A Note on Brevity Response Times

April 12, 2016 § 27 Comments

Kelly Sundberg

Kelly Sundberg

From Brevity managing editor Kelly Sundberg:

Last Friday, just after tucking my ten-year-old son into bed, I made myself a cup of tea, then went to my loft office to try to catch up on my Brevity queue. Currently, the queue haunts my waking hours. If you have submitted this year, you might have noticed that the response time is slower than usual, and I have an explanation for why that is.

I am behind.

That’s all there is to it. I wish I had a better explanation, but I don’t.

I am still reading submissions. I am still responding to submissions. I am still considering submissions. It is just taking me a bit longer to do this than usual.

But back to last Friday—I settled into my desk, put my headphones in, and brought up Submittable. Suddenly, my little dog Teddy—a Beagle mix—flew down the stairs. He whimpered at the door. I assumed that there was a bunny outside. I live in what those of us in rural Appalachia call a “holler.” My house is surrounded by woods and not much else. At night, the acreage around me fills with bunnies—adorable little jackrabbits. Sometimes, on a given weekend, I will see more bunnies than people.

But this time, Teddy wasn’t trying to get out to chase a bunny. There was someone at the door—knocking loudly. It was 10 pm on a Friday, and this was unusual. I didn’t know want to answer the door. I mean, who would want to answer that door? This is the beginning of every horror movie, right?

Still, I remembered when I used to live in Boise, Idaho. There was a big, black house known as the “murder house.” Urban legend had it that the man who inhabited that house had murdered his entire family. The wife escaped and ran around to all of the neighbor’s houses. She pounded on all of the doors, but no one answered. The next morning, when the police arrived, they found her bloody handprints on the neighbor’s doors.

I thought of this as I stared at my door. The knocking increased. I didn’t want to be the person with bloody handprints on the door, so I answered. When I opened the door, a man was on the porch. He had a chainsaw in his arms. The first thing he said was, “Is your old man around?”

I don’t have an old man.

Not even close, but this story is getting long, so I’ll wrap it up here. My point is that I did not get back to my Brevity queue that night.

Sometimes, a man with a chainsaw on my front porch is why I don’t get to my queue.

Other times, I am just busy.

Here are some notes on my response times:

1. There is a high probability that you will receive a response from me after nine o clock p.m. (Eastern) because nine is when my son goes to bed.

2. I am not likely to respond on Monday or Wednesday evenings because that is when I prepare for the creative nonfiction workshop that I teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I reserve my reading energy for my students at those times.

3. If I have chapters due to my own editor, I will complete those before reading Brevity submissions.

4. If you receive a response on Tuesday or Thursday, then it was probably sent from the bakery where I like to work in the afternoons, which is just across the street from Dinty’s house. Sometimes, I see Dinty working in his garden and feel kind of creepy.

5. If you receive a response before eight o clock a.m., then please contact the authorities because that response did not come from me. Let me be clear when I say that I do nothing before eight o clock a.m. but sleep.

6. Our response letter currently states that we reply within 45 to 60 days, but my current average is closer to 70. Dinty generously asked me if I wanted to change the letter (he is as kindhearted as everyone says). I said that I would catch up, and I was sincere, but I should have taken his offer.

7. We receive thousands of submissions during our reading period, and I read each and every one of them.

8. I try very hard to respond to writers personally when something about a submission has caught our readers’ eyes. This slows me down, but I think that writing can be thankless work, and I want our submitters to know that we have read and cared about their submission.

9. If your submission goes from “Received” to “Rejected” in Submittable without switching to “In-Progress,” this does not mean that your submission has not been read. It only means that we have a small staff.

10. I am committed to treating each submission with respect, and this means reading it carefully. Please know that Dinty, our volunteer readers, and I do read and discuss your submissions carefully.

I’m sorry I’ve been responding to submissions slower than usual. I understand the anxiety and anticipation of a pending submission, and I do want to respond quicker than I currently am. Please be assured that your work is being read thoughtfully, and that you will receive a response. Thank you, dear Brevity submitters, for your patience.

Kelly Sundberg is Brevity’s Managing Editor. Her essays have appeared in a variety of literary magazines and been listed as Notable in Best American Essays 2013. Her essay, “It Will Look Like a Sunset” was anthologized in Best American Essays 2015, and a memoir inspired by that essay, Goodbye Sweet Girl, is forthcoming from HarperCollins Publishers in 2017.

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