I have been working on the task of commenting on about 30 submissions for Crosshair Press, the independent small publishing press that three other women and I co-founded in 2014. This was our first submission period and we considered it a total success. I manage the acquisitions, and I was so excited to receive so many entries this year. This August, I was ready to sit down and get to all of them.
And then life happened.
Events came rolling down the pike that delayed my task. My daughter has needed more attention. We had a friend pass away. We had birthday parties and errands and all the normal things you do in life. I stopped doing dishes as often and my husband, as he is an awesome husband (or maybe he just dislikes walking on a Goldfish cracker crumb carpet) has started vacuuming to help while I’m working on these things.
My commenting went at a much slower rate than I’d expected or wanted.
I tried to hurry, but each time, each letter I wrote, even if it was to say, “No,” I felt urged to keep doing things the way I was. Reading every word and attempting to give each author encouragement where they were in their writing journey.
Still, my deadline was the end of August.
I actually will finish tomorrow, September 4th. I hope.
The inner perfectionist hates that I am admitting this in public. That I failed. That I was unprofessional in not getting back to authors on time. (I’ve resolved to handle my time differently next submission period, in order to avoid this situation again. This is the first year. We are learning.)
I have been tempted to speed through each one. But I decided to keep going slowly when I received an email from one of our authors. I’d commented on his story. I’d told him we couldn’t take the manuscript. I offered suggestions, signed it, and moved on to the next.
And then he emailed me back.
He’d forgotten that he’d submitted his story. He hadn’t even been writing recently. You see, not long afterwards, his precious wife was diagnosed with cancer. And he wrote to me about that. About what had suddenly become not-so-important (writing, work, housework), and what became Most-Important (soaking up all of the time he could with her, even while she slept).
I read through tears as he actually thanked me for writing back to him. Said that the letter was encouraging and reminded him of the joy writing used to give him. Joy he would return to someday.
He thanked me.
He inspired me to stop working. To go hug my husband, and spend time with my daughter, before sitting down again this morning in front of my computer. Somehow, that’s not how I imagined how this whole acquisitions thing would work. It was perfect.
So here I am. Working on down the list. If you’re waiting for your letter, it’s coming. You don’t have to write me back. You really don’t have to thank me. You can decide you don’t like me, if I have to tell you, “No.” That’s fine with me, (this “acquisitioning” has been great for my people-pleasing ways). But know that when I’m looking over your submission, you have my focus and my desire to help you reach people with your story someday. I should probably make that a goal for my loved ones, too, yeah?
People are worth that time.