From the other side

So I’ve begun reading entries for a literary journal. It’s a good little magazine, one I’ve read for a long time, and I’m thrilled to be doing it. There are approximately eight million stories, and poems, and essays, and poem-stories, and essay-poems, in the queue. I have a new appreciation for what editors–almost always unpaid–go through as they wade through the stuff sent their way. It comes in from all over. From here in Baltimore, from Connecticut, from New York (lots and lots from New York), from California, from Germany. It’s a faucet of words, a faucet Publication recordturned on, and wrenched on so that it will never shut off. It’s encouraging, to see these writers sending their heart and tears. And here’s the thing: most of it is simply not so bad. I expected half, or even more, to be just plain awful. Riddled with awkward sentences, and lacking sense, and navel-gazing to the hilt. But, no. Most of it is, actually, good. Or close to good. And what you’re looking for, always, is something that’s better than good.

The site they use allows editors to leave notes, for other editors. One story bore a note something like this: A good story, but lacks that fifth element. And she’s right. You’re looking for a fifth element, something above mere sense and readability and soundness. It must, actually, fly. I’m having fun.