Monday, November 26, 2018

flying (and reading) blind

I just wrapped up a volunteer round of reading blind submissions for another chapbook contest for the second time (different contest, same press). It's interesting how much the work varies from the dgp chaps I am also reading concurrently. Obviously, I don't get to consider work by cis male writers, but it goes a bit further than gender variation.  dgp submissions, on the whole,  tend to be a little more on the wacky & innovative side.  Stranger somehow in their style and subject matters.  I always joke that the submission pool is maddening accurate on sending me things that I love. I hope this means we have an aesthetic that is definitely recognizeable,  though I think we also have a range of poetic approaches that still somehow mesh.   In reading for other contests, there are definitely glimmers of chaps I would totally take for the press if they were instead sent to me.  (Last go round, while the winner was not in my reading pile, two of my very favorites made the finalist pool and I hope they get picked up somewhere, or better, come across my desk at some point.)

 I realized today, with delight, that in Submittable, as I came to the end of my current queue for this contest, I could now see the authors of the previous contest couple years back, that they were no longer blind in the system.  I scrolled through,  interested to see if any authors whose work I am familiar with got a thumbs up, and there were definitely some familiar names, both past dgp-ers and folks whose work I've spotted elsewhere with appreciation.  There were also a slew of people I'd never encountered before, but whose work I'm now interested in seeking out because of having read their chap manuscript. There were weirdly a couple dgp authors whose submissions I didn't jive with, but when I looked at the mss again, I think it was more that they were quite a bit different from the chap they published with us.

I did feel good that at least my tastes are more or less consistent--that whatever criteria I am reading for in reading submissions for dgp, I am also filtering into other reading endeavors.  I've tried in the past to pin down what it is I am looking for.  What I am very much not looking for.  What makes something a "maybe" vs. an astounding "yes".  it's a combination of all sorts of things--tone, style, subject matter, coherence/unity as a chapbook, authority, that "If you get weird and go with it convincingly , I will follow along" quality.   I'm always aware when you're doing first readings that anything I choose may totally not be what the final judge is into.If anything, it gives some context to rejections--how hard it is to make it past the first reader with their own qualifications as to what's good, and onto a final judge or round of editors who may have totally different expectations.  It's kind of amazing anyone gets published ever having to go the racket of first readers (especially if said first readers are college students who might not even be sure what they themselves like.)

Over the next few days I'll be finishing up the dgp pile and sending out responses for what looks to be shaping up to be the usual sort of stay tuned..

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