October 18, 2009

Slice of PIE: Editorial Slush Piles, the Disciples of Jesus and a Taste of Truth

Here’s one of the strange-association-train-of-thought I try to save for Slices of PIE…

This tasty fruit began as a seed in my fertile imagination gathered from an online writer’s group I frequent. A group of CODEXians (http://www.codexwriters.com/) were discussing the slush pile an editor has to wade through to get to stories or articles or novels that they want to publish…

Hmmm. Perhaps I need to do a definition here for those of you not “in the know”. A slush pile is the pile (electronic or paper) of manuscripts any editor of any publishing venture (from the hardcovers of Harper & Row in New York City to Bob’s Online Magazine of Tractor Trailer Fiction in Muskatoon, Falkland Islands) has to go through to choose the writing they want to pay to publish (“pay” is a relative word here. It can mean anything from millions of dollars down to “braggin’ rights”). Anecdotally, that pile is filled with pathetic attempts at authorship. Ridiculous submissions become legend and are bandied about on the internet, even giving rise to the Bulwer-Lytton Award (http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/).

Strangely, there are editors and writers who cry “Foul!”, decrying the anecdote as a myth worth busting.

Edmund Schubert of the online magazine, Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show points out: “The vast majority of what I see is perfectly competent, but ‘competent’ isn't going to do the job. In fact, because there is so much that is competent, it gets tedious pretty quickly. I pray for anything to break the monotony. Great or awful. At least with awful you get to laugh; competent just gets a yawn and a 'yeah, whatever...’”*

In a different article, writers Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold point out: “90 percent of everything isn't crap. A lot of it might even be pretty good. Rather, it's the reverse that applies — only a tiny percentage of anything is excellent. And one of the big secrets of the slush pile is that the editor is looking for excellence, not "pretty good." **

How does all this connect with Jesus and His disciples?

If you recall, they weren’t exactly the “cream of the crop”. At least they didn’t look that way to the rest of the world. Fishermen, prostitutes, the poor and downtrodden as well as the wealthy and corrupt; these were the people Jesus called to Himself. Yet in the end, every one of them proclaimed His holiness, forgiveness and salvation to the Roman, Jewish…and all the rest of the…world. In assembling them, Jesus was in effect the editor of Christianity. Where others might anecdotally talk about the “crap” He accepted, Jesus saw excellence, chose it and put it together to make an issue of men and women so powerful that their witness birthed a religion worthy of the name “World”.

The take away for me here is if editors like Schubert and writers like Lake and Nestvold say that much of what comes across an editor’s desk ISN’T crap – and that those editors are looking for excellence, or even for a chance to edit a story into excellence – then this is illustrative to me of the possibility that Jesus probably doesn’t think that the “rest of us” (non-disciples) are crap, either. This should bring me to my feet to rush into his arms so that He can make of me an award-winning story; the tale of a life lived for Him; something readers of humanity will return to again and again for a taste of truth.

Because after all, aren’t the very best stories the ones that bring us a taste of truth?

*http://www.codexwriters.com/forum/discuss.asp?discussionid=1293&LastViewed=10%2F16%2F2009+9%3A17%3A02+AM#newposts (not accessible unless part of CODEX, for details re: membership, go to: www.codexwriters.com/ )

** http://www.irosf.com/q/zine/article/10208

1 comment:

Vidad said...

Very cool thoughts.