Belle Machado: On Submission Selection
Spectrum's reader Belle Machado shares insights into our selection process.
When you send your pieces to Spectrum, what happens to them? Well, after each piece is sent in, it gets a file name in our system that’s anonymous and random, starting with a letter to signify the genre (P for prose, T for poetry, A for artwork) and ending with a corresponding number to differentiate it from another piece of work. These pieces are then distributed to our staff to read.
This is where our process of selection begins: each of our readers have specific genres that they choose to focus on, so the readers of your piece are interested in the work and have experience. Each piece is read and critiqued by two separate staff members, and these readers have two options: Publish or Reject. With two readers looking at the piece, there are three options for what can occur; the work will be completely denied should both readers reject it, the work will move right into the final selections for the journal if both accept it, or the piece will go to the entire staff for a vote if there is a difference in opinion.
This last round is what we locally call the “maybe pile.” After the staff leaves to read all of the pieces that have entered the maybe pile, we come together for a meeting and have both speakers who read a given work act as ambassadors for or against it. Each side has a chance to talk to the staff on why they believe the piece is worth publishing, or why it still needs work and is not yet ready or is not fitting for our journal. From there, it’s a democratic vote as to whether or not a piece is denied or is admitted with the original acceptances in the final review stage.
However, because this stage is an open discussion, some exceptions might occur. We have had long pieces be submitted here that we would like to publish but aren't suitable for print, so we opt for web publication. This is also where our staff discusses solicitations. If there is a piece that doesn’t quite meet a majority consensus, some staff members may come forward to propose reaching out to said author to work with them in the future.
Finally, there is the narrowing down of the final pieces to decide the table of contents. This is done in a meeting of all the editors in which staff members aren’t required to attend, but they may come if they wish to argue the case of a piece they particularly loved. Those who attend this meeting go through all of the acceptances one by one and discuss their thoughts as to what a given piece would contribute to the journal, what its assets and weaknesses are, and their impressions of the piece. This meeting becomes a sort of free-for-all debate, since it is typically a small meeting with the editors and only a few advocates. The table of contents is chosen, and our final decisions are then to the authors. This concludes the mysterious and enigmatic process that is The Spectrum’s choice in its pieces.