Monday, May 26, 2008

Another Editor Goes Awry

If you think the recent VQR insanity wasn't enough, Rebecca Wolff, editor of Fence Magazine has apparently told one of the writers she's published to "eat shit and die," and then brags about it on her blog, publishing the childish exchange she had with the offended writer. Thanks to Book Fox for bringing it to attention. The comments on her post are good, so it's worth checking out, but here's the exchange basically in full.  It's so sick, I couldn't resist:

"One of the strangest corollaries of being a literary journal editor is being made aware from time to time of how many contributors there are out there silently hating you for a multitude of perceived offenses, however real or unreal. The below correspondence is real, but identifying facts have been changed to preserve anonymity of contributor/correspondent. Note that I, Rebecca Wolff, was the first to get truly offensive, but also note that I have developed, over the years, a deficit of patience with contributors who act as though I am somehow out to get them. Also note that I have given myself the last word here; for all I know XXX will choose to ignore my final command and will speak to me again. I’ll keep you posted.

*

February 14

Hi Rebecca Wolff,

Recently you were kind enough to accept two of my poems for the current issue of Fence. Do you send out contributors copies? Just wondering because I haven’t received anything yet.

Thanks
XXX XXXX
XX E. XXXXX Street Apt 16
New York, NY 1xxxx

PS Saw the website. Thanks for posting XXXXXXXX!

*

February 14

XXX,

Did you used to live in XXXXXXXX, NJ?

R

*

February 14

Yes. My parents live there, so if you sent it there I will get it eventually.

XXX

*

April 6

Rebecca Wolff:

Well, I finally found the time to pick up a copy of Fence—not easy, since I work three grueling shit jobs, and don’t have time to track these things down—and it’s a good issue.

Regan Good’s poem The Atlantic House, in particular, is a knockout. I can’t say the same for the way you treat your contributors, though. I edit a XXX-page journal and even though it’s tough on me financially, I make sure every contributor gets a free copy.

The fact that you’re backed by a university and still can’t fork up a lousy contributor’s copy is unforgivable. The fact that you couldn’t even answer my simple question as to whether or not you provide complimentary copies is even worse. I guess my question wasn’t intellectually-ambitious or post-post-post-avant enough for you.

XXX XXXX

*

April 6

See below; eat shit and die.

Sincerely,

Rebecca Wolff

“February 14

XXX,
Did you used to live in XXXXXXXX, NJ?
R

February 14
Yes. My parents live there, so if you sent it there I will get it eventually.
XXX”

*

April 20

What is this supposed to mean? I was just at my parents last week and no Fence, and this months after it came out. Is “eat shit and die” your way of saying you sent it to me? [Editor’s note: What I should have said was: “No, eat shit and die is my way of saying check your facts, you corroded node, before getting on your high horse to send me an email accusing me of not doing my job.] If you DID send it to me, you could’ve just said so and all this could have been avoided. Like I said, it never got to me. I’ve supported you for years, buying your mag and sticking up for it when my writer-friends basically condemned it.

Let me share a brief anecdote:

One spring day when I was sixteen, my friend and I were posting flyers at XXXXX Academy (private school for rich kids) for a concert our metal band was playing. The board was in the dining hall and soon as we walked into the room–two skinny long-hairs–the place went dead. Then someone yelled “Throw them out!” and we were basically driven out on a rail. It wasn’t traumatic at all, but the memory has remained for its novelty, I think it’s kind of funny, actually. But more to the point, I’ve always thought of that dining hall as being the equivalent of Fence (read: snobbery). You’ve proven me right.

XXX

*

April 20

XXX,

I just don’t take kindly to receiving accusatory mail. Read your email to me and you will see that you are attacking me for not responding to your initial query when, in fact, as I showed you in my response (and that’s why I said “E. S. & D,” because I was proving you wrong), I DID respond to your query. Yes, I sent the issue to the NJ address; I don’t know why it never reached there but all you had to do was write back politely and say that the issue never reached there and I would gladly send another. Instead you wrote me a snotty note–I am not responsible for your or anyone’s neurotic complex about high school–implying that I had not responded to your query, when in fact I had.

If you would like to give me your correct address I will send the issue there.

RW

*

April 21

Becky Coyote,

God you are a vile human being. Saw your photo at Norton Poets Online and in Poets and Writers–your looks match up with your personality perfectly. No wonder you have issues. And I feel sorry for your kid–I’m sure he’ll grow up to be mean and ugly, just like his mommy.
*

April 21

You’re a total loser. Never speak to me again."

Yikes! Lady editor is a piece of work, and offended writer got pretty damn low to the ground, too. Seems like more of the same.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Okay. This is actually shocking. I laughed too but am officially shocked. And far more by the editor. I think the writer responded quite reasonably, although I feel there's a missing e-mail in between the one about the parents' address and the ranty one. Something like: It's not shown up at my parents' place. Please send to my actual address asap, thank you.

But even so, Becky Coyote's (she deserved that) one-line response to the first email was so deliberately curt and aloof that I see how he/she was provoked. It DOES suck not to receive a contributor's copy, especially if that's all you get other than the eternal joy of being published, and even more especially after having enquired so nicely about it.

I'm probably mostly shocked that Ms. Wolff chose to publish this as if it's something to be proud of, or was it some bizarre attempt to seem like Harper's letters section. Or maybe the writer is about to publish them on his/her blog and Ms. Wolff wanted to preempt the attack with an offensive (in every way) move.

Very strange and very shocking and doesn't bode well for any of us.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps jumping immediately to "eat shit and die" was a mistake, but the submitter was acting like a prick. A simple email, "Hey, I still haven't gotten a copy" really would have been enough. If I had gotten that snarky note, I might respond in kind, pointing out the submitter did say he would get it eventually, that occasionally things get lost in the mail and I would have no way of knowing unless the recipient were to tell me and that perhaps the submitter should keep this in mind before firing off a whiny, self-righteous email.

Steve said...

A simple "Go fuck yourself" would have been more appropriate [Why use four words when three would suffice? Or, consider the possibility of simply using "Eat shit" on its own; or, even better as a stand-alone:"Die."]

Not sure what Strunk and White would say.

Steve said...

p.s. to the editor: if you have to explain to someone why you are cursing them out, the whole cursing-them-out-thing starts to seem pretty lame.

KATE EVANS said...

These people should be reading, writing and editing. So should I, instead of blogging.

bloglily said...

Oh my. The lack of good manners and common sense here is pretty staggering. The decision to make this public even more so. Obviously, neither of them comes out of this looking even remotely good -- the editor for not being balanced and calm, which is what an editor is supposed to be and the writer for being unable to muster even a shred of wit with which to ask for his contributor's copy, which is the least you'd expect of a poet. I deal with lawyers every day in my job and these two make that population of belligerent humans look pretty attractive.

Anonymous said...

Ugly ugly ugly.

bloglily.com said...

Oh, and another thing? Scary, scary picture.

Anonymous said...

I sent the picture to Michael Vick, and he loved it.
But then he doesn't belong to the high-minded literary world.
Seems like a number of people are disgusted. (And most who are would tend to just opt out without a word.)
The Disgusted-anon who commented on the Our Man Scott Snyder post got a pretty good going-over for his/her opinions. However, the responses merely served to validate those words. You dummies.

Anonymous said...

No name-calling, gorgeous.

Writer Reading said...

What's so surprising about some writers and editors being just as personality disordered, rageful, rude, uncivilized, tasteless and hostile as some proportion of the general population? Why should the writing profession be immune? If anything, the literary community has a very high tolerance for bad behavior, of the sort that in any other profession would lead to firing.

Who is funding this journal and why would they even continue to fund after this offensive and adolescent excuse for a literary discussion between writer and editor?

Anonymous said...

It's a kiss-up,/kick-down world. The literary world, I mean.
Now welders -- they generally treat each other with respect and consideration, and their work is judged solely on how sound a seam they can produce.
Do you count "dummies" as name-calling? It's so mild in comparison to the insults being flung around.
But thanks for the "gorgeous," handsome (is this name-calling?).
Hey, what sex am I anyway? This anonymous business can get confusing.

bookfraud said...

none of this surprises me, nor should it surprise anyone with even a passing familiarity with the literary world. like we're fuckin' saints or something.

as with lily's comments above, what i don't understand is why she made this public -- i don't know how this is a service to writers, editors, or readers. it just makes her look narcissistic and desperate for attention.