Name: Gretchen Gales
Job Title and Description: Managing Editor of Quail Bell Magazine and Freelance Writer
College Name/Major: Virginia Commonwealth University, English and History
Twitter Handle: @GGalesQuailBell
What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?
Gretchen Gales: As managing editor, I go through our submissions and read through all of them once or maybe twice before making a decision. Quail Bell loves work that’s magical, thought-provoking, vintage and otherworldly, so I really focus on those aspects in pieces. Typically I’ll send out acceptance emails, upload content onto the website and publish it. I promote work via social media (we have a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a Goodreads account) and figure out how to bring in more viewers to the site. I also corral ideas for articles and help assign different writers to different topics.
What is the best part of your job?
GG: Getting the excited replies to accepted submissions. You feel like a literary Santa Clause. I also get to meet the coolest writers and work with some really talented people. It’s been a blessing.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?
GG: I always wish I started looking for more writing opportunities in high school. I didn’t think there were many out there, but I was very wrong. I only submitted to my school’s literary magazine and a county-wide contest every year. There’s a verse in the Bible that really applies to anyone, even if you’re not religious, and that’s 1 Timothy 4:12. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not capable to do something because of your age, and that includes yourself.
What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?
GG: How to stop responding to the occasional ridiculous email from narcissists. When I became one of the assistant editors, a writer kept emailing me asking the same questions over and over and OVER again. In total, I think there were about 35-40 emails we exchanged with me trying to explain we’re primarily an online publication and their piece would probably not be featured in a print edition. Such a time vampire. Then he kept wanting to make changes to the piece, which we try to work with the author as best as we can, but the publication has the final say. Saying no isn’t always such a bad thing. Put your foot down. It’s not bossy. Forget “acting like a lady” and be a leader instead.
What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?
GG: Well, this [How She Got There] nomination has been one of them. Becoming managing editor within a year was definitely another I never expected. But I’m also going to be published in Bustle soon, so I’ll be getting paid for talking about American Girl dolls. Ten-year-old me would be losing her mind right now!
What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?
GG: My elementary school nurse said, “If it’s wet and it’s not yours, don’t touch it,” but I don’t think that’s what you’re looking for, are you? Seriously though, wisdom from a writer’s perspective is that if you’ve written something, you can call yourself a writer. Doesn’t matter if you haven’t been published. On another note, don’t let any man tell you you’ve eaten too many Thin Mints either. It’s oppressive.
What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?
GG: Make sure you read every day. It doesn’t have to be a book, but read one article from a publication you like and observe the style. Lots of people submit great work to the wrong publications. Apply to every internship you’re even mildly interested in! I almost didn’t apply to an internship with an inspiring local writer I admired, thinking there was no way I’d get it. I remember her calling me on the phone and I was just sitting in awkward silence with my mouth hanging open after she told me I was a phenomenal candidate.
That’s another thing: Submit! Don’t tell yourself, “Oh, I’m not ready to submit anything yet. I’m too young and not experienced enough to be taken seriously.” That’s probably the worst thing you could do. Don’t, I repeat, DO NOT turn down opportunities. How else are you going to build your portfolio? I try to tell as many people as I can to submit to Quail Bell with only a handful of results. If I tell you that you should submit, I actually mean it. Why would I give myself extra work if I didn’t believe in you?
You’ll also find that writing opportunities show up at the most obscure and random places. I actually stumbled upon Quail Bell by chance when there was an art walk. Christine Stoddard (the founding editor) was selling some Quail Bell merchandise and I was enchanted by it. I bought both of the anthologies and immediately fell in love. I was such a fangirl. I submitted a poem and it was accepted! Because of that, I finally got the nerve to ask about internship opportunities. Christine told me to just come on board as a writer.