Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Current Affairs and the Sacred Contract Between Writer and Editor

ETA: I’ve deleted the editor’s name. Everyone deserves a second chance.

ETA 2: I got one detail wrong. See update at bottom.

During an internet flamewar, a Current Affairs editor tweeted this:
I commented there:
I hope you realize that few if any competent writers will want to submit to a magazine that tells the world about their first drafts. #ProfessionalismMatters
Then I shared her tweet with this comment:
This is a contender for the most unprofessional shit I've seen in 30-some years of publishing.
She did apologize in a later tweet.
And I added these tweets:
I've done stupid shit when I believed my friends were wrongly accused, so I am not entirely unsympathetic. But sympathy and an apology do not erase what [she] did. She broke the fundamental contract: Editors do not publicly speak about a writer's first draft. 
What @curaffairs can do to restore trust between writers and their editors now, I do not know. But I know I would be very reluctant to submit work to editors who are so cavalier about a writer's work. 
And I see [her] solution was to block me. I would say that's the opposite of taking responsibility for being astonishingly unprofessional. @curaffairs
When people questioned me, I added this:
It's not a question of whether a writer is the worst scum and you think the writer therefore deserves anything. It's purely about the editor's behavior. There are no exceptions: A writer submits work expecting it to be accepted or rejected discreetly. We trust our editors. 
When editors show they'll get upset and trash us, the person who looks awful is the editor because the editor has betrayed our trust about the work. The work is separate from the hissy fit. It's hard to come up with an analogy, but I'll try: 
An editor who exposes details about our first drafts is like a tailor who shares details about our bodies. No sane person would go to a tailor who did that. And no sane writer would submit work to an editor who did that. 
I agree she shouldn't be fired. But the magazine needs to make a statement that this is not their policy and it will never happen again. She needs to make a separate statement to that effect—the tweet I saw from her was too glib to be meaningful.
UPDATE 6/18/20: Anna Khachiyan said on Twitter, "She threatened to leak them so I leaked them myself because I have nothing to hide lol"

I told her I would update this and then added, "But frankly, mocking a writer's early drafts without sharing them is just as bad and maybe worse because there's nothing for others to see to decide for themselves. Editors with integrity don't talk trash about submissions."

1 comment:

  1. Oh, don't worry, I'm sure that operationally their policy is that they'll be discreet and professional as long as they agree with you. If they don't, well, you're an animal and deserve no better.