another publication question!
September 21, 2021 8:10 AM   Subscribe

This time on behalf of my dad. Complicated-ish situation.

My dad wrote a lovely hybrid memoir/travel writing piece about his childhood going on work trips with his father, who worked for the Indian Railways. He submitted it via Submittable to a couple of publications that seemed appropriate for the topic.

He doesn't monitor his Submittable account. I wasn't aware of this till this past weekend, so he asked me to log in for him.

I discovered that in January, his piece had not only been selected for publication but had also been a finalist in said publication's spring writing competition. He had no idea.

Here's the rub: he DID get an email from Submittable that his essay had been a finalist. He just totally missed it because the email arrived literally one day after his sister passed away from COVID-19 in Calcutta, and he was in the thick of grief, making funeral arrangements from California in tandem with his other sister in France, and dealing with the mess of his younger sister's estate - she didn't have an official will, just handwritten notes about how her assets should be divided.

He is mortified that he missed this email, as being chosen as a finalist for this competition is fairly prestigious (at least in this niche area). He immediately responded to the email from the managing editor of the pub via Submittable apologizing for the 8 month delay and for inadvertently giving the impression he had ignored her. He said that if they would still be willing to publish him he'd be honored. However, he is sad because he feels like such a long delay means the boat has sailed.

I feel like this is the very definition of extenuating circumstances (COVID DEATH IN INDIA FFS). I also know from my own experience that a lot of publications are severely behind in their publication schedules right now - I have a poem that was supposed to be published in a pub in March and only last month heard from the editor that it was finally going to press to release in October.

So I think he still has a shot. I cannot tell from the pub's website whether their contest winners and finalists have been published yet. It doesn't look like it but their website is a bit quirky to navigate.

Writers of Metafilter, what say you? Has this ship sailed or do you think he still has a chance of being published even with the 8 month radio silence? If the latter, I will encourage him to email the managing editor directly, bypassing the Submittable platform (unless that is a bad idea since he's already responded via Submittable).

Thoughts/advice welcome. I have a difficult relationship with my dad but he is a gifted writer and this piece he wrote is beautiful and deserves to be out in the world. I want to help him. The only reason why he didn't see the email is because he was so overwhelmed with the aftermath and logistics of his sister's death.
posted by nayantara to Writing & Language (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The ship has not sailed. And while he is possibly too late for the publication's contest for the current year/upcoming issue, he could certainly ask if they would allow him to submit the piece for the following year's contest. (Or just in general.) The publication has already expressed interest, so it's likely that it would find a place for the piece.

Re: Email. Ask the managing editor if their preference is to remain in touch via Submittable or if they'd be comfortable switching to email.
posted by greenland at 8:23 AM on September 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't think the ship has sailed, but I give them time to respond to the email he's already sent through Submittable before trying to contact the managing editor in another way. I work for a small journal, and it's a pain in the neck when people try to get through to us in multiple ways. We have processes for things to get to the right people, and it's confusing when we have to figure out if the same person has written to more than one staff member, if both messages are exactly the same or if there's new info in one, if the new info needs to be forwarded, if person A has already seen the initial message, if you want to bother the busy managing editor with something it looks like she's already seen, etc. People working at journals can be extremely busy, so I'd suggest just sitting tight for at least a few weeks. If Submittable is what they're asking people to use, it's because that's what works best with their processes. I would advise against trying to go around that, though I think it's fine to write again through Submittable if he doesn't hear back for a few weeks. And yeah, this totally sounds like extenuating circumstances that any reasonable person would understand, though it's probably too late for this year's contest.
After he hears from the managing editor, I think it's fine to ask about switching to email.
Sounds like a cool essay. Good luck.
posted by FencingGal at 11:35 AM on September 21, 2021

Response by poster: Complication: Dad reports this same piece just got accepted by another publication and wants to know if it's still available for publishing.

What should he do? Accept the second offer or wait out the first one since he placed as a finalist in their contest?
posted by nayantara at 11:24 AM on September 23, 2021

Response by poster: Ack, complication #2: my dad was actually ANNOUNCED as a contest finalist on the first pub's FB, Instagram, and Twitter. My dad is not active on any social media and missed it, and this announcement happened when he was in the thick of managing his sister's estate. I think he must still be eligible for publication as a contest finalist, right? His name is already out there, he just had no idea.
posted by nayantara at 11:32 AM on September 23, 2021

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