Over the past few days, I have been assigning content to my regular writers. That doesn’t mean that I have irregular writers. It is editor-speak for those writers with whom I work on a regular basis. They get first choice of books to review, features to write, subjects to interview, and columns to submit. They have year-long contracts and guaranteed income over the course of the contract. I have guaranteed content. It’s an ideal arrangement. You might wonder why I don’t do this with all of the writers who work for me.
Put simply, not all writers are created equal. There are writers who give editors ulcers, gray hair and unending grief. I have some gray hair, no ulcer (thank goodness), but have experienced the grief part up close and personal. There was the writer who argued over every single edit. You see, her work was perfect. Really. Just the way it was. I was interfering with her artistic creativity, flow, and her right to life, liberty and the pursuit of writing assignments that did not entail any revision. I liked her as a person and I liked her writing. Nonetheless, I fired her. She went on to write for InsideHigherEd for a while.
Then there was the writer whom I assigned to write a piece about Americans working as temporary lecturers at colleges and universities in the Middle East. He ran up a $400 phone bill without clearing the expense in advance. To make matters worse, the phone calls had yielded nothing he could use in the piece. There were writers who accepted assignments, signed contracts, and then decided the work was just too difficult or worse yet, required (gasp) research. There were writers who missed their deadlines, and were surprised such behavior was problematic. There were writers who wanted me to do all of their work for them. Could I find them a few leads, maybe help them with their research?
There were times when I seriously considered launching a website for editors called “FlakeyWritersToAvoid.com.” Even if we couldn’t reveal by name the worst flakes who’d made our lives miserable, we could perhaps cheer each other on, and swap tips on working with writers. You see, even though I studied creative writing at university, there were no electives offered in the field of publishing. Prior to graduate school, I was a freelance writer and made a tidy sum from it while I lived and worked in Italy. Then again, could a graduate course in publishing actually teach someone how to negotiate rejecting a finished piece or how to tell by talking to someone on the phone if s/he were going to be a reliable writer?
Despite the fact that there are writers who contribute regularly to the magazine, we still accept unsolicited submissions. In fact, I love opening up emails that contain essays, story leads and ideas. I see a lot of pieces that are more about grinding an axe than anything else. However, now and again there are essays that thrill me, that puts into words some aspect of adjuncting that is unique or timely.
Gathering and assigning content is one of the most important aspects of my job around here. Content is Queen, and I enjoy shaping the editorial calendar of Adjunct Advocate. As far as FlakeyWriterstoAvoid.com is concerned, it has been, literally, years since I have contemplated launching the site. That is due, in no small part, to the pleasant, witty, intelligent, hard-working and reliable writers and illustrators with whom I have the privilege to work these days. Put simply, they’re simply the best.
Listen to my blog entry here.