We’re back again with a look inside the editorial process of all the sins. Our submitting artists, once again, made it really difficult to choose a final line-up for the issue and, once again, we found ourselves having to let go of some really excellent work simply because we couldn’t find a home for it in this particular issue. We’re certain that we’ll see it published elsewhere, however.
At the halfway point of our second year of publication, we’re finding that some trends are beginning to emerge in our submissions and also in the rejection emails that we’re sending. In the last few issues, we’ve seen a rise in the number of essays and nonfiction pieces that are submitted. We love this and hope to see a lot more, but you’ll notice that it is still rare to see nonfiction appear in the magazine. This is for a variety of reasons, but there is one piece of feedback that we seem to be giving more regularly than others: ‘prioritise the story over the accounting of what happened‘.
Just because something is true, doesn’t make it a good story. The vast majority of pieces have an excellent core, a compelling moment of change for the writer, but this moment is often covered up by too many details that do not serve the narrative of the story. Think about the person you know who can make doing their laundry into a brilliant story vs the person who can take being shipwrecked, adopted by pirates, and rescued and returned home by UN convoy into the dullest story. Often, the idea is perfect, but the writer hasn’t stepped far enough away from their own experience to be able to see the pertinent details that make the story work for a larger audience.
If you’re thinking about submitting nonfiction, think about asking a few questions:
- What is the story?
- Does every detail serve the story?
- Is this story for me or for my audience?
Memoir and personal essays can be a wonderful way to explore a writer’s own experience, to come to terms with trauma or a catharsis of sorts, but this is rarely a satisfying experience for a reader with no stake in the original event. The trick of nonfiction is to make the reader invest. We recognise the value of writing for the writer’s sake and encourage people to explore their lives through the written word, but when it comes to editing a magazine we, as editors, have to prioritise the reader’s experience.
So give us your personal stories and opinions, bring us into the intimate spaces of your lives, but remember that we, as readers, want more than an accounting of what happened or a didactic treatise. We want to experience your joy, laughter, fear, and sadness. We want, in the the details of your story, to find universal truths and a reflection of our own experience in the world.
And now to the numbers:
- Fiction made up 19% of submissions and had a 12% acceptance rate.
- Poetry remained our most competitive category at 66% of submissions and a 5.6% acceptance rate.
- Essays and nonfiction made up 6% of submissions, with no acceptances.
- Just shy of 1% of our submissions were hybrid forms, with no acceptances (we’d like to see more!).
- We received only one spoken word submission and it was accepted!
- Visual art made up 8% of submissions and had a 28% acceptance rate.
Our acceptance rate by artist was 14% and 8% by piece, which were both up compared to Issue 5.
The call for Issue 7 is now live and we’re excited to see what wonderful (and small) work artists will produce this time!
Featured image: Garbagekammer (2016) dimensions variable
discarded objects retrieved from backyard, found paper boxes and oak drawer
Spencer Merolla studied religion as an undergraduate and had embarked on a career in academia before she returned to her first love, visual art. Her work, informed by her study of religion and history, explores the social practices and material culture of mourning through various affectively-charged materials. She lives and works in Brooklyn, and can be found at www.spencermerolla.com
See more of Spencer’s series Garbagekammer in Issue 6