CALYX’s General Submission period opens next Thursday, October 1st, and runs until December 31st. I love this time of year because I get to read beautiful, brilliant poetry and prose for four months straight.
But I recognize that for the women who submit, this can be an extremely frustrating time. After all, if you submit in October, hearing back from us in February (or March, or August) seems like an excessively long time to wait. I understand this feeling. Heck, every time I submit something, I suddenly embody Benjamin Percy’s “Refresh, Refresh,” checking my email obsessively. So now seems like a great time to explain what the hell we’re doing during the submission period, and why it takes us so damn long to get back to you.
I’m going to lead you down the dark, labyrinthine method of material selection, but the short answer is that we’re still a paper publication in a digital world, and a studious one at that. Having a full-color art section and a gorgeous cover are the benefits; long wait times are the drawback. Also, we do the proofing stage for like ten years, seriously, it takes forever.
The first thing that happens to any submission at CALYX is assignment to a reader. If you open any of our journals to the masthead and look at the “Editorial Assistants,” you’ll see a list of wonderfully talented, brilliant women. Two of those readers (or three if the first two don’t agree) have to read each submission and agree to hold it before it can go to our Editorial Collective.
The Editorial Collective is a volunteer group that meets in person after normal business hours, starting in January. We actually have two collectives: one for poetry, one for prose. Some of the editors sit on both collectives; all of them have read with us at least two years before they join. The held submissions are discussed by the collectives in batches for two hours once a week, every week, for three months straight. And good gravy, these editors can debate. They’re all teachers, writers, and editors, and they have a range of opinions that are all worth listening to. Each editor gets a vote, and while we try to follow a “majority rules” mindset, the truth is that we like to make sure everyone is (mostly) satisfied with the result before a submission is accepted or rejected.
By now we’re through March. Didn’t that go by fast? But now we’ve gotten to my favorite part. As the Editorial Coordinator, it’s my job to take notes during the meetings and assemble it all into something coherent. Everyone who has a submission discussed by the collective receives feedback on what the editors liked and what they thought needed work. (The feedback can occasionally be conflicting. I once had to send an author the following confusing suggestion: “One editor recommends you cut the fruit imagery; another editor would like to see more fruit imagery. Do with that what you will.”) This is a good reminder: our editors aren’t united in their literary preferences.
If you are accepted in CALYX, it’s another wait as we divide material between two issues of the journal, paginate it, copyedit it, and proof it. This takes…some time. (The submissions we accept this round will be published in Vol. 29-3 and 30-1, 2017!) The result, though, is a bold, colorful journal that has forty years of history behind it. I rather think it’s worth it.
So yes, it’s a long process. But I hope this brief overview has convinced you that it’s not just me sitting in the darkened CALYX offices with a bottle of gin and an audio recording of Adrienne Rich’s Diving into the Wreck, not answering your emails satisfactorily. There are a lot of people volunteering their time and creative power here at CALYX, and they are giving every submission the attention it deserves.
Happy writing, everyone! I hope to read and share your work this fall (and winter, and spring…)