Dispatches | November 01, 2012

*Social Media intern, Alex Carpenter, sat down with the TMR’s office assistants to understand what happens between your submitting to us and–well, the end. If you’ve always wanted to make sure literary magazines have organizational skills, filing cabinets, and highly motivated workers, read this interview and set your heart at ease. They’re pretty wonderful: Maura, Kaulie, Hannah, and Olivia, but don’t let it get  to their head.*

Visual Approximation of TMR’s office

1.) As a journal, TMR receives an abundance of new manuscripts each week, and seems to have well over a dozen floating between interns and editors at any given time. What role do the Office Assistants play in handling these new manuscripts, and how are the manuscripts organized and kept from being lost during the frequent changing of hands? Is there a difference between the handling of new online and new paper manuscripts?

We office assistants have the privilege of opening each and every submission that The Missouri Review receives – and we have the paper cuts to prove it. When we gather the print manuscripts together, we sort them by the three genres: poetry, fiction and nonfiction. We sort the manuscripts into “bundles” of 10 each, and then log them in our database. To keep from manuscripts being lost, we put a rubber band around the bundles, print out a sheet of paper listing the title and author for each manuscript in the bundle, and pray that the interns don’t lose the bundles. As for the online submissions, the manuscripts appear as attachments in emails, and we move them around to folders labeled according to genre. Pretty easy, really. (all)

2.) For the past few months TMR has been promoting its annual contest, using its Twitter and Facebook account to spread the word and try to solicit new submissions. With this in mind, how is the role of the Contest Assistant differentiated from the other Office Assistants? Are the contest manuscripts handled or organized differently from the quarterly submissions? What importance does the contest have in soliciting new readers and writers for the magazine?

Every day when I show up to work I put on a solid gold crown that spells out CONTEST ASSISTANT in rubies and emeralds – just to remind all the other office assistants that I’m better than them. Actually, I work as an office assistant during the summer when our contests are closed, and there isn’t a huge difference between being the two roles. I simply handle and organize contest submissions, and the office assistants mostly work with our regular submissions. The contest submissions are organized the same way as regular submissions, except the contest has a separate online database and email system, so we don’t mix up manuscripts. As for soliciting new readers and writers, I think the promise of a prize draws in a lot of hopeful writers to our contest. The good news is that even if writers submit to our contest and their work isn’t chosen, they have still already put their foot in the door – which is why I always encourage writers to submit new work to The Missouri Review as regular submissions, after our contest has closed. (Maura)

 3.) On a similar note, for both quarterly publication and the contest, about how many manuscripts would you say the office receives in a day/week? Does there seem to be any monthly fluctuation in these numbers during certain periods over the course of a year? Any annual fluctuation?

Between online and print submissions we receive around 150-200 issues per week, or 8 to 10,000 a year – not including our submissions to the Editors’ Prize contest. In terms of fluctuation, we do receive a large number of submissions towards the end of the spring semester, for whatever the reason. This could be the result of students finishing final drafts of their manuscripts for workshops, but that’s just a guess on our part. As for annual fluctuation, our numbers don’t change drastically because we are open year-round for submissions and don’t go through “reading periods.” (all)

manuscript transporting system


4.) What role do the Office and Contest Assistants play in dividing these manuscripts among the editors and interns? Is the distribution of manuscripts miscellany like the magazine itself, or are they distributed by genre? Does this differ for editors and interns?


What role do we play? Well, we pretty much just divide them, doling out a predetermined number of manuscripts to each reader for the magazine. Manuscripts are kept divided by genre, as are the interns. These divisions are pretty strict. Inter-genre discussion is strictly forbidden (kidding).

The interns read the manuscripts and very thoughtfully select some entries from each batch to pitch for second or even third reads. When the interns feel that a manuscript deserves some up-close-and-personal attention they pass it on to an editor, who reads it and maybe passes it around some more. Eventually a decision of some sort is made. We don’t really have anything to do with this part of the selection process, though. We just sort and divide, like the little computer-people we are. (Kaulie)

5.) Considering the mass number of manuscripts received by the journal in a given week, about how long does it take for a manuscript to circulate among the editors and interns before it’s either rejected or accepted? What happens to the rejected/accepted manuscripts; does TMR keep a copy or a record of them?

That depends on the genre of the manuscript. Since we receive significantly more fiction entries than non-fiction, the former circulate much quicker than the latter because we bundle and distribute them to the interns more often. Poetry is the in-between, with usually two bundles per week, and about a one to two week turn-around. Fiction is about a week, unless it is passed to the editors; for any genre, if it is passed one to three times then it can sometimes take about a month. Rejected manuscripts are generally recycled unless the author wants it returned. I’ve never heard of a rejected manuscript being copied (although there are a few infamous cover letters that will never be discarded). (Hannah)

6). Are there any other duties that the Office Assistant performs that may be surprising to those outside of TMR? Is this true for the Contest Assistant as well?

Sure, there are plenty of duties we have that most people would never expect. Mostly, we drag bags full of money to Jesse Hall on campus and hand them off to goblins. We also unload our own recycling every week because we are earth-friendly creatures. Additionally, snacks are very important to us, so we like to keep a sizeable stash of Nutella and crackers and other treats on hand because it’s impossible for us to log manuscripts without noms. On occasion we make Starbucks runs or even ice cream runs in order to stay on task. I would say our most important duty, however, is finding the perfect desktop backgrounds for our computers. Currently our desktops are a photoshopped picture of Nicholas Cage’s face on a cat, a bulldog caught in a fan, and a muffin cat. For awhile we had photos of shirtless Burt Reynolds and Gino Vannelli, but it

Presented without comment

made the interns uncomfortable, so we had to choose something less provocative. (all)


7). Most of you have served as interns at TMR in the past. How do you pass on your collective wisdom to the new interns? Anything they should expect?

We torture them by piling over a dozen new manuscripts into their inboxes each week for them to read! Actually, all of us (except Olivia) used to intern, and we don’t feel like we harass the current interns enough. Expect more cruelty from us in the future, interns. We will make an intern Burn Book with mean comments written as free verse poetry and publish that as our next issue of The Missouri Review. (all)