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One of the great ironies in the writing business is the persistent misunderstanding by many writers of the purpose of literary journals. Message to writers: We’re not against you; we exist for you.
Here is a good example of the potential value of literary reviews. Recently I received a personal email from an aspiring poet thanking us, as the editors of Delmarva Review, for printing his work four years earlier. We had published six of his poems, as a collection, to show the strength of his voice. In his email, the poet explained that our belief in his work bolstered his perseverance to write his best work, which resulted in a publisher producing his first book, as well as his receiving a National Endowment for the Arts literary fellowship.
He was excited; he shared his exhilaration. As executive editor, I felt we had received the ultimate reward for our efforts. Delmarva Review had succeeded in meeting a major objective—to encourage writers in their pursuit of literary excellence. It was working.
However, my sense of satisfaction was short-lived.
Later that day, I attended a writers’ reading at a local library. I enjoy hearing authors tell their stories in their unique voice. One of the writers came up to me to complain, with some bitterness, that after several repeated rejections, that person would never again submit to our journal. It was disheartening, but I listened. I explained why acceptance in Delmarva Review was competitive and to keep trying. Reliance on high standards assures a publication that earns respect throughout the literary community. That respect is totally transferrable to the writers whose work we publish.
We receive thousands of submissions annually. At least two experienced editors or readers read every one of them (at no cost to the writer). If a writer’s work is accepted, it is an accomplishment. Our readers–who include writers, editors and teachers–should expect to read a higher quality of writing in a literary journal than in a standard commercial magazine or book.
Unfortunately, rejection is a necessary part of the process. Any way you say it, rejection is rejection.
About rejection – We editors often tell each other that experienced writers understand rejection. But, the truth is, we’re all human, and one of the fallacies of human behavior is the frequent inability by artists, experienced or not, to recognize and appraise the limits of their own writing. Self-appraisal of an author’s writing is usually tainted by bias. Hopefully, we all like our own work. That’s only the beginning. Developing the ability to make a realistic assessment and knowing where to market one’s work is very, very difficult. But, not to try assures the hardness of rejection.
Speaking for Delmarva Review, we created it for the benefit of writers. “Literary” refers to writing that rises to a high artistic level. Cutting through a lot of philosophical thought, it is simply the pursuit of the best of literary art and beauty. It is beyond craft. Literary journals help assure a societal pathway toward continued literary excellence.
The literary journal gives writers an opportunity to publish their best efforts, a place to showcase their highest aspirations, and to be recognized for it. At a time when so many commercial publications are retracting, or going out of business, journals offer a respected, permanent place to print the best writing a writer can create. We have no other agenda. We are independent. We are nonprofit, and our editors draw no salaries. We care about the appearance of the writer’s words on a printed page and the thoughts behind them. Above all, we hope that our discoveries become the discoveries of other discerning readers and publishers who actively seek the best writing they can find.
The benefit to us is the reward of knowing that we have encouraged writers to exceed by offering a possible venue for their most creative expression.
So…don’t give up. If you’re a writer, a literary journal like Delmarva Review is your friend. We take pleasure in discovering your best. Rejection may or may not be a part of that process. But, if you try, you may very well succeed at something very special, very fulfilling.
For information and submissions, see our new website: www.DelmarvaReview.org.