Our former Editor in Chief discusses how becoming an editor changed the way she views rejection and submitting work for publication.
My time working on The Bridge was undoubtedly foundational in the way I approach sending my own work out for publication now. The confidence and patience I have for the publication process is due to the insight I gained while being on the editorial side of what happens to our submission after we hit send.
A fear of the unknown is often what stops writers and artists from submitting to The Bridge and other literary journals. There’s a certain loss of control when sending your creative work out—a group of peers will inevitably read, view, and discuss your work in a context you don’t have access to, and it is undeniably daunting to not be able to hear what is being said about your work. While waiting months for a response, it’s hard not to assume the worst. From being on The Bridge staff, I know the respect editors have for the creator and their work, for both creating it as well as having the guts to share it. Even in the longest debates about whether a piece should be accepted, we discussed solely based upon what we had on the page, focusing on why it resonated with us, or why it didn’t. We didn’t look for whether a piece was good, or bad, but rather discussed and accepted work based on whether it agreed our own personal taste and if we believed it would fit into the theme developing for the volume.
Inevitably, there will be rejection and although it can often feel like it, rejections aren’t necessarily a reflection of the quality of your work. In my three years on The Bridge, I saw many of my favorite submissions, the ones I most believed in, not make the cut because of logistics—we didn’t have enough time to edit before the deadline, we didn’t have enough space, the image couldn’t be edited, or the colors in a painting didn’t match with the rest of the volume’s theme. Beautiful and unique work got rejections, not because they weren’t good or we didn’t believe in them, but because they didn’t fit with the overarching theme developing in the volume.
Now, as I receive countless rejections for my own publishing blunders, I know the rejections don’t necessarily reflect the quality of the work I’m sending out, but rather reflect the editor’s own tastes, vision for the volume they’re creating, and the logistical restraints of their publication. I have sent many rejections out with hope the work will find better homes, and so when I receive rejections, I know the sentiment is the same.
Even during the coldest, longest days in January, reading through and discussing submissions always proved to be a rich atmosphere for creativity. I got a lot of ideas and felt most challenged to write when putting a volume together—The Bridge felt like a yearlong creative writing workshop. Some of my all-time favorite short stories, poems, pieces of art come from volumes of The Bridge, the ones I look back to when I want something to unshake the creative block in me. Sometimes the greats, the masters from our classes and museums, seem untouchable and unchanging, like they’ve always been in the world and we could never be as good. But when our favorite works, the ones that inspire and awe us, are published in our own journal, it makes the publishing and creating world feel a little more within our reach.
Mialise Carney graduated from Bridgewater State University in 2019, where she worked as Editor in Chief of The Bridge for two years. She is the creative nonfiction editor at Nightingale and Sparrow, and her fiction has appeared in Menacing Hedge, Sagebrush Review, and is forthcoming in Atlas and Alice. When she isn’t pretending to write, she’s preparing her application to become a professional hermit. Follow her on Twitter @mialisec