Recently, a friend and colleague drew my attention to a blog post on Passages North’s website. In this post, editor Jennifer A. Howard makes a point of assuring submitters their manuscripts are never, under any circumstances, accepted or rejected by MFA students at Northern Michigan.
Here, at Indiana Review, our editors, genre editors, and associate genre editors are all MFA students. We, as a journal, are committed to ensuring that our acceptance process is as painstakingly meticulous, exhaustive, and democratic as possible.
What does this process look like? Well, each week, our staff of MFA student editors spends hours combing through hundreds of submissions—reading, re-reading, and making difficult decisions as to which poems, stories, and essays to select for further consideration. Then, graduate students—first-, second-, and third-years alike—are responsible for reading and giving careful consideration to the work selected for discussion. At the end of each week, we gather together to engage in a thoughtful, thorough conversation about this work. After a piece has been discussed at length, each reader casts his or her vote as to whether she or he would like to see the piece in Indiana Review. Majority rules.
While Howard does emphasize the importance of a collective readership at Passages North, saying that, no submission gets “sent back (or accepted) based on any one person,” she makes it clear that those who have the final say are the “actual editors,” rather than those MFA “kid[s].”
As someone who is so fortunate as to meet each week to listen to the intelligent comments and questions contributed by a group of invested, passionate, and informed readers, I can’t help but take issue with the notion that graduate students are incapable of making informed decisions. I believe our ideas, aesthetics, and opinions matter; I believe we can—and should—play a significant role in shaping the contemporary literary world.
Readers, what do you think? We’d love to hear what you have to say!