Hostage Situation: When Your Accepted Work Doesn’t Actually Get Published

handcuffsI’ve been mulling over my C.V. and noticing that there are a number of acceptances that are still listed as “forthcoming” because the journals where my work was accepted haven’t yet published them.  This doesn’t bother me with recent acceptances, of course, but three pieces (two poems and one flash fiction) received acceptances last year and have yet to be published.

I think this is unconscionable—especially because the journals that accepted them are little.  It would be one thing, if I were waiting on a print magazine like The New Yorker, which accepts work with the caveat that there is considerable lead time until publication. But these online journals are neither large nor prestigious, so what’s the hold up?

I am especially annoyed at the situation surrounding the publication of the flash piece because that had been accepted at another journal (in August 2015), and it never came out.  I guess the journal folded before it ever even released an issue—although the journal still has a webpage and an active Submittable site.  I wrote them an e-mail to withdraw the story, and began sending it out to other places.  And after a time, it was accepted again (October 2016).  And then nothing.

I’ve looked at the journal and its Duotrope statistics, and it appears that nothing has been updated on the journal, and the most recent response reported on Duotrope was—wait for it—October 2016.  Two e-mail inquiries I sent have received no response.  So the damn story is just in limbo.  I plan to give the journal one more month, and then I’m withdrawing it and starting the whole process again.

The publication sitch with the poems is similar.  Both poems were accepted in April 2016—while I was at AWP, no less—and I waited and waited for some news about their publication.  First I went to Duotrope to see what was the most recent reported response and saw that Duotrope apparently considered the journal “defunct.”  When I went to its listing in Poets & Writers, I clicked on the website, and it brought me to their former website, which had been sold to some rando guy who was now going to post his own stuff on his new blog.  The journal was missing.  I tracked down the journal’s FB page, and sure enough, it had a new website address, but no information about when any new issues would be appearing.

A few weeks ago, I went back to the site, and there was a notice that the journal was restructuring and would be on hiatus until Fall 2017.  I will give them some time before I withdraw the pieces; maybe they are still planning on publishing them—I have to cut them a little slack, since there was obviously some kind of problem.  And at least they (belatedly) had the courtesy of posting a note on the website about the hiatus.

All of this gets me to thinking though about how important it is for editors to be ethical about the writing they accept from people.  Editors should say, in their acceptances, when publication will happen—or at least give a ballpark figure.  (At Atlanta Review, the expectation is that any work accepted will appear in the next issue without question.  If there is some reason why the poem will not appear in the next issue—like if we miscalculate the number of pages we need—you better believe I contact the author with an updated ETA when their poem will appear.)

Of course journals—especially little ones—come and go, but it seems to me that when a journal has accepted work, if some catastrophic tragedy happens, and they can’t actually fulfill their contract to publish the piece, they have an obligation to e-mail the writers and explain.  It’s wrong to keep work hostage, and it’s wrong not to respond to polite and professional queries for updates.

Writing and publication are a writer’s livelihood—and sure, I’m not getting paid for this work—but publications add to my reputation as a writer, and I count on my work being available for people to read.  When work is accepted, and then not published for whatever reason, and editors don’t respond to emails asking about updates on the status, that’s unprofessional behavior.  And they shouldn’t be editors.

Not publishing accepted work compounds the already problematic issue of not getting paid for work (yes, yes, I know poets and most fiction writers don’t get paid—and don’t get me started about that) by denying writers exposure—the exposure that being published for free is supposed to bring.  Exposure helps you to create name recognition and to build your brand.  (Not to be all corporate-business-speaky about it.)

Additionally, when journals charge submission fees (as one of these journals charged me), not publishing my work as promised becomes even more egregiously unacceptable.  It is, in some ways, outright theft.  To wit:

  1. I’ve paid for them to read my submission.
  2. They accepted my story for publication.
  3. They have not published the story.
  4. I’m out the $5 bucks and the story.

That’s not ok.

Journals that engage in behavior like that are not ok.  And they should be called out for their unethical practices. I haven’t named the journals here only because I’m still giving them a chance to redeem themselves.  But if it doesn’t get fixed, I certainly would want to warn other people about the treatment I’ve received at the hands of these journals.  I would hate for other writers to have a similar, crappy experience, getting work accepted and then all their hopes dashed when the journals flake out.

I hope none of you, my five loyal readers, have experienced such a thing.  But if this has happened, what did you do to set it to rights?  (Looking for suggestions.)

Eff You, Facebook

Facebook has taken my page, my photographs, my game accomplishments, and all my virtual friends hostage.  How did they do this?  They decided they didn’t like my name.  They decided that I needed to prove my identity, and have required me to send documents proving who I am—so that my friends can find me—they don’t want anyone to be “confused” about who I am.  Because everyone knows, my Facebook identity is what matters.  Everyone knows that to the outside world, my Facebook identity proves my existence.  As if.

I posted a few hot tweets earlier today, complaining about how I’ve been hijacked by Facebook.  We’ve looked it up—if they choose to reinstate me (after vetting my documents proving who I am)—it can take up to 12 days.  They think, I’m sure, that I will be so distraught without access to my account that I will do anything they say to get back to it.

True, I’m annoyed about my pictures.  Like really annoyed.  Because I have wedding pictures, and pictures of family, and cats and other things I like stored on their servers.  Like everyone else does—Facebook is, after all, a storage facility for such things.  And they know it.  They tell you, of course, that as soon as you upload anything onto their site, it becomes theirs.  Well, that is a risk we take when we decide to participate in the stupidity that is Facebook.  So I’m annoyed because they have all my pictures and I can’t get access to them.

And I’m annoyed because I will lose some progress in some of my games.  Every day I don’t log in, I lose a week of progress in some games.  Which sucks.

But truthfully, after 12 days of not logging into Facebook, will I even care?  Probably not.  Once I took a 6 week break from Facebook, and somehow my world didn’t collapse.  I think that will be the case this time too.  The longer I can’t log into Facebook, the easier it will become.  I won’t even think about it.

I hate, of course, that I won’t be able to keep up with all the things that my friends post—details about their lives, pictures of their pets, interesting things they’ve read that they want to share.

But… there is a plus side—all that time I spend on Facebook can be better spent writing poetry, revising my work, contributing to this blog.  Facebook is a stupid time suck, let’s be honest.  I said I needed to disconnect from the world—what could be better than being forced to by the cosmos in this way?

It won’t be easy to live without Facebook—after eight years, it has become a daily part of my life—but is it worthwhile?  If they don’t accept my documents, they will suspend my account indefinitely, and there won’t be anything I can do about it.  So I will have to train myself to use my time in more useful ways.

For a writer, that means writing.