Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Monday Musing: Delayed Reaction Edition

Hidey-ho, folks, hope you’re all well. After enduring a week of cold, rain, and snow, the sun came out on Saturday afternoon, and it was positively balmy yesterday, mid-sixties and sunny. Daffodils are sprouting (though not quite flowering–yet), spring peepers are getting louder in the wetlands, swallows and kestrels are turning up on the telephone wires–it is spring at last! It’s interesting that, though we’ve been living in upstate New York for fourteen years now, in some ways I’m still calibrated toLong Island time. Spring arrives down there much closer to the actual vernal equinox. The weather delay seems to have been compounded the last few years as well, with more snow falling after March 1 than it did when we first moved up here. Weather blip, or climate change? Who can say for sure?

Speaking of delayed reactions, two weeks ago, I received an e-mail from Vestal Review. I’ve been receiving a lot of notifications from publications about contests and deadlines and such lately, and I figured it was just that, but then I noticed the subject line was “Sunday Drive,” the title of a short story I had sent around, so I opened it:

Though your manuscript does not suit our current needs, we wish you the best of luck placing it elsewhere. Sorry for holding it so long.

His desk is neater than mine

I wasn’t even really disappointed, to be honest. In fact, I think as I read the e-mail, I had my head cocked like a dog trying to figure out if what you’re saying is really interesting or can be ignored: I couldn’t even remember submitting “Sunday Drive” to Vestal Review. After miraculously remembering my Submittable password, I found it had been two years, ten months since I submitted “Sunday Drive” to Vestal Review.

Two years, ten months.

As writers, we’re told to be patient. We know, if we’ve done any bit of research at all when getting into this game, that things move slowly. Yes, we all want to get in The Atlantic or Glimmer Train or Ploughshares on that first submission; we want to land the agent and the publishing deal with that first manuscript; we want National Geographic to hire us to do that rain forest story that’s been in the back of our heads forever. We also know–or should know–that it’s not going to happen. I’ve resigned myself to this fact, and when I send a completed project to Agent Carrie, or when Agent Carrie starts prospecting my manuscript to editors, I try to immerse myself in something else and forget about it. Sometimes, I’m pleasantly surprised by the speed of a reaction, but mostly, it’s just like it used to be when ordering things before the age of the internet: “Please allow four to six weeks for delivery.”

Still: Two years. Ten months.

I get that magazines and literary journals are shoestring operations run by dedicated individuals who are understaffed, underfunded, and overworked, but this is a bit much. I’m sure some of you who submit short stories on a more regular basis than I do have horror stories and longer waits. Feel free to share them below. I can’t help but feel there has to be some better way.

EDIT (4/11/17): I should point out this is not meant to slag on Vestal Review in particular, or to say they are worse than other publications, or deliberately evil, etc., etc. I suspect the editors have to wade through a great deal of flotsam that comes in over the transom. Maybe, as Nick suggests below, it made a short list (though the form response may or may not negate that), maybe it just caught them at a bad time.

6 Responses

  1. I never submitted short stories, so I have nothing to offer. But still… nearly 3 years and they figure you've been waiting to hear from them? Otherwise, why send the reject? They must really think highly of themselves.

    Enjoy your spring weather. It's nice and warm here today. Love it! I guess that means rain will come soon. It usually does.

  2. That is an excessively long wait. Most people would have taken it as a no and tried to pub it elsewhere. However, I'm also bad at remembering what I've submitted. It would be nice to think they were deliberating over it for that long though!

  3. -Stacy: I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it got caught in the gears somewhere and they "found" it after a long (long, long) while. Things sometimes happen. Beautiful day yesterday, expecting some rain today, but it will be warm!
    -Nick: Fortunately, they at least allow simultaneous submissions, or I probably wouldn't have submitted in the first place. I would have nudged them or pulled it, but I totally forgot about it! I had another sub to another magazine that was 2+ years as well–I nudged them twice, got no response, then pulled it with a bit of a snark note: "two years is enough time" or something like that. I think they folded, because they no longer have a functioning website.

  4. It's been my experience that most magazines, ezines, etc. are poorly run. Anthologies are better. Stick with those. I love daffodils and tiger lilies. Orange is so cheerful. Have a great weekend!

  5. -Donna–nothing to be sorry for!
    -Lexa–as with magazines, I need to have material for submission, and I don't. Perhaps I should, though….

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