Adventures in the Inbox …

34 Orchard all four issues

34 Orchard, the dark literary magazine I founded in 2019, is my baby, and while it has faced its challenges, it does well and brings me a lot of joy.

The past three days were a little bit rough, but it also reminded me that I have a lot of great people in my life, that everything happens for a reason—and that sometimes, you need things to burn to the ground so you can rise from the ashes. I don’t even know why I’m sharing this here, exactly–it’s not customary, or a good idea, for editors to talk about their negative experiences publicly. It might even be considered unprofessional. But I just have this feeling someone out there needs to hear this today, so whatever. I’m human.

The short version: 34O was listed on a freelancing site called FREEDOM WITH WRITING (unbeknownst to us), which resulted in our inbox becoming overwhelmed by hundreds (over 600 in three days) of submissions that ignored guidelines or were just flat-out inappropriate (we were getting video and audio files), demanding payment for things just because they sent the email, and various other strangeness. When we sent out rejections, we were getting nasty responses (one was actually threatening), and several heralding their professionalism while flinging barbs (at least they understand paradox).

Do you expect, as a magazine, to have to deal with ugly things on occasion? Of course. That’s part of the job. As an editor, you are going to deal with the occasional nasty response. You are going to deal with guidelines being ignored. You are going to deal with strange, out-of-nowhere demands, accusations, and weirdness. You don’t start a magazine and think it’s going to be a dream walk and everyone is going to behave (unless you’re delusional). You also don’t expect that everything’s going to go smoothly and that everyone is amazing to work with. We deal with nasty at least once a sub period, two or three really strange requests/demands/weird communications, and about a third of our average 1200—1400 subs don’t follow guidelines. That is par for the course, and if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. That’s just the business.

But this level of pummeling–and in some cases, abuse–was out of control. We’ve been around two years. Never had we dealt with this. Ever. We were losing our minds.

I posted a cry for help in the HWA-CT group (the Connecticut Chapter, which I co-chair, of the Horror Writers Association), and several people stepped up to the plate with advice and suggestions.

Without Bert Piedmont, David Griffith, Edward Ahern, and John Palisano—all fine, accomplished writers, doers, and thinkers who’ve all been in my shoes and know their shit—I never would’ve gotten through this and come out better on the other side: we now have a plan to prevent this in the future. 34O is going over to a submissions manager for our next period in July, which was something we’d always considered, but never felt the need for; it will allow us to better streamline our processes and automatically prevent people from openly ignoring guidelines. It will also, hopefully, put distance between us and potential harassment. In essence? This forced our hand in making the right decision. It will be expensive. But, to quote Martin Brody in Jaws 2 when he discovers there’s another shark a-lurking, “You’d better do something about this one, because I’m not going to go through that hell again!” It’ll be worth every dime.

Sometimes you feel like no one has your back, and then something happens, and you find out that all you have to do is ask. Sometimes, life takes a dark turn, and it may seem like the world is ending. If that’s happening to you, ask for help, and have faith that, in the end, everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.

About kristipetersenschoonover

A ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies; her traditionally published books include a short story collection, THE SHADOWS BEHIND. She was the recipient of three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. She serves as co-host of the DARK DISCUSSIONS podcast, as founding editor of the dark literary journal 34 ORCHARD, and is a member of both the New England Horror Writers and the Horror Writers Association. Follow her adventures at kristipetersenschoonover.com.

Posted on January 21, 2022, in 34 Orchard, Deep Thoughts & Fun Stuff and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I’m sorry this happened and so glad I could help you out of that nightmare.

  2. I’m so sorry to hear this happened. How in the world did it get on a freelancing site? Probably only the rotten scoundrel that put it there knows.

    Thank God for kind people willing to lend a hand.

    • Oh, thank you! It’s all for the best. I think those places, literally, just hunt around the Internet and put up anyplace that’ll pay you. We also got subscribed to some mailing lists. I’ve got no love for FREEDOM WITH WRITING, I can tell you that. Yikes, and no thank you.

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