March 9, 2008KR BlogKRReading

A Sneak Peek!

One of the blessings of being a blogger for The Kenyon Review is getting an advance copy of the newest issue delivered to my in-box a few weeks before it hits the newsstands (and before it arrives in my snailmailbox, as I am also a happy subscriber to the paper version.)

David Lynn‘s introduction, Brave New World, and Not, shares with readers the nature of each issue’s timeline to print, and it was eye-opening. The fact that KR receives submissions in the thousands was no surprise, and the early-close to the submissions period this year is an indicator of the excellent work that continues to arrive in Gambier-cyberspace for consideration by the small and dedicated staff at Wiggin House. David Hall, columnist for the blog and Director of the Young Writers Summer Programs, wrote of his recent joy at having a story accepted for publication in the prestigious journal, and then shared his shock too, in finding out that his words were at least a year away from being in print.

Lynn offers that this is due to the submissions and readings process, copy- editing, layout, contracts, proofing, and distribution, all of which can dictate the journal’s turnaround time from acceptance of a submission to the print of that submission in an issue. Lynn goes on to share Kenyon Review’s upcoming venture–the publication of pieces on the KR website, in addition to the print journal. However, these won’t be reprints, but an experiment into online companion issues. Lynn writes, “The beauty of the Internet is that we can publish this literature almost instantly. Competition for space disappears, because space is limitless. And the readership will be international, reaching a wider and larger audience than the print journal–or any print journal–has ever been able to do.”

I find myself excited by this prospect of “shorter, edgier, perhaps more experimental” pieces under the banner of The Kenyon Review via a web companion issue. Other sites have attempted similar undertakings to mixed reception. The Kenyon Review, however, has long been one of the standards of excellence for literary publications, and the critical judgment of KR is impeccable. Thus, I imagine the web-companion issues may expand the nature and definitions of what an “online publication” is and can be. Indeed, the possibilities will be limited only by imagination (and bandwith).

No doubt the acceptance of submissions for the online issue will be just as carefully selected as submissions for the print issue. Thus, the dreaded rejection letter will continue for some (albeit, in electronic form), and will hopefully be kind and gentle. Brian Doyle writes of this very thing (and much more) in his essay “NO” featured in the opening pages of Kenyon Review’s latest issue. Doyle begins by discussing “the most honest rejection letter [he] ever received” from Oregon Coast Magazine, who noted that they couldn’t publish his essay because their advertisers would sue them. That’s honest. Doyle goes on to describe the rejection letters of various publications, from the Nation to Grand Street to The Sun. He notes his shock at some rejections received: “it takes brass balls, as my brothers say, to reject a batch of poems with a curt note while including a subscription form to the review in the same envelope in which the rejection huddles,” and after reading this, I find myself shamed and excited that our little Prism Review out of Los Angeles may actually have brass balls! Like most print journals, we do have a “sheer relentless drive [. . .] to stay alive.”

Doyle goes on to share the merits of the ways you can say yes and offers a bit of his definition of what editors actually do–and it’s all very funny and sweet and gives me a bit of hope as I stare over to my desk at the recent three rejections I got just this past Friday. One small aspect of Doyle’s voluminous essay, which I adore, is his ‘daydream’ of pulling out his own little rejection slips for everyday situations. One of his examples: “when I sense a silly argument brewing with my lovely and mysterious spouse, and instead of foolishly trying to lay out my sensible points which have been skewed or miscommunicated, I simply hold up a card (BRIAN DOYLE REGRETS THAT HE IS UNABLE TO PURSUE THIS MATTER).” Speaking of brass balls, we should all send lovely thank you notes to those who’ve rejected us, knowing that editors have a tough job and could use a sweet laugh once in a while:

Dear (insert editor’s actual name here),

Thanks so much for your response to my submission! I appreciate the time you took to write your rejection letter; however, I regret that it’s not quite right for me for one of the following reasons:

__ You misspelled mispelled my name
__ You held my work hostage for 16 months and there’s a coffee stain on my manuscript
__ I included an SASE and you didn’t return my manuscripts in the SASE, so what have you done with my stamp? I demand a refund.
__ The cut-marks on the clearing-house-style photocopied rejection clearly shows a lack of attention to detail. I gently request a hand-cut rejection with straight borders.


Kirsten Ogden