Report From The Trenches

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day, a writer, and we found ourselves doing that thing that writers often do: sharing horror stories about the book world. Here is one (among many) I told her. Several years ago, at a summer writers’ conference, I met a magazine editor who happened to be from the same city I lived in at the time. The editor said she was looking for slush pile readers, and I naively expressed some interest in helping out, on a volunteer basis. She sized me up, then asked, “How old are you?”

I didn’t quite understand why she asked me my age, but I answered, almost mechanically, “Thirty five.”

“Oh,” said the magazine editor. “Well, if you would like to volunteer your time, we really need help with office work.”

In a swift second, I had been reclassified from a potential reader of undiscovered gems to the person who stuffs rejection notices in envelopes. Needless to say, I never submitted any work to her. Eventually, I published a bunch of stories, then a book, and then another book. The kicker? A few years later, the editor, too, published a book. Then her publicist emailed me to ask me whether I could review it.

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