• One Minnesota Writer

Irony….or How Do You Define Professional Behavior?

This past week has been interesting and unsettling. The tail end of kitchen renovation required some fine-tuning: a leak under the sink, a clogged kitchen pipe, a section of wall that needed further smoothing, an oven for which heating up was not all it should be. In between service calls, my daughter got a nasty stomach bug and spent two days on our couch with a big bowl nearby. We went through a lot of Clorox wipes. We squeezed in a visit from family that was lovely and chaotic: two adults, three preteen children, one chocolate lab who literally inhaled food scraps just by hovering over any unattended plates as she passed by them. Oh, and I almost forgot about the huge pile of compost delivered to the end of our driveway in some very cold rain.

But what I found most unsettling had little to do with all of the above. A few months ago, I answered a call for submissions for a new publication aimed at beginning writers. I corresponded with the publisher/editor, sent her a column about professional behavior for poets who are starting to submit their work, and was pleased that she accepted the column for her inaugural issue. Later, when I checked on the publication’s website, it seemed to be coming together, although it still looked a little rough. Several writers had contributed columns on various aspects of the writing life: fiction, poetry, first sales, etc. The target date for the finished website and the print edition were May 1. The publisher/editor contacted me to ask if I’d be willing to be a regular columnist for the next six months to see if it was a good fit. I hesitated a little, but thought perhaps I’d give it a try. Why not? The columns she asked for were easy topics and the word count manageable. So I agreed, with a clear list of ideas for columns and a clear set of deadlines.

Imagine my surprise when, during the aforementioned family visit, I clicked on the new publication website to show it to my sister-in-law and found a message from the publisher/editor that said once the print edition was sent out, the website would stay up for a month and then be permanently closed. No one had subscribed. She had run out of money.

Why hadn’t she told her writers?

I waited a day before I sent an email expressing my surprise and indicating that I would have hoped for her to tell her writers about her difficulties before such a notice went up on the publication’s website. It’s been a couple of days and I’ve received no response. As an editor elsewhere, if a poet sends me a direct communication, I answer it right away (meaning within 24 hours). There is no excuse for a lack of common courtesy or standard professional behavior. Emergencies do happen, of course, but this publisher/editor had the time to write a rather lengthy notice for the website, so I imagine it would not have been much harder to draft an email for her writers that could have been sent as well.

New publications are tremendously expensive to get up and running, particularly if print versions are part of the package. I get that. Competition is fierce. Sometimes money just isn’t there to achieve a dream. But courteous, professional behavior is a choice we all have available to us.

Play nice.

Today’s Kindness Link This past Sunday, for Mother’s Day, my friend Luann and her family walked in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Bloomington, Minnesota. Luann is one year cancer-free. In her honor, and in honor of all the women who have survived breast cancer, check out the Susan G. Komen site here.

Search Amazon.com for writers guide to submissions

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