The Emerson Review is published annually by students at Emerson College and is distributed across Boston, in a print run of 1,000 copies. It publishes short fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and photography. 2011’s forthcoming issue is their fortieth. Submissions are accepted between August 1 and February 1. Full guidelines are available at http://pages.emerson.edu/organizations/emerson_review/submit.html.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a story and why?
DPC: You read a lot in college. So we’re looking for stories we’ll remember the next day, after we’ve been reading Oates and Moody and Lahiri. Your story has to stand out, has to be worth talking about. We want to gossip about your story. And the best way to grab us is to use strong images, intriguing language, and worthwhile characters.
SQF: What are the top three reasons a story is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to question one and why?
DPC: We reject stories that have vampires in them. We reject stories that are actually journal entries. We reject stories that make us yawn.
SQF: What common mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a story?
DPC: Typos. Grammatical errors. Fancy fonts. Melodrama. Talking animals. Ill-placed lyrics. Twist endings. Stories set in dorms. Stories set in castles. Metafiction.
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a story?
DPC: Usually. Every submission is read by at least ten readers and two editors, so we accumulate a lot of comments, a lot of ideas. I don’t have the actual numbers, but I’d estimate we ask for rewrites of 20% of the stories we receive, in lieu of flat-out rejection. We like working with authors to find a ‘solution.’
When we reject stories, we feel we owe the author an explanation. You trusted us with your work, and returning it with comments is the least we can do. We don’t pretend to know what’s best for the story, but we try to explain why it wasn’t right for us.
SQF: I read a comment by one editor who said she keeps a blacklist of authors who respond to a rejection in a less than professional manner. I'm sure you know what I mean. What do you want authors to know about the stories you reject and how authors should respond? Along this same idea, do you mind if authors reply with polite questions about the comments they receive?
DPC: Yes, we’ve received angry e-mails. We print them, read them to each other, and giggle like the schoolgirls most of us are.
Let’s be clear: All rejections (from every journal, I’d imagine) are final. And we’re busy: We don’t have time to respond to authors who think they know better than us. And maybe they do, but we’re young and naïve and we’re going to print what we believe in.
But if you have a question about our comments, we’ll be more than happy to clarify. We aim to be transparent.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
DPC: “Where is your journal going?” Answer: Big, scary places!
Thank you, Doug. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 9/3--Six Questions for Katherine Tomlinson, Publisher, Dark Valentine Magazine