What the (Publishing) World Needs Now…

I’m back from the AWP conference, and I’m happy to say I survived the week of panels, bookfair table-manning, and off-site events. In fact, I more than survived–I had a great time meeting and reconnecting with so many of our Los Angeles Review contributors (check our our Twitter feed, @LAReview, to see contributors past and present showing their literary love), and having lively discussions with writers from around the country. Here’s to the fine folks at AWP for putting on a great conference, the Snowpocalypse (I’d prefer it if we could all start calling it, as my agent did, Snowtorious B.I.G.) notwithstanding.

This year, as LAR goes into its 10th issue–yes, we’re hitting the double digits–I made it a point to spend more time conversing with other editors at the book fair, chatting about their editorial practices and experiences. And I noticed something interesting along my way–something that I’m convinced cannot be chalked up to a coincidence:

The friendliest editors tended to be among the most successful publishers in attendance.

To name just two examples, the editors at Tin House and The Rumpus, which are practically household names for literary folks, were incredibly nice people. They took the time to talk to me, and were incredibly gracious about answering questions, and didn’t scrutinize my name badge to see if I was someone important before they took the time to chat. They were simply very cool people who were excited about their work. (That’s not to say that many, many other editors at emerging publications weren’t  great as well. But I was incredibly surprised by the lack of snobbery amongst some of the big names.)

Of course, one might say, it’s easy to be nice and enthusiastic when you’re successful, not grinding away at the millstone to make a project work. And maybe that’s true. But I don’t think that’s the whole story; I really believe that people who develop good relationships, play well with others, and go about their writing and publishing careers with an attitude inclined toward sharing the love rather than hoarding the spotlight (basically, being good literary citizens) are going to see success come of their work.

I’m taking this notion to heart this year. I’m going to be the nicest, most accessible editor I can be. That doesn’t mean I’ll be changing my editorial standards, or that I won’t ever send out the dreaded form rejection letters. It doesn’t mean I can be wheedled into liking anyone’s submission. But it does mean I want to be a supporter of literature and of its practitioners. I want to help other publishers when and how I can. I want to be a damned good editor, and a nice one, too.

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3 Replies to “What the (Publishing) World Needs Now…”

  1. Great point here, Kelly. Reminds of that poem ‘What is the Real Good’ I read as a kid – and as cliched as we often think it is (I think it’s because of those bumper stickers), you’re right about being nice. It matters.

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