Goodbye to The Sigurd Journal
When my cousin, friend, and writing buddy, Caleb, called me up a couple years ago and asked what I thought of taking on the job of managing editor for The Sigurd Journal (TSJ) I thought he was crazy, but I also knew I had to say yes. While the crazy never stopped, I learned a lot and I’m glad I had a chance to be a part of this experience. These are my ‘Notes to Self,’ which may prove useful for some of you.
It only took a few months for me to realize that Caleb and I were going to start a family feud if we tried to share leadership for tsj–so I wiggled my way out of that position. First we had to iron out the guidelines, and enjoy the discussion of whether we would require submitting writers to purchase a subscription to TSJ. My notes are:
- Never take leadership of something unless I also have creative control, or enjoy one hundred percent accord with the creative head.
- When reading guidelines for a mag, remember that the editors had their choice of all the words in the English language to use when telling you their guidelines. The tone of the guidelines can provide insights into what the editors are looking for. Also, they have their reasons for requesting as they do, so don’t cross them.
- Money matters. Given that statement, one can safely assume that anyone and everyone involved in a project will have a different view on the money matters. This isn’t to say the issues can’t be resolved, just that money always matters.
I spent the rest of my time as a really lousy web mistress and sitting on the TSJ editorial board. These were my discoveries:
- You really can tell if a story is crap on page one. Sometimes by the end of the first paragraph. Otoh, you can’t always tell if it will be great, or even good. What feels engaging and has all the right elements can still dive bomb or just fizzle. So, if it’s not immediately terrible it gets a complete read, then a vote.
- When editors pass on a piece, it really might be true that it’s ‘just not right for us’. We sometimes had to turn down stuff that everyone on the board liked, but just didn’t fit the mag.
- Running a mag is not for everyone. You will not make money. You will feel torn, you will feel guilty. You may realize that your existance falls somewhere between slave and surf. It is only worth it if you love what you do or feel that you gain some other benefit which makes the endeavor worthwhile.
- There may be something to this networking stuff. While nothing will help your submission if it’s crap, or even if it’s second rate, under some circumstances (not those at TSJ) who you know may get you a fresh read, and that has real value. When I”m reading fresh, I have a much stronger vested interest in voting yes to a story. When I’m tired at the end of the inbox/pile, the story has to shine really, really bright to make it past my crap meter.
- But, even then, the best stories/submissions wake me up and get a yes.
When tallied up as bullets on a list, they don’t seem like much by way of notes for two years of effort. I guess some things lose their glamour when transferred to a list–but it really was a great experience. I know I’ll never look at the submission process the same having been, however briefly, on the other side. My thanks to a crazy cousin for giving me this chance, and to all the TSJ board for becoming my friends. You guys were great!