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“Very strong medicine. I recommend a dose of it to the VQR.”


PUBLISHED: May 2, 2008

A few authors were less than thrilled with our recent listing of readers’ negative comments, worrying that their work may have received similarly rough treatment. (Rest assured, any author who takes the time to read our blog, or who can even identify us by name, is far too competent to write submissions that are that bad.) I have no background in the literary world (I’m a programmer), so I have no concept of the point at which transparency becomes garish to writers. Whaddya know–I’ve found that point.

The forthrightness of our readers extends not just to submissions that they don’t like, but also to submissions that they adore. Sometimes a submission will strike a chord with a reader, validating the task of minding the slush pile. They’re effusive, funny, and often sweet. Here are some of my favorites, with the hope that transparency of happy comments is rather better received:

Comments removed. See this post for details

It’s worth noting that a positive review from a reader certainly doesn’t guarantee publication in our pages, given the enormous volume of submissions we receive. (We’re on track to receive 10,400 during this reading period, in which time we’ll have published 160. You do the math.) But our readers wade through hundreds of submissions every week, not for the money (there’s little to be had), but for the opportunity to be part of the literary community, and for that rare but wonderful occurrence of discovering a new and talented voice.

7 Comments

Abigial Frucht's picture
Abigial Frucht · 11 years ago
Questions: 1) Are all these comments for pieces that have appeared in VQR, or did some of them eventually get rejected? 2) Did the authors get to see these comments? 3) If the answer to 1) is yes, can you link to some of the actual pieces so we can compare with the comments?
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Waldo Jaquith's picture
Some of them were declined, some have been accepted, some are in the netherworld between those two points, and may or may not become published. Those authors would very rarely see the exact comments presented here. They might be excerpted, but they’re generally given a version of these comments in a more useful form than this. I’m not sure that it would be appropriate to cross-reference any of these comments to the published pieces, Abigail. It’s not something that I’ve entirely thought through the ramifications of, but I suspect that doing so would probably have some negative side effects.
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Wistar Watts Murray's picture
See! This proves my point. The negative comments were more fun to read. :)
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Waldo Jaquith's picture
See! This proves my point. The negative comments were more fun to read
Not a big fan of the warm-and-fuzzies, huh? :) I should mention that these reviews have been anonymized – names have been removed and key submission facts have been tweaked so that authors are unlikely to recognize even their own works. Those changes should have no impact on the substance of the reviews, though.
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Lee's picture
Lee · 11 years ago
Waldo, nice balance of the scales. Actually, this made me think of something else I had wondered about: Once a story receives a note like the ones in today’s post, does it go directly to the editor? Or does it get passed to another reader for a second round? That is, how many times does a story get read, once it’s clear the story might be right for VQR?
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Susan Zakin's picture
I’m posting what I found on VQR’s submission page. There does seem to be an epidemic of snottiness out there in Virginia. For a state that is home to the CIA and Oliver North, I have to say I’m a bit confused as to why. All this over a National Magazine Award? “May I suggest a nice Sauvignon Blanc?” might be more appropriate, guys. (Dry and grapefruity, thanks.) Otherwise, stop dissing a moderately Luddite (and well-published) writer, eg. myself, who has been refusing to bow down before Bill Gates since before Firefox was around. And for twenty cents a word? Yow. From the submissions page: Your Browser Won’t Work The web browser that you’re using is Netscape 7, a five-year-old program that was roundly panned at the time of its release and was promptly abandoned by AOL, its creator. It works very, very badly and, in fact, will not function on the VQR Submission System at all. It won’t even work on AOL’s own website. Absolutely any other web browser will work here, but not Netscape 7. May we recommend Firefox?
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Waldo Jaquith's picture
As we’ve explained there, Susan, the disastrous Netscape 7 doesn’t support many basic internet technologies. (That’s why AOL, its creator, completely abandoned Netscape on February 1 of this year.) There’s simply nothing that we can do about that, as evidenced by AOL’s inability to get Netscape 7 to work on its own website. We’re not asking you to “bow down before Bill Gates” – in fact, we specifically recommend Firefox, Microsoft’s leading competitor in the browser market. I’ve personally put an enormous amount of time into making sure that our website supports every browser under the sun. But the 0.136% of internet users who still use Netscape – such as yourself – are simply out of luck, and that fault lies entirely with AOL/Netscape.
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