Saturday, August 25, 2007

We are not your writing teachers

At upstreet, we get many different kinds of letters from writers. Some of them want us to double as their writing instructor. Here’s an exchange that followed a letter we wrote telling an author we wouldn’t be using her short story. Sally is not her real name.

Dear Vivian and/or editors,
Would you be so kind as to tell me how come. It would be very important for me to know what you didn't like about my short story. Please get back to me asap. In great appreciation of your trouble and time. Kind regards, Sally

Dear Sally,
It really isn’t possible for us to give a critique of every piece that is submitted to upstreet. We receive a great many submissions, and inclusion in the journal becomes more competitive each year. The Fiction Editor has read 97 short stories thus far, and turned down 92 of them. Five have been shortlisted, but it may be that none of them will ultimately make it into upstreet number four, since we will probably receive more than two hundred more stories to consider.
Best of luck with your writing,

Dear Vivian,
Thank you so much for getting back to me. But you don't give any personal critique whatsoever? After all you invest all the time into reading it? But maybe that is too much trouble. Kind regards, Sally

I don’t know of any literary journal that gives personal critiques, Sally. This is the sort of thing that writers pay an editor or ms consultant to do, or that one gets from a professional workshop at a writers’ conference, for example. At upstreet, we have a Fiction Editor, and she has no assistant or additional readers (and she reads for another literary journal as well). Reading to decide whether or not we’ll take a submission is a very different kind of reading from the kind that would be done by someone doing a critical evaluation. The stories that end up on the shortlist will be read two or three times before a final decision is made.
Best wishes,

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

R.I.P.: Bernhard DeBoer, Inc.

Every year, the distributor Bernhard DeBoer, Inc., sends out a notice to its clients, telling them which dates in August they will be closed for vacation. Yesterday, they sent out the following announcement:

August 20, 2007

Dear Gentlepeople:

With deep regrets, I am sorry to inform you that the changing economic climate in our industry has forced us to close our doors after 60 years. We appreciate your support and loyalty over the years and wish you luck in your future endeavors.

Faye Kosmidis
Owner, Bernhard DeBoer, Inc

upstreet was not one of the publications that received this notice, since our relationship with DeBoer had been terminated more than two months before. In her last e-mail to me (June 28), Faye said: “Just read your blogspot on Deboer. I guess we really did overstay.” About a week later, she sent me a check for what she owed me for distributing upstreet number one. I will obviously never get paid for number two. She had requested 150 copies of number three, and I'm very glad I didn't accept her offer to distribute that issue.

For its first thirty years of operation, the company was run by its founder, Bernhard DeBoer, and I have heard many good things about him. Based on what I know, the company's problems began more recently. I don't know who will become the premier distributor of literary journals to independent booksellers, but I'm hoping that Ubiquity will make an offer to purchase DeBoer's bookstore list.

If Faye had dealt with me honestly, I'd feel sorry for her; but she didn't, and I don't.