Yes, we’re editors. But we’re writers, too. We know what it’s like to wait months after submitting work, checking our emails every day, only to eventually receive polite rejections. So we fully realize that these manuscripts are not just the thousands of words made up of even more letters that you organized into stories. They are nothing less than the sums of your imaginations and your desires multiplied by the number of hours you stared at your computer screens. Then squared.
I’ve lost myself. The point is, there will always be more manuscripts that don’t win awards than manuscripts that do (380 were entered this year; 18 awarded). And here’s what not to do: don’t judge yourself and your talent on the opinions of people judging contests. Don’t give up on your novel or collection. Don’t decide not to enter the next contest because you didn’t win this one.
Because here’s some behind-the-scenes info: there are so many good manuscripts. There are so many that our decision-making process is, at times, agony. We stay up late into the night, arguing via email. We make dozens of lists, then take titles off, then add others, then go back and start over. Several manuscripts get read, by the same person, more than once. Sometimes we have trouble verbalizing what it is about a manuscript that catches our attention and won’t let go. It just has the right mix of fairy dust and absinthe and ground dragon bones.
Whoever wins this year’s contest will be published by Leapfrog, and I will love that book. I will be proud to be a part of Leapfrog Press because of that book. Last year, it was The Lonesome Trials of Johnny Riles by Gregory Hill that did it for all of us. Next year, it will be someone else. And that author might be you.
Rebecca Schwab serves as acquisitions editor for Leapfrog Press and Crossborder: A Journal of Fiction (Leapfrog Press and Guernica Editions). She is also a writer whose work has appeared in Brevity, Allegro Poetry Magazine, The Future Fire, Drafthorse, and elsewhere. She freelances for The Observer (Dunkirk, NY) and Buffalo Spree Magazine.
Rebecca will be one of the many editors participating in WRITEFEST, our brand new festival for emerging writers (February 22-28, 2016). To find out more, see our very first announcement of the event here.