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Close Gates With Kindness
By M. Alouette
When you submit work to a literary magazine, you understand that rejection is a possibility. Editors, in their role, are gatekeepers. They can choose to craft those gates (high or loss, gold or nickel) and open and close them how they wish. You understand that they may close the gates to you, or at least the work you have submitted for their consideration this time. All I'm asking is that editors consider their power and close their gates with kindness.
It takes courage and vulnerability to submit your work to any literary magazine. You have invested time, energy, and hopefully some of your soul in creating your work. Editors should respect the risk you've taken to press 'send.' Many editors are sensitive. After all, many, if not most, editors are writers, too. They know how hard it is to submit their work and wait on responses from literary magazines. If they aren't sensitive, at least most editors know to be polite. They know to send rejection letters that don't cause additional pain. They aren't commissioning an investigative report for a national newspaper with high journalistic integrity. They're considering a poem for a literary magazine. One of these is much more personal and subjective than the other.
Unfortunately, not all editors are so kind. Some are downright nasty.
Maybe you've been so lucky to encounter one of these editors (sigh). They give you a detailed explanation for why they did not accept your work and are not afraid to be frank. If you're really lucky, they pick apart individual paragraphs or even sentences and give "advice" based on their taste. Other ugly rejection letter moves include judging or criticizing a writer's gender or racial identity, academic credentials (or lack thereof), book sales, etc. This behavior reminds me of grade school bullying, and I have to ask: Why are these editors so insecure?
I think this insecurity goes back to the aforementioned fact that many editors are also writers. Some of them have had their work rejected over and over, and not handled it well. They take the rejection much too personally or even believe they are somehow above it. I think these editors/writers are the ones most likely to be mean. Or worse, they're the kind of writers who are too fearful of submitting anything in the first place. Because of this, they resent everyone who does take that risk. They take out their resentment in the form of rejection letter bullying. It's not a good look.
Really, it's hard to go wrong with kindness. Anyone who purports to be a poet should have enough depth of feeling to realize that. Editors (especially those who are writers), please craft your rejection letters with care.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.