to see our work in print? While Ross makes a valid point (he never says so, but we can safely assume that the publication he formerly interned for was one akin to The New Yorker, or an equally difficult, elite periodical): for this tier of publication, he’s right—most unrepresented writers who aren’t yet established don’t have a chance at having their work accepted.

But is that really such a terrible thing? After all—if it were easy to get work accepted into The Atlantic, would we consider it such an achievement to have our work published in its pages? But a better question that that, even, is this: Do you even read The Atlantic? One of the biggest issues this article has raised in the literary communities I’ve seen cropping up is this—what is publication actually worth? Clearly, the author of this article is cynical and jaded—he admits that the work he was producing and publishing, through his own slightly dishonest tactics, wasn’t worthy of publication, and in the same paragraph, admits that in his tenure as a slush reader, he rejected quality work. This disregards the fact that the established writers who did have their work published in the unnamed magazine and circumvented the slush pile are authors who have already paid their dues, worked their way up the “success ladder,” and have already had their work abandoned in the slush piles. Is that unfair? Not necessarily; top-tier publications are known for the “name writers” on their covers, so it’s not exactly an industry secret that publication in these venues isn’t generally a gig that emerging writers land.

The consensus I saw voiced in the social media forums frequented by writers (from never-published to well-established, and every level in-between) was this: the article actively encourages working writers to “cheat” to get ahead. The premium is placed on the publication, not the quality of work being produced, or perhaps even more importantly, the act of writing itself. As long as publication is the end goal—not writing something that’s worth being published—then though distasteful, Ross is right: cheating is the best way to get ahead and get your work out there. (That said, don’t cheat by disregarding guidelines. I promise you, that tactic won’t work.) But before you start looking for the private e-mail addresses of editors and cashing in favors, I ask you to consider something. In sports, it’s widely accepted that the nature of the game has changed since sports became as much about money and sponsorship than they were about…well, sports. And as the stakes raised in sports, the athletes became more competitive, and various degrees of cheating have become the norm. Though fans know that the cheating exists, it is always scandalous and disappointing when an athlete is revealed to have used a trick to gain an edge. The world of writing isn’t all that different—everyone wants to attain a level of excellence that’s recognized by the industry, yet few ever will be able to raise to this level. If it were easily achievable, it wouldn’t be worth anything. So I’ll close in saying this: When you sit down to submit your work, remember why you wrote it. Read magazines that you like, and send work to them. If you don’t read a magazine, is being published in its pages really an achievement? If you do consider it an achievement (even if you don’t read it), then ask yourself if seeing your name in print, or producing the best work that you can, is your main goal. Be honest. Then choose wisely.

If you’re feeling like your writing needs a boost, you could always visit our Pinterest page—we’ve got a whole board of writing prompts that could be exactly what you need to break out of the doldrums. Or maybe what you need is to be inspired by the work of others—if that’s the case, then download our app for iPhone or iPad and enjoy each issue of NonBinary Review, completely free. On Facebook, you can follow our pages (Zoetic PressLithomobilus), or if you like a more personal touch, engage with us through the Zoetic Press Facebook group. All of our Facebook forums provide you with daily links to read new blogs, book reviews and Alphanumeric features! We’re also on Twitter (@ZoeticPress and @Lithomobilus), and you can even see some of our authors reading their work on our YouTube channel. If you’re interested in hearing more from us, sign up for our monthly newsletter. We’re serious about your privacy, and promise not to flood your inbox. Want to be a guest writer for Rhizomatic Ideas, or to profile one of our contributors? Send us a pitch at blog@zoeticpress.com. Have a book you’d like to tell the world about, or know a writer that everyone should know? Send us your reviews and author interviews! We also have a huge folder of ARC books and chapbooks that we can give you—again, for FREE—provided that you write up a short review of the title. How great are free books?

Until next week,

Allie Marini
Managing Editor