Over the past few weeks, Indiana Review’s genre editors have posted about what they look for in poems, stories, and essays in terms of craft. These posts have elicited several questions from readers about the nuts and bolts of selection process itself—that is, how, logistically, we go about deciding what to publish in Indiana Review. I hope to begin to address those questions in this post.
Being an editor is the best job in the world. There are few things more exhilarating to me than “discovering” an incredible piece in the slush pile, especially if it is the author’s first-ever publication. There is something really magical about finding that poem or story or essay, reading it over and over again, discussing it at length at a selection meeting, hoping it gets voted in, seeing it on its way through the long, long production process, and then finally getting to send the print journal out into the world.
Maybe this enchantment has something to do with the fact that here, at Indiana Review, our editors and readers are all aspiring and emerging writers, too. We are continually putting ourselves in the exact same situation as the writers who submit to Indiana Review (if you’re reading this post, I’m guessing you’re probably one of them). That is to say, most of us here on staff have been rejected time and time again, and we know how extraordinarily special (and rare!) it is if/ when one of our poems or stories is accepted for publication.
That said, the more I engage in dialogue with editors at other literary journals, the more I realize the selection process varies widely from publication to publication. It is my hope that this post will make what we do here at Indiana Review more transparent to our submitters, subscribers, and everyone and anyone who is interested in how we practice a democratic selection process.
What happens to my submission?
When a writer submits to Indiana Review, her submission is first read by the Editor, Associate Editor, or genre editor. And read again. And again. Yes, it’s true that the majority of pieces (probably around 98-99 percent of the submissions we receive) don’t make it past this point. If a paper submission is rejected, a rejection notice is put in the SASE and put in intern logout box. Intern logs submission out of our database and mail the SASE. If an online submission is rejected, the editor selects the “reject” function in our online submission manager, and an electronic notification is sent to the submitter’s inbox.
But don’t get discouraged! There is also a potentially happy ending to this story. When an editor finds a piece that she or he thinks might be a great fit for Indiana Review, the editor places it in “the box.” “The box” refers to the group of about twenty poems or 8-10 stories that will be discussed at the selection meeting any given week. In addition to the work that is culled from the slush pile, the genre editor might also include work from a writer that she or he has solicited.
Once the box of work to be discussed at that week’s selection meeting has “been set,” the work is made available for readers.
Read more after the jump!