On Literary Editing and the Nature of Love
April 22, 2014 § Leave a comment
Our friend Dan Lehman at River Teeth offers a comprehensive, nuanced, and honest look at how editors make their decisions, with helpful detail on River Teeth‘s active and intuitive process. Here is an excerpt, followed by a link to the whole article:
Fifteen years into this journey, an important thing readers should know about River Teeth is that its two editors once worked at magazines and newspapers where we shaped content and nurtured writers. Hence our love for factual writing that soars in interesting ways. Beyond that, we love clustering great essays and literary reporting into the soul and rhythm of each issue … At heart we always ask two questions: Is this the sort of piece I would want to call the other editor in the middle of the night to say we have to have? And would we die if we saw this piece in someone else’s journal and knew we could have had it for ourselves? Those are the criteria, nothing else really. As we wrote a few issues ago, we will publish the work of friends and acquaintances (even ourselves) if it meets those standards. Only then. That’s all. That our two Best American essays come from writers with close ties makes our case. Both were among the best dozen or so essays in this or any other year; it would have killed us to see them win those prizes for someone else. And we confessed that fact in writing before the prizes were won.
We know all this sounds more than a little intuitive, even presumptuous, and quite a bit less than arm’s length. That’s the nature of love, we guess.