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SlushPile Hell

Whether you’ve been a slush pile reader or not, you need to read SlushPile Hell, the site that does for publishing what Regretsy did for the craft scene. I laughed so much I choked.

And if you’d like a slightly more serious take on the subject, I can recommend Laura Miller’s excellent piece about the often forgotten question of what the breakdown in traditional mechanisms for identifying and developing literary talent means for readers. After all, in a world where anybody can get published how are we to sort the wheat from the chaff? Are Facebook and Good Reads really going to take up the slack?

Thanks to Spike for the link.

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8 Comments Post a comment
  1. SlushPile Hell is fantastic! My goal in life is now to never be featured on there. Thanks for sharing.

    June 28, 2010
  2. Hi James,

    What I enjoyed particularly in Miller’s piece is the ‘existential despair’ of ‘slushpile fatigue’ that she identifies so well. I feel as though, to counteract this, in my own time I can’t read novels that are anything but the absolute cream. I think it helps restore the balance a bit, but I do find the existential despair of the pile a real problem, and one that’s difficult to talk about – especially without sounding whiny – because i have acres of respect and fondness for the writers on our slushpile, even as I reject them.

    It’s a great piece – thanks for the links.
    Lou

    June 29, 2010
  3. I am going to post my opinion and guess what? I will do so and not be “anonymous.”

    My opinion is that the blog, SlushPile Hell, is unethical. And it serves to diminish the professional integrity of the blogger, who appears to be an actual literary agent. (S/he did not identify himself as a comedian or state the blog was a fictional parody for the purpose of humor).

    And… it is not even funny. I know “funny.” I am a stand-up comic (and a retired teacher). It is sarcastic and crosses a line. It’s the work of an angry wannabe.

    What’s next? Teachers anonymously creating blogs and laughing at the compositions of students? Is that OK? What about college administrators? Is it acceptable for them to create blogs and make fun of the autobiographies in the applications? What about hairdressers? Should they create anonymous blogs and snicker about the appearances of their clients? That would be funny stuff, huh?

    How do you think those query senders would feel if they saw parts of their queries ridiculed? You do not think they would be hurt and humiliated?

    I am wondering why so many people find all this making fun of everything and everybody such entertaining activity.

    I am working on a longer piece about this issue. It will be posted at “marjorie-digest.”

    July 22, 2010
    • I’m sorry you didn’t find it as funny as I did. As it happens a a friend of mine said something similar about a comedian she believes is only funny because he’s mean to me the other day. I actually agreed about the comedian in question, but I’m not sure I accept the larger thesis that comedy needs to observe some kind of ethical standard: it seems to me that most, if not all humour relies upon cruelty of one sort or another, and, more deeply, that much of the power of comedy to speak back to power depends upon its ability to make people look ridiculous.

      But all that said, I think you’re right that things are different when the people on the receiving end aren’t powerful, or are unable to defend themselves.

      Nonetheless I’m not sure that necessarily applies here. First of all there’s the question of whether they really are genuine letters, and I’m not sure they are, even if they’re inspired by them. But even if they are, it seems to me their authors have placed themselves in a public context by seeking publication, so they’re fair game. Nor am I entirely sure I agree it wouldn’t be right for teachers to mock students anonymously: certainly I’ve gotten a lot of amusement out of circulated emails of idiotic answers to essay questions and the like. And, to take it a step further, if students are able to contribute to websites like http://www.ratemyteachers.com and http://www.ratemyprofessors.com, why should teachers be prevented from answering in kind? (On this last I can actually think of a few reasons, but I still think it’s a question worth asking).

      In a way though the question is part of a larger one about the boundaries of the public and the private, and the way technology is altering it. As a former slushpile reader and teacher, I know all too well that these sorts of quotes get circulated in-house all the time, usually to great amusement. Those conversations aren’t private, but because they’re contained within the staff room or the office they’re not entirely public either. But the immediacy of internet technologies blurs the line between the two: what might once have been a conversation between workmates or within an office can now engage people all around the world.

      I don’t have strong views on whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing (it depends on too many factors to make a general judgement) but it’s definitely a thing, and one we’re likely to be negotiating more and more in years to come.

      July 22, 2010
  4. I completely disagree with your reply. And I think your analogies are poor and do not support your opinion.

    re: “But even if they are, it seems to me their authors have placed themselves in a public context by seeking publication, so they’re fair game.”
    How have the authors placed themselves in a public context? They addressed and sent a query to an agent (in an agency) who is a professional employee working within the context of a job description. He wasn’t writing a “Letter to the Editor” which he thought would be published. He sent a private communication as per submission guidelines. He was not informed that his submission would be used for some other obtuse purpose on the internet outside the agency. And for what agenda are they “fair game?” You see everything as fodder for ridicule? It’s all a big roast? Do you not see ethical boundaries within jobs?

    re: “Nor am I entirely sure I agree it wouldn’t be right for teachers to mock students anonymously.”
    Are you kidding me? Let me assure you, if any teacher in NYC participated in that type of activity and on the internet made fun of the progress or work of anonymous students… he would land in the rubber room or the equivalent. It would be considered unethical and unprofessional. And rightfully so.

    re: “If students are able to contribute to websites like http://www.ratemyteachers.com and http://www.ratemyprofessors.com, why should teachers be prevented from answering in kind?”
    I can tell you that students are allowed to rate teachers and it is totally acceptable, but it is unprofessional for teachers to publicly blog about students. If you cannot see the difference, there is nothing I can write to help you understand.

    re: “I know all too well that these sorts of quotes get circulated in-house all the time, usually to great amusement… But the immediacy of internet technologies blurs the line between the two: what might once have been a conversation between workmates or within an office can now engage people all around the world.”
    When colleagues discuss the job and have some laughs and fun regarding what goes on during the work day, it remains within the confines of the work space. The conversation is not publicly transmitted so there is a possibility that the target of the conversation can be hurt or humiliated. When ridicule is public on the internet, it is targeted harassment. In some cases, it is bullying. It may even be litigious if the targets are remotely identifiable.

    There is a standard of behavior in place in all professional organizations. There are supervisors who evaluate employees’ behavior during the work day. All behavior is scrutinized. If there is inappropriate activity which reflects badly on the company or firm, that person receives a warning. Most prestigious firms, where if that type of blog activity was disclosed or discovered, would strongly address the behavior.
    The pieces of queries being used at that blog fall under an umbrella of protection within the agency. It may not be within that agent’s legal right to even post those snippets. They are not his/her personal property (if authentic). It could even be copyright infringement (using quotes without giving credit to the author of the material being used). Just sayin’.

    Most agencies care about their image and how this activity reflects on a standard of excellence they have in place. Employees who do this put the company at risk and eventually become a liability. No agency will support some personal infantile agenda if it reflects badly on the company and their integrity.

    July 22, 2010
    • I think you’ve misunderstood me. I wasn’t suggesting it was appropriate for teachers to mock students online, what I was saying was that it goes on in conversations between staff all the time, just as any group of workmates discuss customers or the public. And the teacher analogy wasn’t mine, it was yours in your original comment, and I was only really using it in an illustrative way to suggest these boundaries aren’t as clear as you seem to think they are. Because the rapidity and pervasiveness of contemporary communication does mean that all kinds of things that once went on privately or semi-privately now take place in public, and that does have implications for a whole series of relationships. Saying that’s not the same as saying harassment’s okay, but it is a way of suggesting we do need to think about exactly where we set the boundaries and why. (I should point out that in my original comment I did actually say I thought there were reasons teachers shouldn’t do it).

      But ultimately I think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill. Are you actually certain these are real letters? And even if they are, does it really matter? The subjects aren’t identified, and even if they do come across their words online it’s hardly bullying or harassment. Indeed I think you’d find the anonymity you’re so offended by is actually a strategy to protect the authors as much as Mr Slushpile. And it’s hardly the only site of its kind: Regretsy, for instance, has become an industry in its own right. It’s not particularly nice, but then again neither’s Jon Stewart a lot of the time.

      And finally, if you really hate the site so much, you might be better mailing the author directly. I’m just a former slushpile reader who got a giggle out of it.

      July 22, 2010
    • Of course it may not be “Mr” Slushpile. But I somehow suspect it is.

      July 22, 2010
  5. The bottom line for me is this. If it is made up material, yes… it could be considered funny. If it consists of actual pieces of real queries, I personally don’t appreciate it.

    Thanks for the replies. Be well.

    July 22, 2010

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