The review of literary submissions, and those selected for publication, can be quite arbitrary at times. Those of us passionate about reading and enjoying good literature, with the responsibility to select the few pieces we honestly feel are a good mix of the best material submitted, face daunting challenges. At Summerset, we try to be as consistent and objective as possible, and still, sometimes, there is doubt in how it all works.
A variety of situations can and do occur. We might read a piece and initially think, Wow; this is a keeper, and send a note to the author asking for acknowledgment of acceptance right away. Or, we might like a piece, put it in our Maybe pile, read it again weeks later, and then say to ourselves, No, it isn't really as compelling as we initially thought. Conversely, we might read a piece weeks later and say, Yes, indeed, quite nice, and accept it.
And then we have what has happened with a story running in our current issue, "Ribbon," by Mark Petterson. Upon initial review, we said, Well, probably not, but read it again in a month or so, just to make sure.
A month goes by. We think about the piece as we drive or ride the subway, shower, fold the laundry. We read the piece again. Our view shifts a bit to, Hmm; maybe there is more here than originally seen.
Another month goes by. Now we do more than just think about the piece as we go about our days. We ask ourselves questions. Could it be? Is it possible there is some underlying current in the story, something not completely obvious, something that an unsuspecting reader might just gloss over? We read it again. This time we fall in love with it.
Perhaps this is a story that just needs to be read more than once.
There is doubt in how it all works because the review of literary material operates under no scientific process that will always result in the best stories being published. Sometimes we wonder if the specific mood we are in at the time of review influences our decisions. Are we relaxed, sitting next to a fire in the living room, ten degrees outside with a whipping wind—a condition that might give us enough clarity to appreciate a more challenging piece? Or are we edgy, anxious, quick to get through a stack of submissions—a condition that might cause us to prematurely decide against what is, essentially, a very good piece?
Rest assured. We are trying very hard to bring our readers the best mix of material that comes through our open doors. We take pride in this passion, and we hope it goes appreciated. This has been our mission since 2002, and will always continue. Crack open our Spring 2014 issue and try what we've selected. We hope there is something here that deeply touches each and every one of you.
Art accompanying "SilvaMoonLake" -
Riley Erwin, "Luna" 2014, pencil on paper, 6 x 4 inches.
Theme graphics this issue - "Stainless"
Copyright © The Summerset Review, Inc. 2014.