So, You Want to be an Editor?

I never planned on being an editor. It’s something that I stumbled into by volunteering my time, communicating with people, falling in love with the Internet, and actually caring about what people put in print.

I didn’t leave my human emotions in some bin beside my computer when I added the title of editor to my list of that which defines me.

However, there are days when it appears people think I’m less than human. Or, perhaps, that I’m an underdeveloped human. Certainly, I appear to be a less-than-brilliant poetry critic to multitudes who are displeased with my opinions on their work if that opinion is one of the several it takes to get their work rejected.

And, so, here I am, feeling the need to sound off a little bit. Why? Because editors are also writers. Often, we are writers who are submitting our work elsewhere and we get to feel the sting of rejection as often as anyone else who submits work in a market where competition is stiff and tempers are short. And editors have the pleasure of reading a lot of whatever it is they edit (poetry, in my case), which means they are very aware of the quality of what is out there. It doesn’t take long to develop an eye for work that has been carefully put together versus that which has been slapped down on the page without another glance.

As much as I love the way the Internet has changed how people send submissions, it is much easier than it was in the age of snail mail exclusivity to send work that isn’t ready for public consumption. And it is far easier for someone to let their knee-jerk reaction to a rejection of something they are sure is ready for an audience be sent to the editorial staff that felt otherwise.

The point is this: we are all, editors and writers,  in this publishing world together. We all do the best we can. No one is out to get anyone. We’re here because we love words; we love their sounds, their feel as they roll off our tongues, the way they can be manipulated to call up a specific image or emotion. We love the way words incite others to action or soothe a manic soul. Sometimes we trip over each other with conflicting visions of how words should be strung together. But our goals are probably far more similar than they are at odds.

If you have any doubts, go volunteer your time as a slush reader somewhere. It will be quite an eye-opening experience.

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