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What do you wish you’d known before joining Polyphony?

By Yong-Yu Huang, Jessica Kim, Jennifer Wang, and Zoha Arif


Yong-Yu: I wish that I had known how tall and wobbly the fence would be––I’ve found that a piece often perches the fence between a recommendation of acceptance and a recommendation of rejection. It’s always an internal struggle for me because, on one hand, I want to give the author and their piece a chance, but on the other hand, I have to keep in mind that it would be impossible to accept every single work that had potential. I didn’t think that so many pieces would make me deliberate for long periods of time over clicking “rec. reject” or “rec. accept” in the unassuming drop-down menu. I had thought that it would be a quick decision for each piece, but now, I find myself spending far more time than I had anticipated on each submission. But I never want to lose that feeling of hesitation. I never want to be able to reject a piece without a second thought or even a feeling of trepidation. I think that the internal struggle is an essential part of the assignment, and it’s what makes us human editors--not robots with blinking lights and creaking gears.


Jessica Kim: When I decided to take on the challenge of formulating my first ever commentary on the sample poem, I sat down with a hot cup of tea and mulled over it for hours. I literally took it with me everywhere – I formulated ideas on the subway home from school and even on the plane during spring vacation. At last, I formulated a 2.5 page commentary (single spaced) full of words which I believed would provide insight for the author. Upon receiving feedback from an executive editor as well as my acceptance into the editing realm of Polyphony Lit, the first comment was “wow, she sure wrote a lot!”. And it was only then I realized length can never fool depth. For the next few submissions, I consciously and even forcibly tried to cut down my commentary. After dozens and dozens of submissions, precision comes naturally for me. But as a budding First Reader, I wish I knew that less is more. Learn to sacrifice those teeny tiny details. Know when to spend half a page of specific commentary on the same issue when two lines of general comments will suffice. Learn to keep it short, but with substance. I wish I knew how much I had to write (way less than what I thought) when I first joined Polyphony Lit.


Zoha Arif: In many ways, editing for Polyphony Lit has allowed me to grow up, to mature, to experience the tides of emerging literature and explore the realm of my own writing; I wouldn’t give up the Polyphony Lit editorial experience for anything. But I wish I knew, as a high school freshman, that applying and ultimately committing to the journey of Polyphony Lit would blossom into a larger time commitment than two hours per week. I can’t say that this is true for all editors, but, personally, my commentary tends to be on the longer side. As a freelance writer myself, I know how much an author values editors that can provide insight on problems that we, as authors, may be blind to. With that being said, I happen to be a very superfluous writer who uses a lot of words to say simple things. This quality, my attempts to provide as much commentary as possible, and my slow writing cause me to take quite a while finalizing commentary, especially since I must subsequently cut out excessive remarks; it is safe to say that the 2 hour time commitment I originally speculated was by far an understatement. Therefore, I wish that I had prepared myself (and my schedule) for the time commitment of a Polyphony Lit editor.


Jennifer Wang: I am a slow editor because I spend too much time analyzing. If I’d known how to efficiently edit before joining Polyphony, my first year wouldn’t have been such a struggle to meet deadlines. It was only after being promoted to Second Reader that my editing process really sped up; now, I had to edit not only submissions but also First Readers’ commentary. This reality forced me to conclude that there were two options: 1) Keep the same pace and finish editing both parts in three hours, or 2) stop overanalyzing and finish editing both parts in two hours. With too many APs and too many ECs, I smartly chose the latter. After getting comfortable with this less-intense process, I realized that my edits did not suffer from this change. Instead, my commentary had a kind of clarity that it did not have before. Comments were focused and cogent. While I wish I would’ve known how to not overanalyze before joining Polyphony, I’m glad that I adopted this efficient process throughout my time here.


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Jennifer Wang is a First Reader at Polyphony and a Copy Editor for Voices.


Yong-Yu Huang is a First Reader at Polyphony Lit and a blogger for Voices.


Jessica Kim is a First Reader at Polyphony Lit and a blogger for Voices.


Zoha Arif is a Second Reader at Polyphony Lit and the Managing Editor for Voices.