This is the second part of Julie Wakeman-Linn’s, our Editor-in-Chief, thoughts on the maybe piles and the thought that goes into each submission.
So if your work is in the maybe pile, you might like to know how exactly I proceed. I read your story, usually quickly because that’s how short stories are read. I lay it back on a stack. I do laundry, play with the dog, cook dinner, drink some wine and let my brain rest. The stories I must have are the ones that haunt me. In the middle of the night I’ll remember an image. Or I find I must tell somebody about it. Your story has already cleared at least two hurdles and now it is up to me. Remember that editing choices are very subjective. Right now I’m staring at two amazingly beautiful stories on the same subject. Can I take them both as bookends or it will overload the issue? I try very hard to balance male and female narrators, first and third person to give variety to the issue. I like to vary serious tone with comic.
Another thing we work very hard to achieve is an organic table of contents, where one piece, be it poem or story or essay, flows into the next. That requires lots of lovely conversations with my chief poetry editor to select poems and stories that complement each other. I had a wonderful conversation about this with my very good friend, literary consultant Amy Holman this past weekend. With each issue my personal aesthetic is changing. That is the difficulty and the fun for me.
I’m in selection avoidance right now as I write this. There are those two beautiful stories fighting in my brain. I have horrific budget constraints this year. Any angels out there who would love to adopt an issue, just let me know. My college and my dean continue to be supportive but I can’t abuse their support. I must stay to about 120-140 pages even though I have glorious content to fill 200 pages.
I treated myself to accepting two stories tonight. That’s the most fun –sending out an email and just enjoying the response from a writer that she or he is delighted to have me accept their work. But it is truly a matter of this issue, this budget cycle, how many suicide stories do I already have in the queue. A story that was terrific two years ago won’t fit now. Writers must read the journal and our website to know what we are enjoying. Another good friend suggested the story of the month feature about a year ago. Using it, I get to publish online another 12 stories a year in our Hot Opener. That helps me sleep at night, knowing another dozen wonderful stories see publication. Keep writing, keep submitting, keep believing.
Oh yes, and subscribe because that keeps the Potomac Review alive.