Ready, set, read

Joshua Henkin (flogging his new novel, Matrimony) recently finished guest-blogging for Mark over at The Elegant Variation, and the results are very well worth reading–particularly the post called The Best Advice I Can Give a Young (or Not-so-young) Writer: “Go read for a literary journal.  Or for a publishing house.  Or for a literary agent…”  Timely, for me, as I’m ploughing through some manuscripts for a contest I’m judging, and I wish everyone who’s sending out a manuscript could do this at least once–it does give, as Henkin says, “the right combination of encouragement and perspective.”  It gives you a bit of confidence about how your own work measures up, but it also reminds you how tough the odds are against your work any time you send it out.

Last year I screened for a contest, sent back a ranked list of the ten best manuscripts–and the eventual winner of the contest was the one I’d ranked tenth out of ten.  It was better than 90% of the manuscripts I read, but there were nine that I thought were better still; in fact, I had a hard time choosing between No. 10 and No. 11, which ended up not getting sent at all.  So yes, different readers will value manuscripts differently…

…but also: my No. 1 choice has already been accepted for publication by another press.  I’m pretty sure that with perseverance, all of my top ten could eventually get published.  So, as Henkin says, you learn not to personalize rejection.  It means very little in the end.


One response to this post.

  1. […] set, read, part 2 Reading manuscripts again, I’m reminded that I have an update to this post; I recently learned from an author’s biographical note in a magazine that of the ten […]


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