I am an unconventional undergraduate student. I went out into the real world, decided I didn’t like it that much and came back to Towson to beef up my armor before returning to the fray. As such, that also makes me a somewhat unconventional Grub Street staff member. Aside from the occasional reference gone astray and a funny sideways glance when I mention my husband, I don’t think that I stick out overmuch. I have, however, been thinking about what makes me different from a more traditional undergrad and, moreover, what I might bring to the table that’s an asset rather than an oddity. All of this is in the hopes that another student might see the same qualities in themselves and decide to take a chance on Grub Street as well.
One of the big benefits I’ve found is that, because I know a little bit more about what I want to do after I graduate, I’m able to see the value in what Grub Street offers. As a result, I am invested in the process, perhaps more than if I just saw it as a class. I know that the skills that we learn in putting out a full-scale publication are transferable to so many areas of the public arena. Yay for learning real-life skills!
Additionally, with just a little bit of extra life under my belt, I’ve found that it is easier to be unabashedly interested. I’ve lost a lot of the inhibitions that come along with the first go-round of college and am no longer ‘too cool to care.’ To be fair, I feel like there is less of that in general as an English major, but, no matter how you slice it, caring about grammar is nerdy, and I genuinely don’t care.
Finally, I think one of the biggest assets that someone with an unusual path to Grub Street brings is a different worldview. One of the principal jobs that we have during the spring semester is making the final selection for the pieces that make up the Grub. While all of the pieces that are submitted have their own merit, it is easy to get sucked into wanting to publish pieces that you identify with the most. Having someone with slightly different perspective can help to see the distinct ways that a piece might warrant publication that may perhaps otherwise be overlooked.
So, if you’re here reading this because you are building your schedule and wondering what Grub Street is and if it’s right for you, maybe instead think about what it is that makes you unique and what you could bring to the party – because, at the end of the day, that’s what makes Grub Street so great!
Grub Street Team Member
Mankind has a fascination with the concept that blindness equates to fairness. Since 1543, when Hans Gieng brought forth the first blindfolded representation of Justitia in his statue that resides on the Fountain of Justice in Berne, mankind has perpetuated the idea that blindness equates to justice and objectivity. Why? Because blindness works. Blindness is impartial. It is “fair.”
Anyone familiar with the world of literary journals is sure to have heard a dirty rumor at one point or another that a particular journal will only publish things by friends of the staff, or that the staff will only publish well known authors, or that the staff will only publish men, or that the staff will only etc… etc… etc…
In many cases, the journals around which these rumors circle are surprised when they do research (or look at research that is provided to them such as in the case of the VIDA counts*) that proves there is a legitimate basis for these rumors. In the case of literary journals, an example of this is the extreme bias towards male writers, wherein some publications had less than a quarter of their pieces written by female writers. Many times, biases manifest themselves in non-overt ways, such as submissions being considered more carefully, grammatical errors being overlooked, or even the writing style being judged more harshly. It doesn’t even have to be a conscious decision to favor pieces, but when someone is not blind to who is submitting, judgments can even be made from a name (take NBER’s research into name bias in hiring as an example wherein a simple change of name resulted in a 50% decreased callback rate**).
That’s where blind submissions come in. Blind submission review is the process that Grub Street uses for all of its submissions. A blind submission is, at its core, a judgment on strictly the qualities of a piece. In Grub Street, the staff are organized into groups based on genre. When a piece is submitted, all identifying information is stripped from the piece and then submitted to the appropriate genre team for consideration. At no point are any of the staff members within a genre group provided with the names of the writers or artists. That information only comes to light after the decision has been made to publish. This way, only the traits of the piece are considered. If a piece is well-structured, coherent, and above all, enticing, it will be published. Judgment is blind to all else, and therefore, is objective. Because none of the staff are given the opportunity for latent biases to manifest, a submission is considered solely on the merits found on the page and not for any external notions.
*VIDA is an organization that raises attention to contemporary women’s writing. One of the ways VIDA does this is by publishing the male to female ratio of many journals. More information can be found here: http://www.vidaweb.org
** http://www.nber.org/digest/sep03/w9873.html - NBER’s Study
Grub Street Team Member
The image above is "Flight" by Gillian Collins.