Monday, February 8, 2010

On the R2 selection process

By now all of you who have submitted to R2 should have heard back from us. This year we received quite a large number of submissions, especially in creative non-fiction. We like to thank you all for submitting and we hope that you will continue to work on your craft!

Overall the quality of writing this year is stronger than those of last year. The diversity in themes is perhaps what surprised me the most. In fiction, we received a lot more genre fictions than before, including even quite a few sci-fi and romance fictions. I want reiterate our stance on genre fiction this year, which is that we are open to fiction in any style. They are judged with the same standard as any kind of fiction - good writing, thought-provoking ideas, and fresh perspectives. In both fiction and non-fiction, we also received quite an eclectic pile of writings that focus on multi-cultural themes. We are very happy to see these new trends.

Some people have asked us about our selection process. So here is how it works for R2:

When we get the submissions, the web master takes them and formats them so that they do not have the authors' names on them, are all formatted in the same style, and randomly compiled in a list, meaning a writer submitting more than one piece would not have those piece appear next to each other when the rest of the staff reads them.

Then the section editors, the managing editor, and the editor-in-chief take the submissions home for the winter break (that's right, we still have to WORK during break!). The EIC and the ME read everything and gives it either a Yes/No/Maybe. None of us knows what each other thinks about the pieces and our policy is to not discuss them until the Big Read. The section editors do the same for their own sections (neither the EIC nor the ME can submit to the magazine).

Then we come back for the Big Read (January in the Spring semester), which is open to anyone interested in creative writing. (YOU DO NOT HAVE TO HAVE WORKSHOP EXPERIENCE!) What happens here is that we have all the blinded submissions for people to look at and rate a Yes/No/Maybe. Each piece would be rated 3 times, by 3 different readers. Then at the end of the night, we compile the votes for each piece.

Once the votes are compiled, those that have 3 straight Yes's or 3 straight No's from the EIC, ME, and the section editor, would either go automatically into the Yes or No pile. Then the ambiguous ones where there are 2 No's and 1Yes, etc, would go into the Maybe pile. Associate section editors, however, can petition to us about a particular piece if necessary.

After the Big Read, we have the second Maybe Read where we decide on the Maybe pieces. Here all the associate section editors meet for that section. By this point, we start the finalizing discussion. We talk about the pros and cons of each piece and arrive at a consensus. It can get a little tricky when one of the editors knows the writer of a piece because he/she took the same creative writing class. If the editor is an associate editor, he/she would refrain from discussing the piece. The EIC, the ME, and the section editor each have final veto power, although this has never been used before.

Therefore, as you can see, we try to keep the selection process as objective as possible by blinding the submissions. But obviously, a certin degree of subjectivity still operates in the selection process. So if your piece was rejected, it may not be that it was sub-par, but because sometimes it could just be due to the overall consensus of a particular mix of individuals. Sometimes, a section editor could eschew a certain kind of writing style and therefore influence the overall styles of the pieces published in that section. Like many things in creative writing, this subjective component is inevitable. However, we do have pieces where everyone agrees on "Yes" instantly.

I hope this is helpful for those of you interested in how the R2 selection process works. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions!

Jennifer Luo
Editor-in-Chief' 2010

On author blurbs

We want it to be non-perfunctory. For example, here's a think-piece from the Berlin Pfennig Saver in 1886:

"Friedrich Nietzsche is the author of several books of philosophy. And God is dead."

Or like this one from Tiger Beat for Men in 1971 (perfect for a senior)

"Norman Mailer is a magnificent writer and one brilliant son of a bitch. He's outlived, outloved and outbrawled every last one of you miserable pansy bastards who sit around reading magazines."

or it could even have some kind of a foreshadowing element, although hopefully not as pessimistic as this one

"Sylvia Plath is a poet living in London. She Recently purchased a gas oven."- 1963, Opaque and Oblique.

or perhaps more complex like this one from the Paris Review:

"William Burroughs elaborates cardboard assumptions near the horizon. He laments the dachshunds' cruel design."

And finally, here's a great one that really uses the writer's last words to further assert his essential self. This one's from Disembowelment Weekly:

"Stephen King is a horror author. That's horror, not whore."