In her next behind-the-scenes instalment, Elizabeth Lovatt gives us an insight to the shortlisting and final selection process of MIR16
Since my last blog the MIR Editors have been hard at work taking the 60 or so longlisted stories down to a shortlist of around 30, then further reducing to a final list of pieces that will make up this year’s anthology. If you submitted to MIR 16, for which we are hugely grateful, you will have heard by now if you have been successful or not. Whatever the answer, I want to take the opportunity to thank all the writers who submitted. The act of submission alone is a daunting one and it takes considerable courage to send your words out into the world. I have been on the receiving end of rejections many times. In fact, this time last year I was one of the people who received a “You made it to the longlist but not quite the shortlist” email. It’s always a push and pull of feelings; pride that your story was considered good, disappointment that it didn’t quite make it. So to those who did not receive an acceptance, please don’t despair! Polish your story again and send it back out into the world; be proud of what you have already done. Acceptances are a combination of talent and timing, so work on your craft as much as you can and the timing will work out in the end.
Being on the other side of this process has certainly given me a new understanding of rejection. No rejections at MIR were taken lightly. Often it was a case of thinking about what best fit the theme or the collection as a whole. An anthology is a complex jigsaw puzzle, made all the more tricky this year with the addition of poetry and creative non-fiction, and so the selection has to be carefully balanced. With so many excellent submissions we had the difficult (but privileged) task of choosing only the very, very best. And where overlap occurred, we had to select the story which worked for the anthology as a whole. Our very own micro-climate of stories in an anthology of climate.
The selection process is a democratic one; we each made our Yes/No/Maybe selections again (as explained in my previous blog on longlisting) and all met in one room to raise our hands for votes. Each time we eagerly peered round to see who else loved the story we did, where we were split or where the consensus was. In poetry we found our greatest unanimous decisions, perhaps because poetry requires clarity and concision (as Birkbeck’s Lecturer in Creative and Critical Writing Dr. Jodie Kim would say) and so we were more easily able to tell the Yes from the No. The poems that fit the collection are timely, global and local at the level of subject and language. There is little room for error in poetry, with so few words and so much to say. Short stories and creative non-fiction are a different beast, being longer and requiring a sustained narrative with characters, plot and all the other good, juicy stuff of prose. A few stories divided opinion and they were kept on the longlist because provoking debate is important; arguing about what a story is trying to say or do is a clear indication that it is at least trying to say something. These close calls were discussed, argued for, championed and carefully considered for their quality, content and the belief a particular editor or editors had in the need for this narrative to reach a wider readership.
And so our final selection was made. We have curated a collection of stories, poems and facts around the nebulous theme of climate which, along with carefully commissioned pieces from established authors, will make up Issue 16. Our next step is to begin the editing process; each story has been assigned a lead editor with one or two supporting editors. I for one, cannot wait to start work with our selection of authors and ensure that their words are ready to be sent out into the heady climate of the wider literary readership.