Issue 35, Final Fringe

Confessions of a Fiction Editor

by Anna Laird Barto 06.25.2013

Fringe published its last issue on Monday, June 24. Today, Fiction editor Anna Barto tells us what she’s going to carry forward.

The first time I sent a form rejection, I liked it. I felt dirty after, but it was still better than being on the receiving end. One click of the mouse and the power dynamic changed forever.

Then, for some reason, David Duhr, who was Fiction Editor at the time, put me in charge of the folder labeled, “To reject with loving kindness.” I wrote to children and teenagers who were brave enough to send us their early efforts, encouraging them and suggesting authors they might like, authors not necessarily included on their school’s syllabus.

I used to lose myself for hours in the slush pile when I was supposed to be reading Ulysses or churning out pages of my MFA thesis, a deadly serious semi-autobiographical work of uncompromising social realism. I loved being up to my elbows in mixed metaphors, slathered in purple prose, its badness redeemed through sheer exuberance.

I read stories with no punctuation, or nothing but punctuation; stories written backwards; stories about robots, librarians on the lam, S&M apes and pet leeches. I read stories that broke every rule I’d learned in my MFA workshops, and sometimes even got away with it. Even when they failed, they seemed to have fun trying.

Since joining Fringe, I’ve not only stopped taking rejection personally, but I’ve been become a connoisseur of the genre, collecting euphemistic turns of phrase: “Thank you for trusting us with your work, but…”, “Despite the evident merit of your work…”.

Fringe has also allowed me to a keep a toe in the literary waters after completing my MFA and straying even further from the Ivory Tower than most. My work environment, at an educational non profit, I like to describe as The Wire meets Sesame Street. While I feel privileged to have the opportunity to do such important work, I find myself guarding more and more jealously what little time I have alone with the page. I have my own stories to write. Some are still straight realism, but some are also about Mexican vampires or Mitt Romney; some of them are even starting to get accepted (except, surprisingly enough, the one about Mitt Romney).

Thank you to everyone who’s ever submitted to us. I’ll be out there with you, writing from the fringe. Bring on the rejections!

Anna Laird Barto

Anna Laird Barto

Fiction Editor

Anna Laird Barto holds an MFA from Emerson College. She has published short fiction in A Journal of the Built and Natural Environments, and her travel writing has appeared in GoNomad, Transitions Abroad, and Matador Travel, among others. After living everywhere from Wisconsin to Mexico, she has settled in Charlestown, Massachusetts, now better known as the “Bank Robbery Capitol of America,” thanks to Ben Affleck. Fortunately, up until now, Anna has been able to support her writing habit without turning to a life of crime.

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