Every editor knows that at some point they’re going to have to fight for a piece that they absolutely love and feel they cannot pass-up because if they don’t grab it when they have the chance, they will never stop thinking about “the one that got away.” This is a natural part of the editorial process. Every editor on the editorial team reads all the pieces that are submitted, makes notes and eventually a list, and then breaks the lists down in order to select and bring forth only their favorite pieces. And then the editorial team meets and the real work begins. Decision time.
Naturally, there are going to be some pieces that catch everyone’s eye. They are obvious; they speak sternly to everyone that reads them as if to say you must publish me. But then there are those other pieces; the subtle pieces that long after you have finished reading keep whispering in your ear hey, remember me?
Once a piece has made its home in your imagination, it’s hard to shake. And if you are the only person on your team that loves it, then you are going to have to fight to get it to the press. At first maybe you can’t exactly figure out what it is that you love about it – or maybe you know exactly what it is you love about it, but you can’t quite articulate why. And when you bring the piece forward to the rest of the editors, you’re doubly stumped because you work with words everyday, yet this piece has left you speechless.
Learning how to fight for a piece is an incredibly important part of being an editor. If a piece works, you must be able to say why it works – and likewise, you must be able to articulate why pieces do not work. You must, in a sense, be able to speak honestly about the writing that crosses your desk.
When it comes time to fight for a piece that has whispered in your ear and snuggled up in your imagination, you need to be able to talk about every facet of it. You need to be able to prove why the weaknesses your peers perceive are actually strengths and why the strengths elevate the piece to the point where you simply cannot pass it up. But most of all, you need to be one hundred percent behind it. The piece has already convinced you; you are a believer. Now it’s your job to show your team why.
S. Baer Lederman is a MFA candidate at Roosevelt University and part of the editorial team for the Oyez Review 42.