Recently, I mentioned that doing interviews is one of my favorite things about being a lit mag editor. Another of my favorite things is getting to know the writers whose work we publish in the small way that you do writing back and forth about how you’re going to present their work.

All kinds of stereotypes fly around about writers, but really writers are as diverse as everyone else. Some are curt and professional, sending me exactly the information I need and nothing more. Others are chatty, and we keep in touch long after I’ve sent their work out into the world.

The other day one of the Epiphanies writers asked me how I was doing and then said that he would know soon enough when he saw what I’d chosen to publish in Epiphanies. It was a passing comment made days ago, but I remembered it while I was putting together the publication schedule for Epiphanies and noticed that, not only were most of the things I accepted about an epiphany, but most of them were also about place. I had no idea that being in the middle of a move was influencing my decisions, but looking at the work we’re going to publish now it would be obvious to anyone.

As an editor, I like to think that I’m a professional. I have taste. I can recognize quality work. But when it really comes down to it, after you’ve gotten past the obvious stuff, I’m a reader first, and reading is about a different kind of taste entirely.

In Rebecca Brown’s essay “Extreme Reading ” she compares reading to eating. “You eat because you have to. It sustains you,” she says, “But once you get past the basics of hydration and calories, what you eat and how you eat are determined by your own peculiar, and in the most literal sense, taste, by that can satisfy your sweet tooth or your sour tooth, your savory or unsavory desires.”

Editing is desire work. When I accept a story or essay what I’m really saying is, “I want this.” There are patterns in what I desire. I like to laugh. I like to know what it’s like to visit places I’ve never been before. I like essays that are deeply personal and ask hard questions. I like stories with complicated antagonists. I like magic and ghost stories and beautiful language. And, yes, I like work that is well-constructed, but most of the time what I really mean when I say “good story” or “good essay” is that I can understand it and it doesn’t bore me.

But there are times, like when I was reading for Epiphanies, that I need something different, something particular that I can’t articulate except to say, “Yes. This is it. This is what I want.”

Before I was an editor, I thought that the advice to keep sending your work out until it was accepted was a cheap way of letting inexperienced writers down easy or passing the responsibility on to someone else. But now I think it’s the only way you can reasonably deal with the fact that editors are human. And particular. And subject to bizarre cravings.

And, sometimes, our choices have nothing to do with the quality of the writing at all.

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