Saturday, May 19, 2018

Editor Rejects Her Own Story (Timeless Tales Magazine)

Written by Tahlia Merrill Kirk (Editor of Timeless Tales Magazine)

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a guest blog post over at JL Writers about all the challenges writers face when retelling Snow White. It basically summarized the biggest problems I've run into while reading submissions for our upcoming issue. But let's be honest: It's easy to spot weaknesses in a story--it's a whole different ball game having to actually write a retelling that avoids these pitfalls.

In the interest of keeping myself humble, I dusted off an old Snow White retelling that I wrote 10 years ago when I was a freshman in college. My initial thought before re-reading it was that I would insert it into our 5-year Anniversary issue as a bonus story, but now I'm not so sure. It's a perfectly nice story--a Snow White/Psyche & Cupid crossover, in fact. But it has enough problems that I can't just pop it into the magazine without revising it first.

So I thought I'd pretend that this is a story I received in my submissions inbox and use it as an example of how I analyze a retelling. Feel free to play along and leave comments with your own feedback or suggestions on how I should revise it! 

Note: I apologize that the resolution on these images isn't crystal clear. I spent two days fighting with my computer and this was the best I could manage. If you'd rather read it as a high res PDF, here's a link.



Alright, still with us? So if I received this story in my inbox, I would probably give it a 7 out of 10 rating, which means it would be guaranteed a second read later down the line. 8's and 9's are my "Almost Definitely Yes" pile and 6's and 7's are my "Right on the Edge" pile. When I circle back to it, I'd spend a lot of time agonizing over whether the pros outweigh the cons. Do I have a clear idea about how to explain the changes I would want made to the writer? Are those changes likely to be welcomed by the writer or will it take their story in a direction they might be unhappy about? How does this story fit with the others I want to accept? Does it have a similar tone/setting/perspective from what I've already accepted or does it fill an obvious gap? Let's imagine that my conclusion is to reject this story. Despite all the notes I've made, this is all that makes it into my rejection letter:

Dear Tahlia,
Thank you for submitting your ​Snow White ​retelling to Timeless Tales. After reading it and carefully considering, we will not be publishing it. However, I really enjoyed your unique premise (Psyche is my favorite Greek myth!). Although your writing style is strong, I felt like your protagonist Vanessa was underdeveloped and the romance was mostly told from Eros' perspective. I wanted to see more of her personality and agency come through.

Best of luck to you finding a home for it elsewhere and thank you so much for sending it our way. We certainly encourage you to submit for our next issue.

Our next theme is still TBD, but we often decide themes by letting our readers vote. To be notified when polls open for our next theme, subscribe to our newsletter via our homepage.​The newsletter will also send you occasional Timeless Tales updates and information about submission window​s​.
Thank you so much!
          ​Tahlia Merrill Kirk
         Editor of Timeless Tales Magazine

And that's how it's done, folks. Now you know why it takes me fricken' forever to go through my submission pile every issue. The time I'll spend jotting down notes on each submission varies, but this level of detail isn't unheard of when I'm feeling conflicted about a story.

Do you agree with my assessment? Am I being too hard on myself? Not hard enough? Did I miss something? Only time will tell if I end up finding a way to revise this story (I have a few ideas rattling around). Be sure to check the Table of Contents when you read our Snow White issue (coming soon!). Even if I don't, though, I promise the ten pieces we're publishing are all AMAZING and will blow your mind with their twists on this fairy tale. 


  1. Timely. I was digging through my slag pile this week and found an old MS I hadn't looked at in 5 years. Funny how we all grow.

  2. This is hugely useful - thank you for demonstrating your editing process, even if it was just on your own piece! Also, you write the best rejection letters; they're so encouraging. :)