My first foray into a slush pile

Slush is a dirty word

Ian Dawson: White Paper Pile

I used to hate the term slush pile, really hate it. The thought of all those words I’d tweaked and printed and lovingly posted ending up melting into some kind of inky, grey sludge made me feel not only sad, but also kind of resentful. Back then, the realities of the world of publishing were pretty fuzzy for me. Not so these days, and especially not now I’ve had my first foray into slush pile reading.

When the slush still sounded scary

Once, I had a quick fire attitude towards sending my work out there. Submissions would be done in a flurry and I’d be sending out work practically with my eyes closed, because I was too scared to find out too much and be disheartened. In a way, it was both an act of extreme confidence and extreme lack of it – which sounds like it could pretty much describe the whole writing condition. I suspected my stories would end up slushed, so I tried not to find out too much, so as not to be discouraged.

Clearing the slush from my windscreen

After seeing the kind of stuff that pour through the doors of the journal I’m part-timing for (as well as reading a few good articles on slush), I’ve got an even better idea of why blind submissions are a waste of time – and an invitation for rejection and minor heartbreak. It really is a slush pile, because not only are some of the stories that come in not very good, but lots just aren’t in any way suitable. Really, you’re sifting the slush for the things that fit, as well as the stories that shine.

To be truthful, I can’t say I’ve come to love the term slush pile, but when you look at those snowy white submissions heaped up, full of spelling mistakes and unsuitable material, you can just image the way the black type begins to bleed and your mound becomes slushier and slushier.

5 thoughts on “My first foray into a slush pile

  1. “full of spelling mistakes and unsuitable materiel” 😉

    At uni I did work experience at a publishing house and one of my duties was to go through the slush pile because no one else could be bothered (which says a lot, I reckon). It was amazing how much complete rubbish was in there. The funniest was the way people would talk themselves up in a covering letter then completely shoot themselves down in their manuscript. I still remember getting a letter from the “world’s greatest living writer” whose story was set on a farm. The opening line told me about the farm’s diary that needed re-tiling.

    People who tended to get published were those who spoke to/targeted the people at the top of the business rather than just blindly sending things in or following website instructions. With things like LinkedIn it’s much easier these days to find the right people.


    • Little winky face there, eh eh? Why I oughta…

      Wow, you got a submission from the ‘world’s greatest living writer’? I hope you felt honoured. The worst thing is when the website instructions aren’t followed, not even a little bit. Although, I can’t say I love following instructions all that much.


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