My last summer at UT, in a class on American Childhood, I wrote an essay about Where the Wild Things Are, reading the book as a coming out fairy tale for homosexual boys. I thought it was original and timely (the Spike Jones movie was about to be released), so I sent it to a couple magazines, and two responded. One wanted me to change it in a way that didn’t feel right to me. The other liked it the way it was and committed to publishing it. It was supposed to appear in the June issue. When I didn’t hear from the publisher by May, I sent him an email. He didn’t respond. I checked the web site, and it hadn’t been updated since the spring. The magazine has vanished, along with the window of timeliness for my essay.
In the meantime, even though I didn’t want to edit my essay for this other magazine, I enjoyed my interaction with the editor/publisher. I sent him another piece, this one about online sex cruising. It would need some work to make it fit this magazine’s profile (it’s a gay and lesbian semi-scholarly journal), but I thought it might be worth it. He was intrigued but had some problems with it that made me think he didn’t “get” it, and I wasn’t sure if that was a problem with the piece or with his reading of it. At any rate, this was around the time of the New York production of Lizzie Borden, other stuff was happening and I let it go.
But a few days ago, he sent me an email. He’d gone back to the essay and found he liked it more than before. He’d done some editing to make the essay flow without the illustrations and he wanted me to take a look. From his email, I understood that he was open to another round of edits. I liked what he’d done, but he had downplayed an idea that was central to the whole point of the essay, so I restored a couple sentences that he’d taken out. Besides that, I made several small changes where he had used words and phrases that I would never use. Basically, I liked the shape of what he had done, but I wanted to return it to my voice. I still think I have something unique to say about the subject, and in the months since I wrote the essay I’ve continued to think about it, to research, and take notes. So I also made some changes to clarify and strengthen my argument.
Well, he wasn’t happy at all. He was dismayed that I’d made so many revisions and that I had restored some of his changes back to my original language. His deadline for having the essay ready for publication is this week, so he suggested we call it a day.
It was an interesting episode for me. These were my first couple of magazine submissions, so I have nothing to compare the experience to. In all our correspondence, he has been generous, appreciative, smart, and interested. But it seems awfully weird to me that an editor would make changes which alter the character of a writer’s work and then be disappointed to get some pushback. We didn’t have time to get into specific changes, why he made them, why I didn’t like them, etc., so it’s hard to assess what happened.
I’m disappointed. This was going to be my first published magazine article.