An Open Letter to TriQuarterly

Dear TriQuarterly:

You don’t know me. Even if I chose to sign this open letter with my real name, you wouldn’t. I’m not an A-lister; I don’t have one of those names that everyone recognizes, like Billy Collins or A.E. Stallings or James Franco.

Still, I’d like to talk to you about your letter. You know, the one that goes like this:

The editors at TriQuarterly recently sent you a notice that your submission was not accepted for publication. I want to clarify that, due to very high volume and limited publication space, our staff was unable to review your submission. Our intent was to give you the opportunity to publish elsewhere, though I realize that our original email was not as clear as I had hoped. I apologize if this has caused any confusion.

At the risk of sounding dense, I am confused. Your letter invites more questions than it answers, and I’d like to pose some of them now:

  1. How can a magazine with, as stated on your website, nineteen people on the masthead be incapable of handling its submission load?
  2. Related, most magazines that are overwhelmed simply close submissions. Why didn’t you do that?
  3. Should your letter be read as a poorly phrased euphemism for Just so you’re aware, we saw your name on your cover letter, didn’t recognize it, and decided to reject outright? If so, why even allow unsolicited submissions?
  4. A few individuals have defended TriQuarterly‘s decision to reject work unread to “give [the submitter] the opportunity to publish elsewhere.” Yet you accept simultaneous submissions. In what universe does it make sense for a magazine to reject submissions unread when those works can be sent to other markets?
  5. There is some scuttlebutt on social media that this maneuver was the work of a lone gunman rogue editor. If this is true, how could a single editor do this without any oversight? If it’s not, should we trust a magazine that would scapegoat someone in this fashion?
  6. For that matter, why would any magazine, especially one with TriQuarterly‘s reputation, think this letter was a good idea? (I’m reminded of Chris Rock’s proclamation to Jerry Lewis in Bigger and Blacker: “Lie to me!”)

I suspect that you will, in time, address some (if not all) of these questions. Perhaps they will even be satisfactory to some writers out there. Rest assured, though, that I won’t be one of them. No matter how well crafted your damage control is, I will refuse to submit to you again.

I won’t be alone.

Meanwhile, if you need me, I’ll be writing, submitting, and publishing. You know, doing the work that will make my name so well known, you’ll be there to accept my work without reading it.

One Nameless Writer

23 thoughts on “An Open Letter to TriQuarterly

  1. Hi – I’m writing an article about literary citizenship in the context of this situation. If the anonymous author is willing to chat, can she please contact me? allison at idowords dot net. Thanks, and thanks for bringing this to light!

  2. The only thing I can figure is that someone in-house was mad about them not reading any submissions, and decided to stick it to the journal. Otherwise, why bother sending this? It’s like if someone asked you to do something, and you said, “No, actually, I have plans, thanks!” and then followed up with a text later that said, “I recently declined your invitation and just wanted to clarify that it wasn’t because I had plans but that I just didn’t want to hang out with you. Good luck making friends elsewhere!” Social ineptitude or editorial drama?

  3. Reminds me somewhat of N+1, which states in their guidelines: “We do our best to respond to all submissions but our resources are limited and we are not always able to reply.” Not even a pre-printed slip, folks.

  4. Charming and insightful, with a few zingers. Thank you for being classy about your indignation; I barely recognized this as the Internet!

  5. I admire the courage and candor of this letter. The author is giving voice to widespread dissatisfaction.

    My daughter, a widely published poet, also serves as a reader for a noted journal. She would never have accepted the honor had she not only made sure she could diligently manage her submission load, but also that the organization she was joining was also dedicated to that same accountability.

    Shame on Tri-Quarterly.

    Poets unite!

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