I recently received an email from Reese Kwon, author of Superhero. As a refresher her bio is above. She is a gracious and kind person.
She has made me aware that she was hired by Narrative Magazine after her story was published. In her words:
Some time last year, I submitted a story to Narrative; it was accepted; a few months after that, the editors asked me if I'd like to come on board to help them as an assistant editor, and I said, sure.
So, there you have it, she was hired after her story was accepted. In my response to Kwon I said that I understood but that Narrative should consider clarifying the issue on their website. She then went on to state:
Like most literary magazines--maybe like yours, too--they depend on having some free labor to function, and they tend to ask people whose writing they like if they're interested in contributing in other ways to the magazine.
And we do depend on staff to help work on the journal. The big difference with us--during contests--is that everyone who reads a story works the submission fee behind the story. The staff members put between two and three hours on each submission, providing a page-by-page analysis of the story's strengths and weaknesses. Each staff member makes 83% of every dollar that comes into Our Stories. During the other 6 months of the year, yes, the staff volunteer their time but are only asked to read 5 stories a month and provide some short feedback to every author, usually a paragraph or two. At every other contest in the country your submission fee does not guarantee your work will be read thoroughly, the best you can hope for is a subscription to the journal.
I want to make another correction though. In my previous post I stated that Narrative Magazine used to charge a reading fee for all submission. That is not the case. For 2 weeks in April and 2 weeks in August Narrative does not charge a submission fee, for the other 48 weeks out of the year they still charge you $20 to read your story. They still charge a reading fee and you still do not receive anything for your fee.
So I am escalating this with Narrative. What does your reading fee go to, if Renee Kwon does not get paid for working on your staff? Is she not an administrator that their guidelines are referring to? In their words from their Submission Guidelines:
However, for unsolicited submissions, we do charge a nominal fee, which helps cover the basic administrative costs related to receiving, reading, and responding to submissions. Also, a portion of the reading fee helps fund our annual Narrative Prize. .... You may read the magazine for free. If you enjoy reading it and wish to submit, we hope you will feel that the reading fee, which is lower than most literary magazine subscription fees, is more than justified by the quality of the work the magazine offers.
Kwon closes her letter to me by saying:
So you're right that I help them out; the chronology of events, however, was reversed.
It is our policy that we do not hire anyone who we have published. That's just us.
I want to apologize publicly to Ms. Kwon for insinuating that she was published because of a personal connection to Narrative Magazine. However, I urge Narrative to change her bio to accurately reflect the chronology of the events and to drop their dubious reading fee.