Our Editorial Process
The Polyphony Lit Editorial Staff, comprised of volunteer high school students from all over the world, provides editorial feedback to every submission we receive in the general Poetry/Prose submissions category and decides which pieces are accepted for publication in our triquarterly online and print publications. Each piece is read and commented on by two Junior Editors and one Senior Editor. The final decision on publication is made by an Executive Editor, Genre-Managing Editor, or Editor-in-Chief. At the conclusion of the editing cycle, editorial comments are compiled and sent directly to the submitter. Since we seek to provide editorial training for young writers, our editors also receive feedback on their commentary from other editors. Comments and publication notifications are generally completed within 8-12 months of submission. Response time may vary, depending on the size and availability of our volunteer staff, but we are always searching for ways to streamline the process. Pieces submitted during March and April usually receive a slower response, due to the large number of submissions that arrive during these months.
The entry-level position at Polyphony Lit is Junior Editor. The Junior Editor is the first to read the poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction submitted to our general Poetry/Prose category.
After reading the piece, the Junior Editor writes specific and general comments about the piece and then recommends “accept” or “decline.” Junior Editors receive feedback on their commentary from other editors as the piece moves along the editorial pipeline.
Playing a prominent role in deciding whether submissions are finally accepted or declined, Senior Editors shape the final message to the author, provide evaluative feedback directly to the Junior Editors, and provide feedback to the Managing Director on the editorial comments of Junior Editors.
A critical distinction between Junior and Senior Editors is that Senior Editors are responsible for reading and editing the comments of the Junior Editors. They review Junior Editor comments for tone and content, provide feedback on that editorial commentary directly to the Junior Editor, and provide the Managing Director with additional information about the effectiveness of the Junior Editor’s commentary.
Due to their experience, some Senior Editors also serve as judges and readers for Polyphony Lit’s seasonal contests.
Final review happens with the Executive Editors. They read the submission, edit the comments of the previous readers, write some brief general commentary to the author, and make the final decision on whether submissions will advance to the finalist round.
If a piece advances to the finalist round, then a group of three Executive Editors place their votes to determine the final outcome.
If the piece is accepted, the Executive Editor writes an editorial blurb to be published alongside the piece, and sometimes, Executive Editors may work directly with the author to make edits and prepare the piece for publication.
We believe the most important responsibility of the Executive Editor is to ensure all feedback to writers adheres to our editing philosophy, which strongly emphasizes tone and content that are encouraging and useful to young writers.
Some Executive Editors also serve as Teaching Assistants for our editorial training workshops, and provide detailed feedback to our editors-in-training.
Due to the large number of submissions we have a small team of Genre-Managing Editors, who assist the Editors-in-Chief by assigning submissions and overseeing each submission’s progress through the editorial pipeline. Sometimes Genre-Managing Editors will perform the same tasks as Executive Editors… but they also carry additional responsibilities, because they provide advice and technical support for the junior staff.
Some Genre-Managing Editors may also serve as Teaching Assistants for our editorial training workshops, and provide detailed feedback to our editors-in-training.
Due to the large number of submissions, we have three Editors-in-Chief (EICs). Responsibilities of the EICs are based on the expertise of the students serving as EICs. Just like the Genre-Managing Editors, the EICs assign submissions and oversee each submission’s progress through the editorial pipeline. However, the EICs also approve final decisions, and approve commentary that will be sent to the writers.
The EICs are also responsible for editorial promotions; every few months, they review feedback written by the junior staff and nominate editors who demonstrate the skills and commitment deserving of promotion.
The EICs help shape editorial policy as well. Their daily attention to submissions offers them a close look at the day-to-day operations of the magazine. It is this close attention that allows them to notice potential inconsistencies, insufficiencies, or other inadequacies in our editorial process. For this reason, the EICs communicate regularly with the Managing Director to develop Polyphony’s internal editing policies, to expand Polyphony’s editorial community with new projects and programs, and to ensure that we respond to our authors in an effective and efficient manner.
Finally, the EICs take an active role in preparing our print and online volumes for publication, including writing a foreword letter for the volume.
Julian Riccobon serves as our Managing Director. The only non-student position on the editorial staff, he oversees the editorial workflow, manages the seasonal contests, and organizes the editorial staff.
The Managing Director provides editing advice and Submittable tech support for all members of the editorial staff, and develops training material for the “How to Be a Literary Editor course” and the “Summer Scholars” workshop. He meets regularly with the Editors-in-Chief to assess submission capacity, address staffing issues, and develop internal systems that will expedite Polyphony’s editorial process. He also interacts regularly with editors from all levels of the staff, assessing their potential for promotion and appointing them to specialized roles, such as Contest Judge or Teaching Assistant.
When it comes time for publication, he compiles and formats all of the material for the finished issue.