I SPENT SUNDAY WRITING THE LAST FEW REJECTION LETTERS I had to do. It's never fun writing them, I know it's upsetting to receive them, and I hate getting them myself. I had to write a kind of rejection that I've never penned before. For the first time in twenty-three years, I had to tell some writers that their stories were good, but the bad luck of it was...we couldn't buy them. On Spec's grant funding has been cut, so instead of the quality of their work being a consideration, it was more an issue of what we still have to publish from a previous submission period as well as current finances. We won't know until the fall what the Alberta Media grant holds for us, so in the meantime, we have to be careful, damn it.
So much for the good and the bad. Then came the ugly.
In the initial round of submissions, we received one story that fell to me to read, but opening it on Submittable didn't work for some reason. I sent the writer a note asking her to send it to me at my personal e-mail. She did, and I read it and passed it along to the other editors. What I should have noticed at the time was that she mentioned she had previously published the work on the web. Had I seen that as part of her cover note (also on the first page of her story) I would have told her right then that we wouldn't accept it. But...I missed it in favor of reading her work.
On Sunday, I saw that we hadn't given her a decision - probably because I'd sent her story as an e-mail attachment to the other editors, and we needed to deal with it. As I said, it was a day to wrap up all things outstanding. I reviewed my correspondence with the writer. For some strange reason, I was finally able to open the story on Submittable, which was when I saw her note telling us that the story had been previously published. She included the url in the text, but not as a link.
I checked out the url to be thorough. And what I got was a porn site.
Not cool. The last thing I needed to see was something that turned my stomach and affected me for the next few hours. Really, there's nothing titillating about being visually assaulted like that. After I got over it, it was kind of funny in a sick sort of way. Either this was karma, punishing me for sending out so many rejection letters, or, the more likely scenario - the poor girl's site and her sweet little story had been compromised. I chose to believe that she didn't know, so I sent her a note telling her about it. As it turns out, she didn't. She was shocked and embarrassed. I can imagine. I felt for her.
As a rule, I never post mail here that looks like spam with links to who knows what. It seems I'll have to be equally careful with any submissions we receive in the future.