While reading the first set of submissions for Sucker this weekend, I found myself struggling. Most of the submissions had the potential to be amazing. And “potential” speaks loudly to my inner teacher…but not so much to my inner editor. The inner editor said, “Just put these in the “pass” pile.” (A pile that was growing far larger than the “maybe” pile, and I didn’t quite have a “yes” pile). My inner teacher said, “Wait–can’t you just work with this writer, just throw out a few pointers?” And because my inner teacher was once able to command a study hall of 200-plus seventh graders with the narrowing of her eyes, my inner editor really never had a chance.
The piece that caused this struggle for me has great character development and a story that emerges from a profound internal struggle within the protagonist. It has authentic, gritty language and pushes boundaries. BUT, the writer chose to portray a crucial moment in summary rather than scene, and it makes the story fall flat. When I finished reading it, I was left feeling a little disappointed and knew that the story wasn’t ready for publication…
Then I had my little schizophrenic struggle and when my inner teacher won, I realized that this writer was me a few years ago and that with a little guidance, her work could really shine.
Back in the day, say twenty to thirty years ago, (I only know this from several friends of mine who’ve been in the book business for decades) agents and publishers would sign new writers whose manuscripts had potential but needed some fine tuning. Today, there seems to be little time or space for mentoring a writer who is thisclose to being fabulous.
Sucker’s mission is to provide a platform for emerging and new writers of YA fiction and given this (sort of) beginning status of our writers, it only makes sense that we also mentor our writers. The first step towards this is that we are going to include a checklist of specific craft guidelines so that you can revise your piece before you send it to us. The second step is that if we read a piece that we feel has potential, we will offer to work with you on improving it for publication. The third is if you receive a rejection and wish to know exactly the reason, just ask us and we will tell you the truth.
As you know, each publication, agent, editor, or mentor has his or her own taste, and if we do reject your work, that does not mean you should give up. All it means is that we aren’t a match. As I type that, I think about how many times I’ve heard that and just know–I get it.