Ten Things I Learned as a First Time Literary Magazine Editor

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I’m just about to write the editorial for Dream Catcher Magazine issue 39, the first issue to go to print with me in my official role as editor. It’s been a rollercoaster and a real learning curve as myself and the fantastic Dream Catcher team navigate the hand over between two editors with with different styles and ideas. Whilst trying to keep on top of the day to day stuff – the ever growing submissions reading, liaising with colleagues, making decisions and accepting (yay!) and declining (sorry!) work from writers all around the world – I have been working out new systems for tracking submissions, in order to speed up the process and allow us to easily and precisely see exactly what the status of any submission is at any point in the process. And lo, the hard work is paying off and we are about to see Issue 39 made real as an actual printed magazine full of fantastic poems, short stories reviews and articles. I feel incredibly proud of it, and actually a bit emotional. Here are ten things I’ve learned as a first time editor:

1. There is only so much space in any one issue. This means that we simply can’t fit everything in. This means that, inevitably, there have to be rejections. It’s an awful feeling; telling someone we couldn’t use their work, because I know from experience, even if it’s done in the kindest way possible, it still stings. I never want anyone to go away feeling like I didn’t read their work, I read every single piece of work that comes through the submission process and then up to three other people in the team do the same. Each piece is carefully weighed up before a decision is made. There is no hastiness to the process, we believe that when you’re putting your heart and soul into writing something, the same respect is due when reading it.

2. Scatter gun submissions are annoying. I still read every single piece that comes in,  but when a submission arrives without a cover letter and with twenty different lit. mags. copied into the same email it doesn’t make me think that you’ve read the magazine or even looked at it. It sort of feels like all the hours and loyalty that he team is putting in to try and get your voice heard is disregarded; we’re just an email address in a long list of email addresses. The reality is it’s quite acceptable, if you’ve not heard from us for quite a while, that you might have decided to submit elsewhere, in fact I specifically ask to be informed if you have when I send acceptances out, to save on any wasted time. We ask that you let us know straight away if something has been accepted elsewhere (yay! Good for you!) but this, this is just bad manners.

3. It’s important to recognise that just because it’s fiction, it doesn’t mean it’s right. I am the first female editor of Dream Catcher, which is a huge honour. I feel a degree or responsibility in using that position. When I think about the anonymity of women working in the arts throughout history, I feel proud to be in the position that I am, with my name on the front cover. So I won’t be printing male gaze, explicitly pornographic or gratuitously sexually violent themes and nothing which hints at pedophilia. It might be the most beautifully crafted story ever produced, but if it involves rape as a sex scene or sex with a minor it won’t be getting past the gate keeper – me.

4. People generally understand. I work full time, I’m self employed. As far as I know, the whole Dream Catcher team work full time and Rose and Alan also run Stairwell Books so everyone is quite busy. We try and keep on top of the DC duties but sometimes we get a bit behind, especially this year while I have been finding my feet. I’ve fretted about it, about letting people down, and been surprised and humbled by how lovely and kind people have been. People are understanding.

5. Nothing beats the thrill of finding a really good piece of writing. This is my favourite. I knew I’d enjoy it, I knew it would be rewarding, but nothing beats the absolute thrill of getting through the first line of a submission and feeling the tingle in your stomach, the drop down a step feeling of finding an absolutely beautiful piece of writing. We have some real gems in issue 39. What a fantastic feeling. Sometimes a line from a submission will stay with me all day.

6. Submissions are like the magic porridge bowl. They just keep coming. Accepting that I will never again see an empty email inbox has been a difficult lesson, it triggers a slightly alarmed drowning feeling to see it constantly refilling, but at the same time, it does feel a bit like father Christmas and his gift bag.

7. It’s important to look from different perspectives. This is why having a good team around me really is key. Learning to appreciate the breadth of diversity in our readers allows us to make good decisions on the type of work that they’ll like to see. We like to think of the magazine as being 100% quality, but having something for all tastes.

8. There is a camaraderie between editors. And that’s lovely. My experience so far is one of mutual respect and encouragement between the different literary magazine editors. As it should be. There’s room for everyone.

9. People really like writing about road trips. Which is fine, because I really like reading about them.

10. There is not as much swearing in the submissions as I expected. Which makes me question whether I swear too much in my own work. Oh well.

 

Thanks for reading, keep submitting! And follow us on Twitter

 

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