When I say I need to write this, what I mean is that I need to try and work through my thoughts and feelings. I need to come to terms with what’s happened, document my perspective for posterity, and try to find some internal resolution and peace. That’s what this is.
Yesterday I had a situation that unfolded around me and affected me deeply. The short story is that a person who volunteers their time with the lit mag I’m managing addressed me about being disgruntled over something that had happened with our latest issue. She’s a woman I’ve known since 2018 and consider a friend. She was extremely upset and there was little I could/can do to alleviate her feelings.
The conclusion of that short story is that she made a decision to withdraw from the journal completely. I kinda knew by that point she would not be open to reconsidering, so I apologized and said I respected her decision.
But of course this is not the whole story and it was not any sort of end that would have me letting it go. The whole thing made me sick to my stomach and it ruined my anniversary and waking up today it’s literally all I can think about.
Here’s the whole story….
Backstory: A colleague and I run a lit magazine and all our editors are volunteers. We’re volunteers also. It’s been my way to stay connected with the literary community, give back, and try to do good work in the world.
I’ve never run a literary journal before and everything we have done from 2020 until now has been a learning experience. We’ve made mistakes, we course correct, we try to do better.
The mistake we made with this issue was not small. In hindsight, everything is 2020. If I could go back in time and do it differently, I would. It was actually a series of mistakes that became visible when the issue was released.
Our fiction team consisted of three people who had independently made the decision to step away from the project so this issue was their last.
Being friends with all three, I had insight into the struggle they had with determining which story to accept for the issue. However they did agree on one and passed their selection to us (myself and my co-EIC).
When he and I read the story, we didn’t think it was right for our journal. We talked through our reasons and decided not to publish it. Enter mistake #1, the biggest mistake.
We did not communicate our decision back to the three of them. We didn’t solicit their opinions or engage them in conversation about it.
I recognize now that if we had done that, all of this could have been avoided. But here’s where I start to get a little defensive.
They had already decided to leave the team. They could not, between themselves, agree on a story, and it was several weeks past their deadline to let us know where things stood with the first reading and engage other people for opinions. We factor time in for collaboration and communication but didn’t get their final pick until after our deadline to send acceptances. It stressed me out and I personally was more focused on moving forward with the issue that I didn’t think about trying to re-engage with them.
I really didn’t. Going back to let them just slipped away. Was it wrong? Yes. And as a person who prides herself on good communication, I’m ashamed about it. Like I said, if I had a time machine…
Anyway the subsequent mistakes made were us soliciting another writer for a story which undermined their efforts.
The friend who called me out on all this expressed how terrible it is to spend hours and hours reading and deciding and then have someone pick a different story altogether. I get that. It’s not a small effort.
But it’s also not a small effort to run the whole thing, make all the decisions, be available all the time for shit that comes up, and yes, much like most of life, get little thanks or satisfaction in return.
When I say it’s not a small effort, what I mean is that it’s a huge effort. I have spent literally every day for the last month marching toward this release.
Contracts, communications, website page building, social media promotions, author Q&A, picking artwork, working with our design editor, copy-edits, crossing every T and dotting every I. It’s a full time ducking job. And I have a job already, so everyday is a balancing act. And full of compromise and sacrifice. I put it before my home life sometimes and always put it before my personal endeavors. That’s the truth.
By the time yesterday arrived I was exhausted. I just wanted to announce the release and then release myself from worrying about it or working any more on it. Especially for my husband who I had totally been neglecting this week. I wanted to focus on us and our wedding anniversary. I wanted to turn my attention to our upcoming trip I wanted to let go. But no.
My friend called me out over text. I immediately apologized but didn’t realize how terribly she was feeling about all of it. She went on over text about how she was shocked we did this and disappointed and then, as I said, withdrew from the team. She had already stepped away from being an editor but had recently reaffirmed her commitment to helping me and continuing to help with social media promotions. With this, let me know she was done-done and ended her last text by saying she was astonished this happened.
All I could do was apologize and say I respected her decision. I don’t have a time machine so I can’t fix the mistakes. I didn’t say that to her but I did say as a friend I hoped she could give me a chance to do better.
But it didn’t end there. I wanted to apologize to the other two people involved so I started threads with them. That led to more info about why they were upset (and they were) and some of it was stuff I had no awareness about.
I feel both those conversations ended ok. I still feel terrible, but they were both good exchanges of points of view and understanding.
But with the first person, there was no positive end or exchange of perspectives or understanding. Some time after our last text exchange she called me and that went poorly also.
She literally blasted me for 10 minutes and when I tried to talk she came back at me even harder with more outrage. I cried. I apologized again and again. I tried to explain why I think this happened the way it did and she wouldn’t hear it.
It was abrasive and hurtful and I don’t think I deserved it. I’m a human being and if someone I consider a friend won’t give me the benefit of doubt or show some understanding or compassion, I don’t know what to do with that.
I really don’t. I don’t know how to process it or even think about it without having my heart race. It was truly awful and at the end of it, there really was no conclusion. She accused me of doing what I did on purpose and would not accept my apology.
All I could say was that I appreciated her calling and hope to talk again sometime. Then we hung up. Ugh!!! 😩
It overshadowed my whole night until I went to sleep.
Thank the Universe I was so exhausted I slept all the way through to the alarm this morning.
As I said, it was the first thing on my mind when I woke up and I knew… knew I’d need to spend some time trying to sort through it.
I don’t use the word “need” lightly. But I needed this. It’s the first step in processing and will hopefully lead to some measure of letting go.
That’s enough for one day (too much actually).
Peace and love,