Both Sides Now

Kerri Majors, EditorSince this is my first blog post, I suppose it makes sense to start at the beginning.  Not when I was born (because while I think Charles Dickens would have been in the vanguard of the blog movement, I’m not really trying to channel his “David Copperfield“).  No, by starting at the beginning I mean I feel I should describe to you a little more about who I am and why I’m doing YARN so that you have some context for my future posts.

If you’ve read my bio in the “About YARN” page of this site, you know that I’m a teacher and writer as well as the Editor of YARN.  And you probably also saw that YARN grew out of a need I located as a writer—basically, I started writing what I thought was a paranormal short story for a YA audience and looked around to see where I might publish such a thing.  I discovered that because I’m an adult writer of YA, there really wasn’t any place for me to publish the story; and even if I’d been a teen, there still would have been precious few places.  The story ultimately became a novel, but I continued to be bothered by the lack of places for writers to publish YA.  And since I’m a problem-solver by nature, it was natural for me to want to start a journal that would fill this gap in the market.  Hence, YARN.

All of which is to say that YARN is an extension of myself as a writer even though my persona on YARN is as an editor.  This is a fascinating position to be in.  For instance:

A sampling of Kerri’s rejection letters.

As a writer who has spent many years frustrated by rejection letters from editors in all shapes and sizes, I became rather fond of saying “Whether they publish my story/novel/essay or not has as much to do with what so-and-so editor had for breakfast that morning as whether my writing is any good.”  Which is to say that I felt like the whole process of getting published was so subjective that it was basically, at bottom, arbitrary.

As an editor I am relieved to say that my writer self was not wrong—at least, not entirely.  The onerous task of choosing what to publish is in fact highly subjective.  Speaking from experience at YARN, I can say that we editors don’t always agree with each other or with our Readers.  Different people like different stuff, just like some people prefer salty breakfasts to sweet ones and vice versa.  And (I’m not gonna lie here) it’s also true that something else in my day—maybe even what I had for breakfast—can and will influence the way I read a submission.

However.  This is one of the reasons why at YARN at least, we build in a system of checks and balances.  It’s not just me and my breakfast reading a submission and making a decision.  First it’s read by 2 readers.  Then at least two editors read it.  The decision is collaborative.  While I didn’t think about it this way when I designed the reading system, I suspect my rejection-wounds inspired me to design it this way.  Much as I might think I’m right all the time ;-), I don’t really want writers like me to suffer because of my editorial whims.

I want to point out that I’m writing this entry—heck, the whole blog—as much for myself as for all the potential writers out there.  I want to understand this mysterious and more-often-than-not frustrating process of publishing as much as you do.  Also, I’m a big fan of the idea that writing is thinking—and so these blogs are an opportunity for me to think some stuff through.  And for you to think with me—so I hope you’ll respond to what I’m saying.  And we can think together.

Oh, a word about the title of this post:  Think of it as the tentative, temporary theme of my blog:  “Both Sides Now,” to borrow the title of one of my favorite songs, a great Joni Mitchell tune from the 1960’s that’s just as awesome today.  “Both sides” in my case being writing and editing (and teaching as an extension of editing—but more on that in another post).

Thanks for reading.  Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I had raisin bran cereal for breakfast this morning.

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6 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Kitsy Smith says:

    Your ability to teach, even through your blog, is evident. Thanks for the insight for the need of checks and balances in all areas. Time is precious but so is one’s creative work. Hmmm..raisin bran…good fiber!

  2. Refreshingly honest post! So much of the publishing world is enigmatic and unfathomable to us little writers, and it’s great to have a place to work toward decoding it. This is all very pioneering of you, Kerri. Thanks!

  3. Kerri says:

    Thanks, both of you. It’s so true about the enigmatic quality of publishing. Like I said in the blog, I’m hoping to understand it better through writing about it.

  4. For one of your blog posts, will you give readers some idea as to what types of submissions you’re getting too much of, and what types of submissions you’d like to see more of?

  5. Kerri says:

    @ Mechelle–I can answer that question now! Happily, we’re getting all kinds of submissions! We’ve received some paranormal, fantasy, sci fi, and fairy tales mixed in with the classic “real-life” stuff. We’re happy to read them all. I wouldn’t want to ask for more of any one thing in particular–I want writers to write what’s in their hearts, and send it to us 🙂

  6. Amanda J says:

    YARN sounds absolutely fantastic, and this was a terrific first blog post! I’m fascinated by publishing in general; I write, but I am also looking into becoming an agent or an editor, so I look forward to reading about YARN and possibly submitting something one day. 🙂

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What Is YARN?

It's a brilliant thing to have a place where you can read fresh original short stories by both seasoned YA authors and aspiring teens. YARN is a great tool box for growing up writing. - Cecil Castellucci

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YARN is an award-winning literary journal that publishes outstanding original short fiction, poetry, and essays for Young Adult readers, written by the writers you know and love, as well as fresh new voices...including teens.

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