Thursday, August 26, 2010

Doing Away with the Slush Pile

Jim Hannah’s blog, Encylopedia Hannasina, has an interesting post on the slush pile and how it should be done away with. In particular he focuses on the literary journal. His argument: that the process for the writer is extremely long with the best possible outcome being that “Your story is accepted, and maybe a year later it appears and is distributed to the journal’s meager readership who probably won’t read it…” His judgment is no better for the journal. It needs to maintain an “army of volunteer readers” to wade through it which is wasteful since “most submissions fall into the category of ‘not even close.’” So he suggests killing off the slush pile and publishing work by solicitation only. “How will writers and editors find each other then? Simple. Writers will put their work out—on blogs or in writing communities or wherever—and editors will find it.” Instead of trying out work it can be put out to find an immediate audience. Journals meanwhile will find new work through the internet in “all sorts of novel ways—nominations, tagging schemes, fostering writing communities—all of which would be less ridiculous (and probably less expensive and time-consuming) than the slush pile.”

Alright, so this particular editor thinks slogging through the slush pile of internet published writing would be way more “expensive and time-consuming” than Mr. Hannah is letting on; nevertheless, he has some interesting points. The time lag between writing and submission, submission and rejection/acceptance, acceptance and publication is an ongoing issue for writers and publishers. The eventual published work is rarely indicative of where the writer is currently situated. Anything that can speed this process up is well worth considering. In addition, I am kind of drawn to the idea of an Utne Reader of literature. Poems, stories, non-fiction gathered from on and off-line literary journals. Here the internet has a lot to offer. Online journals are cheap and multitudinous. Frequently the editorial input leaves a lot to be desired. Notwithstanding, there undoubtedly is a lot of great work out there which slips past a lot of interested readers in much the same way a blog post such as this can quickly disappear from view. For someone, or someone’s army of volunteers, to scour the slush pile of the internet seems to me to be a worthy cause not to replace the current process of submission but to compliment it.

Gerard Beirne
Fiction Co-Editor