our unique process — q & a

Marvin Bell discusses the benefit of not sending or taking simultaneous submissions.

Who’s reading my work?

Our evaluation process sets december apart from the crowd of literary journals. We read blindly – unless you stray from our guidelines, we don’t see your name or other identifying information until we’re ready to respond to you. Our editorial staff comprises gifted writers, editors, and educators (actually, most wear at least two of those hats, and a few wear all three). Every submission is read by at least two editors, and many make their way through four or five readers before we’re ready to respond. Every reader makes notes and comments about the submission, and if it shows potential (and most do), we often provide those comments and suggestions in our responses. Part of december’s mission is building a community of writers, and we’ve published several pieces that were rejected, revised, and resubmitted.

Why no simultaneous submissions?

We’re writers, too, and we’re sending our work to other publications all the time, so we understand the concern about simultaneous submissions. Yes, our policy would be unfair if we were hanging on to your work for months on end. But we’re not. As we’ve already mentioned, every submission gets AT LEAST two thorough reads from our staff, who try to provide substantive feedback. We generally respond within six weeks (often sooner, occasionally a little later). We hope that the possibility of getting a prompt, personal response with thoughtful comments from a team of insightful editors is a small price to pay for giving us exclusivity in consideration for six weeks. We would be reluctant to invest so much time and energy on each submission if it might be withdrawn before we have a chance to respond promptly. That said, we are not a literary critique service (at least, not yet) and we can’t give notes on every submission we get. We share feedback with writers when the work shows significant potential and would benefit from revision. If we don’t provide a detailed evaluation, please don’t take it personally.

What do you look for in submissions?

Literature is an art like any other; december’s core aesthetic is excellent writing that reflects and appeals to a variety of sensibilities. Good writing is just the beginning, though. december sees itself as a forum for writers and artists, to ensure that poems, stories, essays, and images that might otherwise slip through the publishing world’s wide cracks find a way to be seen and heard. That core issue drives many of december’s selections – is this a story (or poem or essay) that needs to be seen and heard? That deserves to be published so others will have the benefit of reading it?

Plenty of other worthy considerations come into play. In prose, are the characters interesting? Is the storyline coherent? Is the work about something more significant than the anecdotes it presents? Is the dialogue realistic? Is it a story we haven’t read many times already? If not, is it told in a new and interesting way? In poetry, we seek unusual imaginations, strong poetic voices, and verbal energy, among other qualities.

What kind of creative nonfiction do you accept?

We’re looking for memoir, personal essays, literary journalism, and experimental forms. We don’t accept academic writing, biographies, news articles, or family histories. We’re thinking about adding book reviews at some point, so stay tuned.

Do you accept poetry in translation?

Yes! The submission must include the translation as well as the poems in their original language. We consider only translations of work that has not been previously translated and published in English, however slight any previous publication, and we consider only translations of writers who have not been previously and widely translated into English unless it is unpublished work of great quality or historical interest. The poem(s) in translation must be exceptional in their own right and must reach the same standards we use to judge poems originally written in English. Only if we would accept the translation as a poem in its own right does it merit further consideration. The poem(s) must be determined to be faithful to the original. We will rely on the services of knowledgeable translators of poetry to determine faithfulness. Finally, if the poet whose work is translated is living, the translator must obtain written permission from the poet to translate and publish the work.

Why the fee for online submissions?

We don’t consider the fee to submit your work through Submittable to be a “reading fee.” It’s a transmission cost, an OPTIONAL method to send your work. You may also send submissions through the regular mail, but you’ll probably spend more on paper and postage (not to mention your time) than the $2.50 Submittable fee. We’re a small nonprofit entity, and using Submittable costs us more than the fees generate. But we use it because it enables us to keep submissions organized, to distribute them to our editorial staff, and to make decisions by consensus, all of which allows us to respond to submitters promptly, personally, and usually with suggestions and comments.

How does december pay its contributors?

Current payment is two contributor copies of the issue in which the author’s work appears and $10.00 per page with a minimum of $40.00 and a maximum of $200.00.

What’s the word limit for submissions?

For general submissions, we have no word-count limits for prose or line limits for poetry. Prose contest entries should be no longer than 8,000 words.

Thank you for your interest in december. We look forward to reading your work!