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alf

Singapore
92 Posts

Posted - 01 Feb 2005 :  14:48:15  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
ON SOLICITING:

I suppose we ought to spell out the spectrum of soliciting practices for arguments’ sake

0. Inviting general submissions (either fully open or via a known network say a mailing list)
1. Inviting general submissions from specific writers, famous or otherwise.
2. Asking explicitly for “recent work” (published or otherwise) from specific writers, for (a) consideration or (b) use.
3. Asking explicitly for thematic submissions from specific writers, for (a) consideration or (b) use.
4. Asking explicitly for specific pieces (published or otherwise) from specific writers for use.

Did I miss anything?

I’d disregard lvl 0 and 1 for the purposes of our discussion since I feel they fall sufficiently into the category of general submissions. Lvl 2 is borderline for me. 4 is perhaps the clearest cut eg of soliciting (case in pt, Cyril asked me for those specific pieces to use in Softblow).

The practice of soliciting is not uncommon with say anthologies, retrospectives or showcases, where the intent is to (re)present a particular slate of voices/themes/styles/personalities/landmarks. I’ve done all of the above in pursuit of my anthologies and as guest editor (for say overseas journals doing a special feature on Singapore). As I’ve mentioned, it’s pretty much curating rather than editing.

However, the practice (of to an extent 2 but esp 3 and 4) strikes me as inappropriate in a general literary review / journal with at least some explicit intent of surveying the contemporary field of play at any given moment.

Softblow in that sense is more gallery than newsroom. Nothing wrong with that; but to compare Softblow to QLRS would be like comparing the Singapore Art Museum with the Straits Times.

The level of predetermination (of content) which soliciting implies is at odds with the role of the general edtior in selecting from (and thereby “reporting”) whatever comes his way on a day to day basis. His role is that of an informed observer of his field of expertise (eg. the literary scene in Singapore), not unlike a senior correspondent or News Editor in a media outfit.

Yes I know news organisations often solicit, but that’s often because a particular expert is uniquely qualified to answer certain questions, OR when the news outfit is short on resources and staff on the ground. In that regard, it’s not all that different from QLRS asking someone to do a review of a book.
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Nicholas Liu

Singapore
59 Posts

Posted - 01 Feb 2005 :  21:20:02  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
Hsien Min:
quote:
Theoretically that is the case; but, practically speaking, I suspect readers of online journals have a finite amount of patience and therefore it is likely that editors of effective online journals seldom test the theoretical.


Well, that's where the stockpile could come in.

Besides, who knows how far the reader's patience will stretch? I don't find it implausible that a reader confronted with, say, 20 poems would still read them all--just not at one sitting. I don't read your current 8-12 poems in one sitting as it is. Also, there's always the option of increasing the frequency of publication if one finds oneself consistently laden with too many good poems (a happy problem, I'd think).

quote:
Good point in theory, but again in the soliciting practice most editors don't, for whatever reason (lack of time, cost-benefit inefficiency) go searching beyond writers who are in their first or second degree networks.


Well that's a pity, then.

quote:
Again, your argument is elegant in theory but doesn't necessarily translate well into practice. First of all, it's not always the case that there is no gulf. If I were to ask Alvin for a poem, true enough there might be no gulf, but then he's likely to send poems in anyway, every 3-4 issues or so; so if I had to solicit I'm likely to aim for those who wouldn't necessarily send something unless I asked, say Andrew Motion or Jo Shapcott, and then there would certainly be a gulf, no?


There are those who wouldn't send ordinarily anything with whom there isn't a gulf--simply because they are unaware, or they didn't think QLRS published the sort of thing they write, or maybe they're jsut lazy and need prodding. There are reasons to solicit beyond name value. . . .

quote:
Secondly, there isn't any guarantee that writers whose work the editor might find interesting would upon being asked send something that the editor would find quite up to his/her expectations. Such a failure of (well, for brevity's sake) theory sparks off a whole other dilemma of whether to reject the piece that he/she had asked for in the whole place and risk alienating a writer whose work he/she finds interesting, or to close one eye and take the piece anyway.


Not sure how that's a whole other dilemma--isn't it precisely the dilemma you referred to earlier (re: Heaney)? Anyway, I don't see it as a dilemma. I rejecting the piece--tactfully--is an unpleasant necessity.

Of course it's possible to make a total balls-up of the whole thing--I remember I asked for a specific piece from Alvin, but ended up forced to reject it as I assumed my co-editors would like it too, but turned out to be dead set against it. For which many apologies; I still cringe at the memory. But this is a unique(ly stupid) example. Rejecting a writer one had extended a more general invitation to should not be such a big deal.

quote:
As for having an aesthetic agenda, you will notice that I was careful to say that some element of this is always in play; but you will, I think, also find it hard to argue that the practice of restricting oneself to what actually comes in from the ether does not place more restrictions on an editor than the practice of actively searching for what one likes.


I don't see how choosing from just what comes in can possibly not be more restrictive that choosing from what comes along as well as soliciting work from specific writers.

quote:
Or to put it in other terms, I would suggest that I've been reasonably catholic in reading and selecting what has come in for QLRS, but if I had to solicit I would be likely to choose very different poems.


Could you explain why this is so?
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Nicholas Liu

Singapore
59 Posts

Posted - 01 Feb 2005 :  22:18:28  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
Alvin:
quote:
I suppose we ought to spell out the spectrum of soliciting practices for arguments’ sake

0. Inviting general submissions (either fully open or via a known network say a mailing list)
1. Inviting general submissions from specific writers, famous or otherwise.
2. Asking explicitly for “recent work” (published or otherwise) from specific writers, for (a) consideration or (b) use.
3. Asking explicitly for thematic submissions from specific writers, for (a) consideration or (b) use.
4. Asking explicitly for specific pieces (published or otherwise) from specific writers for use.

Did I miss anything?


What's the significant difference between 'Inviting general submissions from specific writers' and 'Asking explicitly for “recent work” (published or otherwise) from specific writers'?

Also, I think it should go 2(a), 3(a), 2(b), 3(b).

quote:
I’d disregard lvl 0 and 1 for the purposes of our discussion since I feel they fall sufficiently into the category of general submissions.


I don't feel that this is the case. I certainly wouldn't feel comfortable claiming that Whatnot #1 was made up of 'general submissions'.

quote:
The practice of soliciting is not uncommon with say anthologies, retrospectives or showcases, where the intent is to (re)present a particular slate of voices/themes/styles/personalities/landmarks. I’ve done all of the above in pursuit of my anthologies and as guest editor (for say overseas journals doing a special feature on Singapore). As I’ve mentioned, it’s pretty much curating rather than editing.

However, the practice (of to an extent 2 but esp 3 and 4) strikes me as inappropriate in a general literary review / journal with at least some explicit intent of surveying the contemporary field of play at any given moment.


But those specific writers are part of the 'contemporary field of play', are they not? Using solicited pieces to the near-exclusion of everything else would of course distort the picture (which in a journal will always be distorted anyway), but the act of soliciting itself is not incompatible, I feel, to the purpose.

quote:
Softblow in that sense is more gallery than newsroom. Nothing wrong with that; but to compare Softblow to QLRS would be like comparing the Singapore Art Museum with the Straits Times.


I don't disagree that they are quite different, but I would not choose that comparison; the difference, I think, between Softblow and QLRS is more a difference of scope (Softblow being the narrower--specific poets vs. a wider spread of poems) than of currency per se.

quote:
The level of predetermination (of content) which soliciting implies is at odds with the role of the general edtior in selecting from (and thereby “reporting”) whatever comes his way on a day to day basis. His role is that of an informed observer of his field of expertise (eg. the literary scene in Singapore), not unlike a senior correspondent or News Editor in a media outfit.


I disagree that the position of editor of QLRS necessarily carries with it the role of 'informed observer of. . . the literary scene in Singapore', *that is* if this means 'selecting from (and thereby “reporting”) whatever comes his way on a day to day basis'. QLRS's, and by extension Hsien Min's, self-defined role is 'to promote the literary arts in Singapore, to stimulate the feedback mechanisms in the literary scene, and to develop Singaporean writers to international standards'. 'Reporting' what comes in through the slush is not the only way of fulfilling this.
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alf

Singapore
92 Posts

Posted - 01 Feb 2005 :  23:17:30  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
quote:
What's the significant difference between 'Inviting general submissions from specific writers' and 'Asking explicitly for “recent work” (published or otherwise) from specific writers'?


-- I mentioned this I think. For me, the difference is one of obligation; ("We are available for investment" vs "Please lend me $1 million")

quote:
Also, I think it should go 2(a), 3(a), 2(b), 3(b).


-- ok, sure, for discussions' sake.

quote:
I don't feel that this is the case. I certainly wouldn't feel comfortable claiming that Whatnot #1 was made up of 'general submissions'.


-- are you saying 0 and 1 qualify as open submission or are forms of soliciting?

quote:
But those specific writers are part of the 'contemporary field of play', are they not? Using solicited pieces to the near-exclusion of everything else would of course distort the picture (which in a journal will always be distorted anyway), but the act of soliciting itself is not incompatible, I feel, to the purpose.


-- Not in and of itself incompatible esp at the beginning. But I feel it weakens the position of the publication to have to do this in the long term and regularly. The problem is that increased use of solicitation may lead to a decline in open submissions of quality (like any addiction, habit forming and resulting in ever-increasing doses).

"(which in a journal will always be distorted anyway)" is at least ameliorated by sticking to what comes in of its own accord -- there's also little new ground/catchment to gain by being too dependent on solicits -- you turn into a "who's who" showcase with little new work to uncover.

quote:
I don't disagree that they are quite different, but I would not choose that comparison; the difference, I think, between Softblow and QLRS is more a difference of scope (Softblow being the narrower--specific poets vs. a wider spread of poems) than of currency per se.


--- nah. Softblow has no stake in featuring/uncovering Singaporean writing in the way QLRS does. It's pretty much "what the editor likes" rather than "what's being written in Singapore these days".

quote:
QLRS's, and by extension Hsien Min's, self-defined role is 'to promote the literary arts in Singapore, to stimulate the feedback mechanisms in the literary scene, and to develop Singaporean writers to international standards'. 'Reporting' what comes in through the slush is not the only way of fulfilling this.


-- Agree there's more than one way to skin the cat. At issue is whether soliciting best serves this. Again, the developmental role (uncovering new talent etc.) is hardly served by asking for work from the people you already know are writing.

If its mandate were to "showcase Singaporean writers of international standards", then yes, I'd say there is a case for soliciting.

Then again, I think the problem we're having with soliciting is that its an unhealthy habit in the long run, not that it couldn't result in good work being published.

In which case, fostering a healthy literary ecology (where good writing is routinely submitted for peer review before publication rather than solicited, amongst other practices) rather than merely picking from the best, is indeed, I'd say, part of the QLRS mission.

HM?

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alf

Singapore
92 Posts

Posted - 01 Feb 2005 :  23:22:45  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
quote:

Of course it's possible to make a total balls-up of the whole thing--I remember I asked for a specific piece from Alvin, but ended up forced to reject it as I assumed my co-editors would like it too, but turned out to be dead set against it. For which many apologies; I still cringe at the memory. But this is a unique(ly stupid) example. Rejecting a writer one had extended a more general invitation to should not be such a big deal.



-- so THAT'S what happened to it. Never got wind of it after that. And you'd expect writers treated like that to send in work in future, solicited or otherwise???? Hardly the way to build credibility, non?

-- "a more general invitiation" is not the same as solicitation. Certainly nowhere near "I'd like to use THIS SPECIFIC POEM" (and then dumping it summarily).


Edited by - alf on 01 Feb 2005 23:24:15
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Hsien Min

Singapore
49 Posts

Posted - 02 Feb 2005 :  00:23:05  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
quote:
There are those who wouldn't send ordinarily anything with whom there isn't a gulf--simply because they are unaware, or they didn't think QLRS published the sort of thing they write, or maybe they're jsut lazy and need prodding. There are reasons to solicit beyond name value. . . .

Noted, but I'm not sure it's my responsibility to run around to the lazy or diffident. The most I'd do is, if I bump into someone, to say, send stuff if you'd like to, we'll look at it. I really don't have energy to spare to go around asking.

quote:
But this is a unique(ly stupid) example.

I'm not sure it's quite that unique. And if I can do without problems of this nature, why not?

quote:
I don't see how choosing from just what comes in can possibly not be more restrictive that choosing from what comes along as well as soliciting work from specific writers.

Thanks for agreeing.

quote:
Could you explain why this is so?

I could - but now you're starting to sound as though you're trolling. Surely it's quite evident? Anyway, Alvin's picked up on it already.

And yup, Alf, fostering a healthy literary ecology and all that... what QLRS is (or, if it's not there yet, what I hope it will be) is an arena for whatever kinds of poetry or prose are actually being written in Singapore at the moment (supplemented, of course, by overseas writers dropping in on the neighbourhood). (I seem to remember having had this conversation with you before... think I said something along the lines of if Singaporean writers started taking to L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry QLRS would soon become a L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E journal.)

Cheers,
HM
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Nicholas Liu

Singapore
59 Posts

Posted - 02 Feb 2005 :  23:37:35  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
Alvin:
quote:
I mentioned this I think. For me, the difference is one of obligation; ("We are available for investment" vs "Please lend me $1 million")


Is the obligation still there in 2(a), where you state that it's for consideration?

quote:
are you saying 0 and 1 qualify as open submission or are forms of soliciting?


I think 1 is a form of soliciting. Once you approach specific writers, you're expressing interest in their stuff in particular; what results can't really be called a general submission, I think.

quote:
Not in and of itself incompatible esp at the beginning. But I feel it weakens the position of the publication to have to do this in the long term and regularly. The problem is that increased use of solicitation may lead to a decline in open submissions of quality (like any addiction, habit forming and resulting in ever-increasing doses).


I grok your habit-forming point, but I don't think it would necessarily 'lead to a decline in open submissions of quality'. You're referring to the possibility of people getting the impression that the journal's hermetically sealed against new writers, and so deciding to stop submitting, right? In which case 1) how would they know the accepted pieces were solicited anyway (barring the sudden appearance of Heaney in the April issue of QLRS) and 2) some acceptances would be likely to come from new writers, and people would notice those.

quote:
"(which in a journal will always be distorted anyway)" is at least ameliorated by sticking to what comes in of its own accord -- there's also little new ground/catchment to gain by being too dependent on solicits -- you turn into a "who's who" showcase with little new work to uncover.


You are of course right that it would reduce the number of new writers discovered, but only if what you describe in your previous paragraph ('increased use of solicitation may lead to a decline in open submissions of quality') came to pass. Besides, you may not discover as many new writers, but surely you would discover worthwhile new work by existing writers, and there's value in that too.

quote:
nah. Softblow has no stake in featuring/uncovering Singaporean writing in the way QLRS does. It's pretty much "what the editor likes" rather than "what's being written in Singapore these days".


Well, QLRS does take writing by non-Singaporeans, and Softblow did feature the entire HCJC Lit society a while back. Clearly there is some overlap.

quote:
Agree there's more than one way to skin the cat. At issue is whether soliciting best serves this. Again, the developmental role (uncovering new talent etc.) is hardly served by asking for work from the people you already know are writing.

If its mandate were to "showcase Singaporean writers of international standards", then yes, I'd say there is a case for soliciting.


Showcasing Singapore writing that's of a high standard does help fulfill the developmental role, alebit less directly--it gives young writers something to aim for. I'm a young writer without a book to my name, and I've always found excellent local work more inspiring than merely competent local work that manages to get published--'Look, our guys can do *that*!' vs. 'Look, our guys can get published doing. . . that'. Discovering Alfian Sa'at's writing did more for me than any number of editions of designated Youth anthologies. I know I'm not alone in this.

quote:
Then again, I think the problem we're having with soliciting is that its an unhealthy habit in the long run, not that it couldn't result in good work being published.

In which case, fostering a healthy literary ecology (where good writing is routinely submitted for peer review before publication rather than solicited, amongst other practices) rather than merely picking from the best, is indeed, I'd say, part of the QLRS mission.


I can't argue with that.

quote:
so THAT'S what happened to it. Never got wind of it after that.


I sent you an email explaining--I'm certain I did. I guess it didn't reach you. When I received no reply, I assumed you were (understandably) too annoyed to dignify the slight with a response. . . .

quote:
And you'd expect writers treated like that to send in work in future, solicited or otherwise???? Hardly the way to build credibility, non?


You're entirely right. It was a disaster, the result of a failure of communication between the editors that was entirely my fault--essentially, I agreed to something I had no right to. I mentioned it because I didn't want to mouth off on soliciting and the problems thereof without acknowledging that it is possible to make a huge balls-up of the entire thing, and that I have in the past done just that.

I would not have referred to it if I'd known you hadn't received my email. At least I would have apologised and explained to you privately first. So: lame as it sounds coming after all that, my apologies. In retrospect, I should have insisted on its inclusion--with the set-up we had, publishing a piece without editorial consensus would have been bad form, but reneging on an agreement made by one of the editors was much worse.

I'll be careful not to let things like that happen again--I imagine that will be easier having shed the dead wood (not that the presence of dead wood then excuses my mistake).

quote:
"a more general invitiation" is not the same as solicitation. Certainly nowhere near "I'd like to use THIS SPECIFIC POEM" (and then dumping it summarily).


That was rather my point--that my particular balls-up has little in common with and shouldn't reflect on the practice of soliciting on the whole.
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alf

Singapore
92 Posts

Posted - 03 Feb 2005 :  00:25:26  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
quote:
Is the obligation still there in 2(a), where you state that it's for consideration?


quote:
I think 1 is a form of soliciting. Once you approach specific writers, you're expressing interest in their stuff in particular; what results can't really be called a general submission, I think.


-- your quote 2 answers quote 1. Yes, there is an obligation.


quote:
You're referring to the possibility of people getting the impression that the journal's hermetically sealed against new writers, and so deciding to stop submitting, right?


-- Also the possibility of writers of quality waiting to be solicited instead of freely submitting good work.

quote:
Besides, you may not discover as many new writers, but surely you would discover worthwhile new work by existing writers, and there's value in that too.


-- sure, but a credible journal with an open submission system would attract the good ones too. You might not get the Alfians without asking -- but I take it that it's QLRS's stance really not to beg...and you begin to see my pt I hope, and how it all ties in with the quality vs integrity issue.

quote:
nah. Softblow has no stake in featuring/uncovering Singaporean writing in the way QLRS does. It's pretty much "what the editor likes" rather than "what's being written in Singapore these days".

Well, QLRS does take writing by non-Singaporeans, and Softblow did feature the entire HCJC Lit society a while back. Clearly there is some overlap.


-- yes, and thats coz said Softblow editor was invited to a HCJC poetry event and made friends... NOT that there's anything wrong in doing it with a gallery-style platform.

-- besides, HM already mentioned QLRS's stance is Singapore "Plus". Which interestingly has also been PBB's stance to date.

quote:
Showcasing Singapore writing that's of a high standard does help fulfill the developmental role, alebit less directly--it gives young writers something to aim for. I'm a young writer without a book to my name, and I've always found excellent local work more inspiring than merely competent local work that manages to get published--'Look, our guys can do *that*!' vs. 'Look, our guys can get published doing. . . that'. Discovering Alfian Sa'at's writing did more for me than any number of editions of designated Youth anthologies. I know I'm not alone in this.


-- "something to aim for" might well be journal publication in the first instance and ultimately one's own collection.

Having journals around also takes the pressure off the need to get one's books out too early (and avoid, for instance, the sort of polemic slash-editing that One Fierce Hour underwent... you shld've seen the manuscript vs the final book).

I don't think anyone is arguing that they'd rather not publish quality work. I think we're saying, in the context of this thread, that we'd like to presevere a certain editorial integrity while doing so, for the good of the long-term literary environment.

Evoluntionarily, it makes sense to mark and exploit small positive steps forward since revolutionary leaps are not always possible (what are you gonna do, ONLY publish Alfian?). And better that growth be organic (free submissions from the open field), than over-engineered (solicitation), at least in this society where we already have too much of the latter.

Everyone worships and emulates the rockstars, but who looks after the scene that makes them possible? How did you even encounter Alfian in the 1st place if not for an entire value chain, with its mediocrities and inadequacies notwithstanding?

quote:
so THAT'S what happened to it. Never got wind of it after that.

I sent you an email explaining--I'm certain I did. I guess it didn't reach you. When I received no reply, I assumed you were (understandably) too annoyed to dignify the slight with a response. . . .


-- and you didn't bother to check to make sure I got it?

quote:
essentially, I agreed to something I had no right to. I mentione but reneging on an agreement made by one of the editors was much worse.


quote:
That was rather my point--that my particular balls-up has little in common with and shouldn't reflect on the practice of soliciting on the whole.



-- well, i put it down to callow youth, really. But what's relevant is the very real @#$#@ (not just diplomatically but aesthetically) that one gets into with the whole soliciting business. I'd argue that in fact you DIDN'T and SHOULDN'T have the authority to offer something like that anyway; and that it isn't healthy for the business of journal editing in the long term.

Edited by - alf on 03 Feb 2005 00:28:06
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Nicholas Liu

Singapore
59 Posts

Posted - 03 Feb 2005 :  00:39:05  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
Hsien Min:
quote:
Noted, but I'm not sure it's my responsibility to run around to the lazy or diffident. The most I'd do is, if I bump into someone, to say, send stuff if you'd like to, we'll look at it. I really don't have energy to spare to go around asking.


As Alvin has said and I've agreed, these are all editorial calls. Of course you're not obligated to patrol the literary neighbourhood squeezing blood from stones. Of course your time and energy is precious, QLRS being a labour of love after all. I would be an idiot to suggest otherwise. All the things I mentioned were mentioned in defence of the legitimacy of soliciting work, not as arguments why you ought to do it.

And yes, this is a change of tune from the start of the thread, where I was actually suggesting (suggesting, mind) that you do this--I had not heard your personal reasons then.

quote:
I'm not sure it's quite that unique. And if I can do without problems of this nature, why not?


Perhaps not unique, but not something that would arise if *you* were to solicit. 1) You aren't an 18-year-old editing a magazine for the first time, and 2) you don't need to get the approval of any other editors before running something.

quote:
Thanks for agreeing.


Oh crap. I misread you.

Is it fair, then, to say that your stand is that being restricted to what comes in by itself is a good thing because editors could not trust themselves to include a healthy enough variety of writing if they were to solicit?

quote:
I could - but now you're starting to sound as though you're trolling. Surely it's quite evident?


I am as far from trolling as is humanly possible. I could make an intelligent guess at why exactly 'if [you] had to solicit [you] would be likely to choose very different poems [than you actually have]' and then attack that, but I think it's sufficiently unobvious to make that pointless. I would genuinely like to hear why you made that statement, my reasoning being that

1) The poets you solicit would be those who usually write poems as close to your conception(s) of the 'ideal' poem as possible.

2) The poems you choose from open submissions would also be those which come as close to your ideal as possible.

3) Therefore while you would never get the same results from methods 1 and 2, they would still share a great many things in common.

The answer may be self-evident to you, but I've neither your experience nor your thought processes, and Alvin's reply sheds no light for me. Humour me, please.
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Nicholas Liu

Singapore
59 Posts

Posted - 03 Feb 2005 :  01:02:12  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
All the more academic issues take on an ugly tinge with this issue still at large, so I'll leave them aside for the moment--

quote:
and you didn't bother to check to make sure I got it?


I seem to remember having mentioned the problem (as I think I euphemistically put it) to you in an earlier email and receiving a reply; it was a subsequent, longer explanation that didn't receive a response to. But it is possible that I am hallucinating the first reply--this was what, a year and a half-ago, and seems like a whole other country to me now. I was a 17-year-old nobody. You were and are a Big Man On The Scene, and such things had huge significance to me then. There was no mailerdaemon error message, and we'd had no lost emails before that, and your lack of response was not unexpected--I assumed the worst.

quote:
I'd argue that in fact you DIDN'T and SHOULDN'T have the authority to offer something like that anyway; and that it isn't healthy for the business of journal editing in the long term.


I did not have the authority because we had a voting system in place based on equality among the three editors; I do have the authority now.

Whether I or anyone else should have the authority is another matter, one that this instance does not illuminate at all.
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alf

Singapore
92 Posts

Posted - 03 Feb 2005 :  10:09:40  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
quote:
Perhaps not unique, but not something that would arise if *you* were to solicit. 1) You aren't an 18-year-old editing a magazine for the first time, and 2) you don't need to get the approval of any other editors before running something.


-- I disagree. These issues arise even if one were indeed a "Big Man On The Scene" (and how does one come to that sort of label anyway?) -- perhaps even more so because more is at stake.

quote:
Is it fair, then, to say that your stand is that being restricted to what comes in by itself is a good thing because editors could not trust themselves to include a healthy enough variety of writing if they were to solicit?


-- I'd agree with that to a degree, PLUS it's a good reason to have an editorial committee rather than a one-man show (if it were a matter of choice)

quote:
my reasoning being that

1) The poets you solicit would be those who usually write poems as close to your conception(s) of the 'ideal' poem as possible.

2) The poems you choose from open submissions would also be those which come as close to your ideal as possible.

3) Therefore while you would never get the same results from methods 1 and 2, they would still share a great many things in common.


--- Has it not struck you that the editors might choose poems they personally didn't click with (in the sense of considering "ideal" poems") but felt were appropriate as genre-benders, field-expanders and adding to the conversation?). And that having open submissions expands one's tastes?

Edited by - alf on 03 Feb 2005 11:16:12
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alf

Singapore
92 Posts

Posted - 03 Feb 2005 :  11:08:22  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
-- rejected solicited poem -- not a big deal. recall that it was already published (and I did mention that I was reluctant to submit anything to a fledgling journal of undetermined aesthetics) But I do think it beefs up the debate in a very visceral way.

quote:
I'd argue that in fact you DIDN'T and SHOULDN'T have the authority to offer something like that anyway; and that it isn't healthy for the business of journal editing in the long term.


I did not have the authority because we had a voting system in place based on equality among the three editors; I do have the authority now.

Whether I or anyone else should have the authority is another matter, one that this instance does not illuminate at all.
[/quote]

-- on the contrary, this instance suggests that much caution is due. There also appears to be something of a contradiction between ends and means.

If you had an editorial committee, then you are in effect signing up to the declaration that "quality" is the collective determination of the group. In effect that would hardly permit the sort of unilateral solicitation you carried out anyway. You'd have to get everyone to agree before asking for a poem and that can only realistically happen with already published stuff (or omniscience).

If a poem you solicited is not good enough for the group, it's not good enough to print -- BY YOUR JOURNAL'S STANDARDS and your own espoused "instant-yes only" approach. That's ok. But then how would overriding the opinion of your editorial team (by being the sole authority) change the implication that you're in effect stepping DOWN your notion of quality?

And if you're suggesting that you still want to ask, receive and then reject, well then your supply is going to dry up rather quickly AND/OR your cred will get shot to bits.

Bottomline: I think a situation like this, which is not uncommon, shows up just how fraught the whole notion of solicitation is -- at least, in the business of running a public literary journal.



Edited by - alf on 03 Feb 2005 15:45:03
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Nicholas Liu

Singapore
59 Posts

Posted - 03 Feb 2005 :  21:05:20  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
Alvin:
quote:
I disagree. These issues arise even if one were indeed a "Big Man On The Scene" (and how does one come to that sort of label anyway?) -- perhaps even more so because more is at stake.


Not the point--point is I'm inexperienced; Hsien Min is not, PLUS I was part of a troika with equal say for all members; Hsien Min, again, is not.

As for Big Man On The Scene: if you've been in the papers as 'Alvin Pang, poet' and/or have had a book published, you're a Big Man (or Woman) On The Scene almost by default as far as most aspiring teenage writers are concerned. At least, that's been my experience (first- and second-hand).

quote:
I'd agree with that to a degree, PLUS it's a good reason to have an editorial committee rather than a one-man show (if it were a matter of choice)


Maybe, but you'd have to run it differently from the way we did (which in retrospect was a stupid way)--when you allow any one editor to veto anything, you end up with a narrower, safer range of work than if a single editor had done the choosing.

quote:
Has it not struck you that the editors might choose poems they personally didn't click with (in the sense of considering "ideal" poems") but felt were appropriate as genre-benders, field-expanders and adding to the conversation?).


What an editor considers 'genre-bending' and 'field-expanding' is no less governed by his personal standards than what 'clicks'. I am including these criteria under 'as close to your conception(s) of the "ideal" poem as possible'.

quote:
And that having open submissions expands one's tastes?


No more than reading other zines (or anything else) does.

quote:
rejected solicited poem -- not a big deal. recall that it was already published (and I did mention that I was reluctant to submit anything to a fledgling journal of undetermined aesthetics)


It is a big deal--not to you personally but wrt the credibility of a journal/editor, as you clearly apprehend.

quote:
But I do think it beefs up the debate in a very visceral way.


I think it derails the debate by focussing on a fringe example.

quote:
on the contrary, this instance suggests that much caution is due.


Sure, in as far as one shouldn't say, 'I like this poem of yours, can we print it?' and then a little later, 'Sorry, changed my mind. Whoops.' This is decidedly Not News. It was a stupid and unprofessional mistake, which I regret, okay? However, it bears little relation to anything that might happen in an 'I've read your works A B and C and admire them; would you like to send something for consideration for issue N of Journal Z?' scenario.

quote:
If you had an editorial committee, then you are in effect signing up to the declaration that "quality" is the collective determination of the group. In effect that would hardly permit the sort of unilateral solicitation you carried out anyway. You'd have to get everyone to agree before asking for a poem and that can only realistically happen with already published stuff (or omniscience).


You're right. The setup we had going was, as you say, fundamentally incompatible with the practice of soliciting. It was a mistake.

quote:
If a poem you solicited is not good enough for the group, it's not good enough to print -- BY YOUR JOURNAL'S STANDARDS and your own espoused "instant-yes only" approach.


Just to clarify--I never claimed to take an instant-yes approach. I've only been defending its possibility, the instant-yes being, it seems, the agreed upon measure of 'A+' poems on this thread. If I had to define my own measure, I'd rather go for the unambiguous-yes-after-consideration. Not every poem reveals its excellence (or weakness) immediately.

quote:
That's ok. But then how would overriding the opinion of your editorial team (by being the sole authority) change the implication that you're in effect stepping DOWN your notion of quality?


What's actually happening is that I'm exchanging the group notion of quality for my own notion of quality. Whether it's a step up or down is not for me to decide.

By the by, I didn't get rid of the other two by choice. They dropped out due to real life commitments; that and its complications are what killed the zine, actually.

quote:
And if you're suggesting that you still want to ask, receive and then reject, well then your supply is going to dry up rather quickly AND/OR your cred will get shot to bits.


Let's be clear: as I've acknowledged multiple times, what happened with your poem was a massive cock-up, an unfair waste of your time and an undermining of the system then in place. That I certainly don't intend to repeat. But asking for a piece or two for consideration, stating upfront that acceptance is not guaranteed--I don't see a problem with that. Maybe it will piss some people off if they're then rejected. Or maybe people are a bit more reasonable than that. We'll see.

quote:
Bottomline: I think a situation like this, which is not uncommon, shows up just how fraught the whole notion of solicitation is -- at least, in the business of running a public literary journal.



If I had been the sole editor, I could have honoured the agreement and this would not be an issue.

If my co-editors had read the poem and given their opinions before I asked your permission to publish it, so I would have known not to ask, again this would not be an issue.

If I had delivered a more general invitation and a rejection had followed, there wouldn't (IMHO) be any ethical problem with it--though it seems you'd still have thought it rude.

How does any of this reveal a fatal, inbuilt flaw of the practice of soliciting in general?

Edited by - Nicholas Liu on 03 Feb 2005 21:17:51
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alf

Singapore
92 Posts

Posted - 04 Feb 2005 :  00:12:32  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
quote:
As for Big Man On The Scene: if you've been in the papers as 'Alvin Pang, poet' and/or have had a book published, you're a Big Man (or Woman) On The Scene almost by default as far as most aspiring teenage writers are concerned. At least, that's been my experience (first- and second-hand).


-- That's silly. And at any rate that levels out, doesn't it esp after Foyle. So now the "You're famous, I'm not" card shouldn't apply anymore, if it ever did.

quote:
And that having open submissions expands one's tastes?
No more than reading other zines (or anything else) does.


-- Not true. You'd only get to read what other people publish, not what is submitted.

quote:
However, it bears little relation to anything that might happen in an 'I've read your works A B and C and admire them; would you like to send something for consideration for issue N of Journal Z?' scenario.

If I had delivered a more general invitation and a rejection had followed, there wouldn't (IMHO) be any ethical problem with it--though it seems you'd still have thought it rude.



Nick, I've mentioned that I don't consider a more general invitation (ie. "hi everyone, we're open for business!") - what I'd termed Lvl 0 or Lvl 1 -- "solicitation". Certainly not the sort that we're debating. And no, I'd not have thought it rude to have a freely offered submission rejected by an editor -- it's happened before.

I WOULD think less of a journal that relies exclusively on solicitations though; private galleries notwithstanding.

===

Let's be constructive. Perhaps we should agree on the best approach to try and expand our catchment area and still stay above board from an editorial integrity POV.

I'd for instance have clearly written CALLS FOR SUBMISSION messages that are widely and publicly distributed in the channels where the likely target audience would be -- networks, other zines, billboards, mailing lists etc.

I might distribute flyers/biz cards to people I'm interested in with information about the journal in general.

I might go as far as to say, hey, we're open for submissions for issue X, send stuff for consideration if you'd like.

What else?


Edited by - alf on 04 Feb 2005 01:42:45
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Hsien Min

Singapore
49 Posts

Posted - 04 Feb 2005 :  01:27:01  Show Profile  Email Poster  Reply with Quote
quote:
Perhaps not unique, but not something that would arise if *you* were to solicit. 1) You aren't an 18-year-old editing a magazine for the first time, and 2) you don't need to get the approval of any other editors before running something.

Thanks for giving me so much credit... I'm not sure I'd give myself quite as much! :) One clarification though - your statement (2) only applies in the Poetry section. It doesn't apply at all in the other sections, since the respective editors choose their own stuff... which could be part of the reason I'm much more comfortable asking people if they'd consider contributing to the other sections: I've structured it so I have no yes-vote in those.

Alvin's already done a fairly good job of explaining why the soliciting practice doesn't tend to be (as) reflective of what's out there, and in any case I've already alluded to it, so I won't go too laboriously over it again. I'll just say that having had fairly good grounding in critical reading and a reasonably wide literary education stretching back to Old English and forward to the pomo stuff being produced today, and even moving out laterally to take in a bit of French and a bit of the classics, I'm probably not too bad when it comes to judging a poem on its own terms. (Though the obscure Japanese forms can still stump me...) Whereas if I were to go looking, I'd more probably look for poetry on my terms than go, oh I haven't run a confessional poem for a while, better go find one.

To use an analogy, if I were blind-tasting a bottle of Harlan Estate I could easily acknowledge that its winemaking was of a very high standard without necessarily caring much for the wine; but if I were choosing a wine to drink I'm infinitely more likely to pick an Henri Pellé Menetou-Salon or a Coulée de Serrant; the winemaking behind these wines are competent (in the latter case, barely!), but the wines are themselves more to my tastes.

As for the "mistake", I don't think Alf's got his salt-shaker out; but I'm surprised that having already encountered one such problem you continue not to accept the point that soliciting creates the conditions for such problems and/or continue to be sanguine about your ability to circumvent all such problems in the future.

Cheers,
HM
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