Posts Tagged ‘anthology editors’

The Plight of the Harried Anthology Editor

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Oh no, not another one!

Read my lips. Or should I say, READ MY SPECS. I guess it was a matter of time before I had to let loose with a tirade about writers who just can’t follow directions. Aside from being a writer myself, I’ve edited a number of anthologies, so I have some experience seeing things from the editor’s seat.

It isn’t what you’re likely thinking, ie having to sift through dire pieces of fiction to unearth the jewels. No. It’s receiving submission after submission that bear not the slightest resemblance to the detailed specs I set out in my calls for short stories. Frankly, I don’t understand it. The entire point of listing these specifications (aka “submission guidelines”) is for writers to understand what it is I’m asking for, with the goal being to inspire them to write something that might fit the bill. It’s a proven method and generally works. Most of the time.

Or make that some of the time.

Or make that less and less of the time.

All I can think of is that some of these writers must have been clearing out their knicker drawers (or, in this case, their short story drawers) and said, “Oh, here’s a story I wrote about an auto mechanic and a duck living on a desert island. I’ll send it over to Mitzi for her sexy epic-fantasy anthology, Thrones of Desire. After all, she doesn’t have anything else to do!”

Err… think again, mate.

As an editor, I always try to be polite when rejecting a story. I know how tough and heartbreaking this business is, and I likewise know that the people who work in it often don’t give writers the time of day, let alone a polite note of rejection (or any kind of note even acknowledging their existence on this planet). But it’s getting harder and harder to be polite, especially when many of the submissions that show up in my inbox are so far removed from what I’ve asked for that the chances of my accepting the work (even with a LOT of revising and editing) is as likely as former Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi returning from the dead to lap dance in a Texas truck-stop strip joint.

Why do writers do this? They are not ingratiating themselves in the minds and hearts of editors by sending over completely inappropriate material. Heck, we’re not even talking about the quality of the story, but the fact that the story is just plain WRONG. I compose detailed guidelines so that writers will know exactly what I’m looking for and, even more importantly, what I’m NOT looking for. It’s supposed to save time – both my time and the writer’s time. But far too many people are not paying attention.

There are a lot of anthologies out there and a lot of editors. However, each anthology is different and each editor is different – that’s why we put together these writers’ guidelines! They’re there to help and guide writers and give them a fighting chance to compete in the submission process. It’s no wonder that so many publishers have slammed their doors on writers, electing literary agents to be the gatekeepers of what comes through the door rather than leaving that task to editors.

I don’t understand what’s so difficult about following directions, especially when they’ve been clearly laid out and are accessible from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Is it just a sign of the times? – a general sloppiness and laziness combined with an increasingly poor work ethic? Because I doubt this occurred to such a level in Dickens’ day. Heck, I’ve lectured in creative writing at several universities and I didn’t have this much trouble getting my students to follow directions! Maybe it is a sign of the times, as it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get anyone to do any job right, let alone do the job at all.

I’m certain many writers who have appeared in my anthologies will tell you that I offer a lot of encouragement, support and sage editorial advice on their work, so it’s not a matter of “grumpy editor.” I work hard to put out a quality project, and I expect a modicum of attention paid to the submission guidelines by those who aspire to be in it. And that includes appropriate formatting, and attention paid to grammar, spelling and punctuation. I’ll remember a writer with more fondness who can’t write his or her way out of a paper bag, but who sends me a properly formatted and tidy story that at least tries to fit what I’m asking for. Writers can always improve their writing. But sloppiness? There’s no excuse for it. Nor is there any excuse to send me a story that has nothing to do with the theme of my book.

I can only assume that the acceptance of electronic submissions is adding to the problem; after all, it’s free to send material by email, so writers can send anything willy-nilly without having to pay for it. Perhaps they might think twice if they have to make a trip to the post office and open up their wallets, especially if the cost involves international postage.

If my blog post has ruffled a few feathers, so be it. After all, I’m the author of Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts, so a few ruffled feathers are water off the author’s back. Nevertheless, if you’re a writer and can see your reflection in the mirror of my words (how’s that for literary?), then maybe it’s time to do something about it. You are not serving your best interests by sending an editor inappropriate work. It’s pointless, it’s annoying, and it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

Time is money. And most of us don’t have enough of either.

Mitzi Chats About All Things Mitzi TV

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Yours truly (that’s me!) recently took some time out to chat with journalist Michael Casey at a local Essex watering hole about my new entrepreneurial Internet television venture Mitzi TV – its origins, its direction, and its future, as well as the business of books, blogging, and social media.

And Now For Something Completely Different…

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009
Mitzi TV "Eels" video shoot

Mitzi Szereto at Mitzi TV "Prowling For Eels" video shoot

…It’s Mitzi TV!

And just what did you think it was, a man with three buttocks?

In case you didn’t already know (like where you been, mate?), Mitzi TV is the new web TV channel to head to for all things quirky and eccentric in London. We’ve gone from crazy pub singalongs, eating jellied eel, and chatting about classic cars with such luminaries as Formula 1 racecar driver/BBC TV presenter Tiff Needell, couture shoe designer Jimmy Choo and Batman – to Morris dancing with software geeks. And no, this wasn’t in the same episode!

Of course, I couldn’t create all this madness and mayhem without the talents of cameraman extraordinaire/stand-up diamond geezah Steve Beer and cutie-pie theme musicman extraordinaire Andrew Shatnyy (Facebook/MySpace). And let’s not forget the talents of my handsome (albeit furry) production assistant extraordinaire Teddy Tedaloo, who also provides onscreen talent.

As for those buttocks I mentioned, how do you deal with a governmental body that has all the common sense of not even one buttock?

In my never-ending quest to bring you the ever-quirky and eccentric (while still managing to stay out of the loony bin), I recently found myself entering into a rather annoying fracas with a governmental body: the Royal Parks people. I knew I should’ve cut through all those buzzing drones and biscuit-eating/tea drinking middle men (and women) and gone straight to the top, specifically HRH. Now Lizzie’s a queen who gets things done!

I am referring to a recent attempt by yours truly to line up permission to shoot a Mitzi TV video at Speaker’s Corner in London’s Hyde Park. Because it’s a “Royal” park, I knew I’d need to obtain an official okay. I mean, it wasn’t like we’d be there with a little digital camera and could subtly blend into the crowd. We run a professional operation with professional equipment. (Plus people have commented on that big-ass mike I use, so “subtle” is not the word that springs to mind when we’re talking a Mitzi TV shoot.) Since Speaker’s Corner necessitates a substantial police presence (some of the speakers and audience members can get pretty wound up apparently), I didn’t fancy being led away by the Old Bill, therefore I decided to follow the proper channels to make the shoot happen. It’s a quirky kind of event, and Mitzi TV is nothing if not quirky, so it didn’t seem likely I’d be given an “on yer bike, missus!”.

When I received an email replying to my query, I thought, hey, this is great – sounds like we’re in! Here follows the exact text that refers directly to the issue about who and what controls the area in question:

Speaker’s Corner is an integral part of Hyde Park, which is one of London’s eight Royal Parks. The Royal Parks are owned by the Crown, but were passed to the Government under the Crown Lands Act 1851 to be managed as public open space. They are now the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who delegates their day to day management to The Royal Parks.  They are funded by the taxpayer.

Mitzi TV Talent

Teddy Tedaloo in Mitzi TV video opener

“Public open space.” “Funded by the taxpayer.” Well, I’m no lawyer, but this sounds like the definition of a public place – and you do not need permission to film in a public place (not yet anyway). That is why it’s called “PUBLIC.” That statement about being funded by the taxpayer put a further stamp of approval on the process, because guess who’s a taxpayer? Yeah, moi. Just to make certain there was no misinterpretation on my part as to what clearly looked to be a clear description of who controls the park, I messaged once more to confirm that I’d be allowed to shoot some video of the speakers, and asked which specific days they were there spouting off.

The reply came back that these Soapbox Annies and Alis are there on Sundays only, and yes, I would need permission to film, but my message was being forwarded to the Appropriate Party. Not wanting to waste time, I shot off an email to this A.P., explaining what I wished to do and that I’d like to take care of the details as quickly as possible. A.P. messaged back, informing me that they do not permit filming at Speaker’s Corner on Sundays, but I could phone them to discuss the matter further.

Umm… did they not just tell me that I couldn’t film there on a Sunday? So what was there to discuss, the weather? Of course we all know how the Brits love to talk about the weather.

So did this mean they’d give me permission to film at Speaker’s Corner on a day that was not a Sunday? Now forgive me if I’m wrong (or extremely stupid), but what’s the point of filming speakers at Speaker’s Corner when there aren’t any speakers there to film? This is the very question I put forth to A.P. in my reply, also mentioning the fact that plenty of people have shot videos there – how could this be possible if they needed to obtain permission? Needless to say, my email did not receive a response.

Mitzi TV "Car" video shoot

Mitzi Szereto at Mitzi TV "Baby You Can Drive My Car" video shoot

Now I have nothing against doing a bit of guerrilla filming – I’ve got more cajones than any of the men I’ve known. However, what I do have something against is being harassed (and led away by handcuffs) by the police. There’s a time and place for handcuffs – and this isn’t one of them. Besides which, London coppers aren’t as cute as they used to be. They’re getting a bit wide, if you know what I mean, looking more and more like their doughnut-eating American counterparts. So we’d better forget the handcuffs for now.

As for Mitzi TV, keep an eye out for me at Speaker’s Corner, because I don’t like taking “no” for an answer.

Guess it’s a good thing they abolished beheading in this country…

MITZI TV

Aren’t We Just Precious?: Writers Who Live in Ivory Towers

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

There’s nothing more pompous than a writer who is precious about his or her work. If you’ve been around a bit, be it in the publishing world or even in a creative writing class, you’ve no doubt run into such a creature. As the editor of a number of anthologies, I’ve met up with my fair share of writers with inflated egos and more attitude than talent, but come on – there’s a limit!

The other day I received a rather unpleasant email from an author who told me that he no longer wishes to receive any communication from me. Now this is not someone with whom I’ve been in endless email discourse, but someone who might, if he’s lucky, get an email from me maybe once or twice a year. Apparently I remind him of a world he’d rather not be a part of  – which I assume means the one belonging to a writer who does not have the luxury of toiling away in an Ivory Tower deep in the rugged hinterland, protected from the unpleasantries of the world such as promotion, publicity, administrative tasks, laundry, and pretty much struggling to avoid having one’s mail forwarded to a cardboard box.

Now I’m not going to name this individual, save for the fact that he’s had several books published and, thanks to me, sold several more on my recommendation alone. In his email where he dismisses me from his universe, he emphatically states that he is a writer of “SERIOUS LITERARY FICTION.” Ouch! I guess in effect he’s telling me (and thousands of other writers) that what we do is shit.

I’ve never met this guy, and frankly after this exchange I’ve no desire to. I did get in the last word, however, telling him that he’s a lucky man indeed, if he has the luxury of avoiding all the hard graft the majority of us must undertake in order not to sink into the quicksand with all the other writers out there trying to survive against nearly impossible odds. Perhaps he also has publishers who knock themselves out to promote his books, unlike those of us who find ourselves in the rather unpleasant position of having to become not only our own publicist, but our own motivational speaker.

Those of you who’ve been working at this gig for awhile will know that the success of a book very often has nothing to do with how good it is, but rather how much went into its promotional budget. Get your book plastered all over the walls of the London Underground and sure, you can bet it’ll shift a multitude of copies. Send out a paltry smattering of review copies and it might shift a copy or two. Or it might not, depending on whether the reviewer was suffering from PMS that day. The irony is, the average Stephen King novel gets a huge promotional push, though with his amazing track record he hardly needs the kind of financial outlay that goes into selling his work. Yet the last I heard even Mr. King wasn’t too precious to indulge in a bit of self promotion. Why? Because that’s the way the game is played. I’ll tell you this: I’m thrilled to bits if someone is interested enough in my work to come to a reading or book signing just to see little me. And I’m even more thrilled if they plonk down their hard-earned dollars, pounds, euros, or rubles to actually buy something I’ve written.

Needless to say, I doubt very much that our Mr. Precious in his Ivory Tower will be reading this blog post. Reading a blog is beneath him, as is the filthy cesspool of literature festivals and book signings and author interviews. Should the time ever come when he can no longer meet his mortgage payments, I wonder if he’ll still feel the same way.