'Keeping it Simple' An Article by Kayleigh Cutforth
'We must have excellence, but we must also have accessibility to that excellence.'
- Charles M. Vest
When we began this little venture last year, my main goal was to make the submission process as simple as possible. Why? Because I was wasting hours of my life trawling through pages and pages of convoluted submission guidelines on a daily basis. Great - if you’re a huge journal with thousands of submissions, I’m all for efficiency - but I wondered why so many small, indie journals were putting the same restrictions on their writers. How many little gems were being lost along the way because an author might have a disability, neurodiversity, limited IT skills, advanced age, dementia, anxiety, PTSD, I could go on and on.
Recently we’ve had a number of great submissions from some of those authors, and going by many standard submission guidelines they would have been thrown straight in the recycling bin. No bio? – no thanks, forgot the attachment? – jog on, text in Tahoma? – how dare you. I kid. I expect it's not quite that brutal, but my point remains.
Being able to submit to journals means having the mental/ physical energy or ability to not only do the research and begin but also to see the process through. This may come very easily to someone able-bodied or neurotypical, however for others it poses an insurmountable obstacle. Add in a long, drawn-out list of submission guidelines and I’m guessing many super talented authors out there are completely put off.
Sheila Black, poet, and director of Gemini Ink puts it simply:
‘What would make life better for writers with disabilities? In a word, accessibility.’
What does that look like in the world of literary journals? In my humble opinion, it starts with relaxing the guidelines, allowing writers freedom of expression within their own unique abilities, having alternative submission methods, and realising that not everyone can use a computer. Shock horror.
In the USA alone one third of adults ages 65 and older say they’ve never used the internet, and half don’t have internet access at home. Of those who do use the internet, nearly half say they need someone else’s help to set up or use a new digital device. I’m guessing there are probably some cracking poets and storytellers in that one third, and I for one don’t intend to put extra barriers in the way should they want to send their work to us, whatever that looks like.
So, with that off my chest…I’m off to check my inbox for new submissions in all sorts of quirky fonts, with and without bios, and smile at the ones with no attachment, knowing that I do the same thing, pretty much on a daily basis - (my boss will be pleased to verify this…)
Peace and light in these strange times,