Publication is an ongoing relationship

That a writer should page through and support a journal that selects his work for publication (at least the issue in which his poem-prose-think-child appears) might seem self-evident. But lo! How the oft-heard chorus of cricket chatter makes me think otherwise. Are we reading the work of our fellow contributors and helping them (and the journal) spread the word? One must wonder sometimes, especially when we see the Grantlands and the PANKs (recently revived!)–the journals we admire and hope to see around forever–close their doors, call it a day.

The invitees are here and the music is playing. How come no one is dancing?

Crickets make me think of soundless vacuums. Soundless vacuums, however serene, are a bore that no one visits unless they have to. Shouldn’t we contributors–past, present, and future–comprise the baseline of engagement, sharing, and feedback, at least for the issue(s) we appear in? How can a journal even begin to expand its readership when its own contributors are sitting on their hands?

Please do not misunderstand me. I am aware of all the quality dance parties sprouting up out there. There are plenty of doo-woppers, jumping jacks, and swinging queens (I have seen some issues drop so hard people threw down a mat and started breakdancing). I admire these scenes, clap along, and follow their example the best I can. And, to be clear, I am not advocating for disingenuous back-patting, blowing smoke just because we have found a common home for our work.

But to remain completely idle cannot bode well, and it is something that happens far too frequently.

The upside of this kind of engagement is, in my opinion, limitless. In my own experience, the publication credits I hold dearest stand out not because of the weight behind the journal’s name, or the fact that something I pored over appears polished and complete in its pages, but because of the positivity, opportunity, and support that followed. Thoughtful, handwritten thank-you notes from editors and fellow contributors (both sent and received); invitations to speak to a classroom of young(er) writers who have taken the time to read our work while busy shoring up their own; opportunities to bridge distances between writers who we otherwise might not have discovered–to follow their trajectories, read and consider their work, offer support and encouragement.

Exposure to work so moving, so crisp and stirring, that the urge to share it with whomever we can is a compulsion.

If it sounds bit mushy, so be it. Tell me it is not the good kind of mush. A kind word can push the ship forward, even if it is just one nautical inch. It might not save a journal, or get any stars (sorry, hearts). But it might uplift someone during those bluesy word-droughts that seem to sweep in behind certain inexplicable, unforeseen gusts of wind.

It has me.


PS A recent article in the Literary Hub reminded me that there are some writers who are active on social media and some that are not. No complaints here. Still, one’s participation in, or absence from, social media does not preclude a little shoulder rubbing. There are options. A handwritten note, for example, has been known to floor a scribe or two in its day. Idle hands, though–publication as the endgame–seem a bit one-sided, do they not?

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