For example: I submitted two of my poems to a literary journal recently and, instead of the usual rejection where the publisher simply says "Thank you, but your stuff doesn't appeal to us just now" (okay, I'm paraphrasing there), the senior editor felt it necessary to add his junior editor's comments --I assume as a form of constructive criticism to help me improve as a writer or to lessen the blow of rejection. The comments had to do with two poems I have on this site. The first was "The Promise." The comment from the junior editor was simply "I didn't get it."
Really? (Read the poem folks and judge for yourselves. I honestly don't know how anyone could not 'get it.')
The second was in reference to another poem on this site called "Meeting Death." The constructive criticism I received on that one was, "Had it not been for the title, I wouldn't have known what it was about."
Okay. Granted, I have a degree in Language Arts that includes a good portion of studying literature, but really? The junior editor assumed the title was an afterthought? That if he or she hadn't had the epiphany that the title might tie in with the body of the poem they wouldn't have fully understood it? And that, because they had 'editor' somewhere in their job title or employment application, no other readers would have understood that most poems relate to their title in some way?
I was angry. I admit that. Yet, I've experienced enough rejection letters that I'm fairly thick-skinned and can slough them off. I think it was the junior editors' helpful 'comments' that got to me this time. It bothered me that they were so obtuse about the work. It bothered me even more that they might assume my potential readers were that obtuse.
I don't normally do this (because it's never a good idea to burn bridges), but I sent a fairly terse letter to the senior editor of the publication stating in very politically correct terms that his junior editors were morons who shouldn't really be evaluating a writer's work.
Here's the best part:
The senior editor emailed me back to say that the editors didn't really have any writing/literary background and that they were volunteers because the publication couldn't really afford to pay those with experience or credentials. He acknowledged the comments were "off the mark," but to make up for it he offered me a free year's subscription to the literary journal.
Oh boy! You can probably imagine my joy in knowing I would receive, gratis, a year's worth of a literary journal where the editors were (admittedly) completely incompetent! Obviously, I bypassed my complimentary e-code and deleted the email.
Another mixed message I recently received: As an educator, one of the buzz words going around in public education awareness recently is "bullying." As teachers we should be more observant of it, sensitive to it, and aware of it. We've been told this in more than a few staff meetings.
I couldn't agree more.
So I read a recent article in the New York Times where two teenage girls were being prosecuted because their bullying led to the suicide of another teenage girl.
Wow. That's some serious stuff. And a teaching/learning opportunity that, as teachers, we should jump on. I emailed a copy to my colleagues in the English/Language Arts department simply pointing out the educational opportunity that (if they were comfortable with discussing it) was available to us through this event. If they weren't comfortable with the topic or would rather not address it, no problem. I'm not in a position to dictate curriculum.
Two days later I received an email from my supervising administrator saying (I'm summarizing here) that my contributions to the department were valued and appreciated, but not to not send out any more emails like that.
Here's the best part:
He concluded the email by stating he looked forward to more of my input and participation.
Now, I'm old enough and have seen more than my share of rodeos, so I know I can't be the only one who receives mixed messages. I guess what bothers me most is that the mixed messages we're often sent directly relate to who we are as individuals and, by way of that understanding, to our loved ones.
Maybe it's a matter of having the crap slapped out of us while being told how much we're appreciated and loved.
Maybe that's supposed to make it easier to turn the other cheek.
But to be honest, I think I'm ready to start slapping back, whatever the outcome.