Interview with Dedra S. Earl, Assistant Managing Editor
*Today, Alex Carpenter interviews Dedra S. Earl, TMR’s Assistant Managing Editor. This is the second part in a series, geared toward letting you know what happens between clicking ‘submit’ and the USPS dropping off your subscription at home.*
1) It’s my understanding that you’ve been with TMR for quite a while, and have watched it adapt to the changing needs of the modern world. That said, how long have you been with TMR? Over the course of that time, what major changes have you seen, and how have they affected the magazine?
I’ve been with the magazine since 1990, so that’s a very looooooong time. During my time with the magazine we’ve gone from being a print-only magazine published three times per year to having a website, taking online submissions, becoming a quarterly/publishing four issues per year, recording digital audio of every issue, producing in digital format, creating podcasts and, soon, presenting the issue in a variety of mobile formats. We don’t know what the next “big thing” will be, but I’m sure we will be right in the middle of it, whatever it is. After all, one of Speer’s favorite words is “entrepreneurial.”
2) Considering your seniority with the journal, I assume that a lot of responsibility ultimately falls on your shoulders?
I have great assistants that help me plow through it all.
3) Word around the office is that as Assistant Managing Editor you do a little bit of everything, that your job, like the magazine, is miscellany. What sort of duties does this entail?
What does “miscellany” entail? It could be something new every week, most often involving budgets, accounting activities and payroll/personnel oversight. I also try to coordinate communication between the staff and interns for all the different activities going on–research, manuscript processing/reading, production, e-commerce, fundraising and customer service–because the entire staff isn’t in the office all at the same time.
4) As the magazine’s first point of contact, we imagine you’re who first handles issues that crop up with submissions. What sort of unforeseen problems arise? How often are these problems related to manuscripts? And what are the typical, or most frequent, manuscript related problems? What should submitters do/ avoid to give their writing the best chance of succeeding?
Our current online submission system can be a bit fickle sometimes, so manuscripts don’t always upload properly. We track submissions weekly to ensure that for every online fee payment there is a corresponding manuscript. I think we’re doing pretty well on that front—it requires a fair amount of time, coordination and follow-up, though. Also, since TMR accepts simultaneous submissions, we often handle withdrawals. I wouldn’t call this a problem,though, since the number one reason a writer will withdraw his/her work is because some other magazine wants to publish it. And that’s pretty much always good news for our authors, I’d say.
5) Given the number of manuscripts circulating among the magazine’s readers, editors, and interns, how often do accidents happen? What methods does the magazine use to prevent those accidents?
The odds of manuscript mishandling go up with the electronic submission system partly because it’s easy to move emails around by mistake. However, we have had editors accidentally recycle paper submissions, too, and not find them until they empty their recycle bin or we’ve made a data entry mistake and John Doe’s manuscript ends up under John Donne’s name, which has happened a few times. I think that over the years, though, we’ve gotten better on this front. Our process is constantly evolving to reduce the number of lost and mishandled manuscripts . And of course, we have student assistants here to help answer any questions authors may have about the status of their submissions.
6) Are there any surprising tasks you find yourself doing that an outsider wouldn’t imagine would be required at a literary magazine?
Well, I sometimes take out the trash!