Friday, July 4, 2008
Diary of a slush pile reader
In my salad days, when I was green in judgment and cold in blood, I thought it would be fun to read slush. I could read all day, but I could put down any manuscript which didn't hold my interest and there would be no need to critique them. Plus, every now and then I'd find a ruby in the rubble. What wasn't to like?
Then I read Slushkiller, Teresa Nielsen Hayden's Making Light article that mentions the proportion of nonsaleable to saleable manuscripts in the slush pile - 99 to 1 - and makes it clear that a significant portion of the 99 are, shall we say, not an easy read. I still didn't think it would be that bad, though whenever I read about editors who got proposals for plagiarized work or bizarre stories like a garbage can lid's love affair with an empty box, yes, I could see how that might make someone not eager to dive into the slush pile headfirst. It also couldn't be easy to read sad or hopeful cover letters.
But that wasn't the worst thing that could happen to a slush pile reader, as I realized when I read this hilarious article, Confessions of a Slush Pile Reader. That would be the writer who hung around in the lobby, waiting for the editorial assistant (OK, he only wanted to get his manuscript back, but still, that's a bit unnerving). Then there were the people who called, asking for the editor. The assistant's solution to this is brilliant. And then there's the great Kilimanjaro of the slush pile itself - not just a mound of manuscripts, but the repository of dreams (and nightmares). I thought that sending bribes or manuscripts printed on colored paper was the weirdest thing people could do. Note to self : people will always surprise you that way.
I don't think I'll ever want to read slush again. But I'd love to read more great articles about other people reading it.