Earlier this summer, I was selected to be part of the editorial board of Pomona Valley Review – an arts journal that comes out once a year. Because of my experience here as a managing editor, as well as Melanie and I presenting on Pomona Valley Review’s poetry panel last year at the Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Associate conference (PAMLA), I was put in charge of the editorial board and took on the position of lead editor for the 11th edition of the journal.
While I have been published in the past through a handful of smaller journals (PVR included), this was my first time behind the scenes selecting artistic items that would be published. The process, I found, was very different from what we do here and not something I took into consideration when I would submit pieces myself.
I know that the knowledge I’ve gained in working as an editorial board member during this past issue of Pomona Valley Review has helped me understand how I should submit my work as a writer/poet to increase my chances of being published in the future. And, of course, I want to share that gained knowledge with you, the reader.
Pomona Valley Review uses Submittable for all of it’s submissions – stories, poetry, pictures, paintings, etc. But there are still many people who try to email in their submissions. When a journal selects one way and makes that way apparent, as a submitter, you should really follow what the journal asks. In general, if a journal asks for submissions one way and you send it in another way, your chances of being considered go down from the start. The policy at Pomona Valley Review is that unless we’re hurting for submissions, we won’t look at work that isn’t submitted in the correct manner.
Now, there was one author with poor vision and their adaptive software (text to speak) worked best in email. The process of creating a word document, uploading it, attaching it, and submitting a biography wasn’t accessible for that individual so their submission was taken via email. So exceptions can be made for accessibility purposes but otherwise, you’d need to stick with the platform the journal asks you to use.
Every journal wants something different when you submit your work to them – that’s just a fact. For Pomona Valley Review, the big golden rule that authors need to follow is that each item for consideration should be a separate submission. There are authors that submit multiple poems or pictures in one submission, and those authors are generally not taken into consideration because the process of separating out those poems and accepting one over the others included in the file is too time consuming from our end.
Again, exceptions have been made before in the past. This occurs mostly when the multiple poems in one submission are part of a coherent thematically linked collection and work better as a unit than alone. That call falls onto the poetry editors of that edition, however, and some won’t accept multiple works in one submission even if they are thematically linked.
Understanding Editorial Decisions
Editors don’t just pick the works they like: editors have to think about fit and match of pieces to other works within the journal, look for an overall theme of works submitted to see if they can somehow fit together harmoniously within the journal, think about the audience response to pieces, consider the quality of writing in a submitted piece, look at the originality of the work, think of how the work will look laid out on the page, and so much more.
When I would get rejections that stated something along the lines of “your work was great but didn’t fit within our theme” I always thought that was just a nice way of saying we don’t like your stuff, but after working as an editor on this issue I can see that this really isn’t the case and that theme and development takes a big role in decisions made.
That’s not to say we sacrifice quality of content for theme; rather that both get taken into consideration and if we have two great poems and one that doesn’t fit (say it’s about a happy marriage when most of the submissions are about a dystopian present), we go with the poem that fits more with our theme.
There were some really strong and original works that I liked, but they contained strong language and graphic content that would have been shocking to general readers (graphic depictions of rape and violence).
There were also some poems I didn’t personally love that other people working on the poetry section liked that were included. Quality wise, they were well written, but they didn’t strike me as other poems did on a personal level.
The whole process is a fairly democratic and cooperative one, and no one editor rules out a piece completely just as no one editor can make a piece they strongly like be included.
In the future, I know that as an author I need to make sure I follow the submission guidelines to a T and that if my work isn’t accepted, it’s not always a matter of quality but a matter of theme, flow, fit, and match with other pieces being submitted. Overall, I liked the process and working with Pomona Valley Review so much I’ve taken on the role of managing editor for Pomona Valley Review 12, which will be out next August.