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Editor Interview: Please See Me

Q: Describe what you publish in 25 characters or less.

A: Health-related stories

Q: What other current publications (or publishers) do you admire most?

A: I was recently on a panel with the EICs of Driftwood and 805 Lit -- both are two publications writers should consider! I miss Tin House dearly, am reading the Paris Review, Lit Hub, and the New Yorker as time permits to up my game. And, being that we publish health-related stories of vulnerable populations and those who care for them, I am always interested in what The Examined Life and The Intima are doing in my space.

Q: If you publish writing, who are your favorite writers? If you publish art, who are your favorite artists?

A: My longtime favorites include: Joan Didion, Alex Kotlowitz, Ann Patchett. My MFA program gave me: Emily Rapp Black, Ivy Pochoda, Claudia Rankin, Tod Goldberg, Gina Frangello, Susan Mancuso, Natasha Deon. And my work in narrative medicine and Please See Me gave me: Michele Harper, Atul Gawande, Paul Kalanithi, Jenny Lawson. We do publish digital art in all forms - I just saw the immersive Van Gogh exhibit in Chicago and highly recommend it!

Q: What sets your publication apart from others that publish similar material?

A: We aim to elevate the health-related stories and voices of vulnerable populations and those who care for them. These are the voices that have been left out of the healthcare conversations for far too long. These are the stories that, if health systems had regular access to, can change healthcare for the better. They are creative and accessible for every type of reader, from every walk of life. They speak truths rarely heard in healthcare spaces. Each issue has a theme and a mission! For example, we are trying to de-stigmatize Mental Health, to open up the conversation around Bias, and to give patients and providers a place to tell their COVID-19 stories.

Q: What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to your publication?

A: Pay attention to Submission guidelines! We publish three times a year, and welcome both emerging and experienced writers from around the world.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: An ideal submission is creative, raw, on theme, follows our guidelines, and teaches readers something about a patient or provider experience that engenders empathy. We want our readers to feel something from the pieces we select. Ideally, every piece, whether a poem, essay, flash fiction, short story or digital art, presents a narrative that changes how the reader sees some thing or some one in the healthcare environment.

Q: What do submitters most often get wrong about your submissions process?

A: For the most part those who submit to Please See Me are professional and pay attention to the guidelines. The submissions we no longer have time to respond to are those which do not address the current issue's theme or our mission, or writers who do not submit according to standard publishing guidelines.

Q: How much do you want to know about the person submitting to you?

A: While a cover letter is nice, we do not require one. We do ask for a short bio, and a short list of previous publications does inspire confidence that the writer is professional in his/her/their approach, and that the piece will likely meet submission guidelines. That said, we have published plenty of first time authors and artists and enjoy working with talented, emerging writers and artists too.

Q: If you publish writing, how much of a piece do you read before making the decision to reject it?

A: This is a great question! Good writing pulls me into the piece, and when I realize that I'm half way through, I know it's worth a more critical read. This is a piece that will be pushed forward in the editorial process, and evaluated further by the section editors. Writers who fail to submit according to guidelines, or whose thesis or narrative thread is not obvious on the first page are likely going to be pushed to bottom of the pile. We prioritize the pieces that grab us--make us feel something--are a fresh voice we don't often hear from--and when we hit our limit for publication, other pieces just don't make the cut. Best advice for any submission: Grab the reader's heart and head in the first sentence, paragraph, page!

Q: What additional evaluations, if any, does a piece go through before it is accepted?

A: Each piece must be previously unpublished. Once we have a short list, we confirm that the piece is available. We strive to have an even mix of patient/healthcare consumer/caregiver/advocate stories AND healthcare professional stories, but we take the best of the best first and foremost!

Q: What is a day in the life of an editor like for you?

A: My day varies depending on where we are in the editorial process. I am also the Executive Director for the Center for Healthcare Narratives, and this is where I spend the majority of my daylight hours. Please See Me editorial goes in waves. For example, during Submission periods, I'm reading what comes in and triaging to my Section Editor(s) to make their job easier. Once submissions close, I will read fiction and nonfiction I've flagged for deeper review in the evening, and pass on the pieces I'd like further evaluated by my Guest or Section Editors. I also manage our grants, our administrative needs, as well as oversee our website and social media, so I'd like to get FT Section Editors for Fiction and Nonfiction on board soon.

Q: How important do you feel it is for publishers to embrace modern technologies?

A: Because our content is timely and health-related, I'm all for getting it in front of as many eyeballs as possible! I love the digital format of our publication because it allows me to work with, and learn from, writers all over the globe. It affords our readers the opportunity to learn what life is like in places they may have never been, and to meet writers whose stories contain protagonists and antagonists unlike themselves. We try to meet our writers, artists and readers where they are -- with even more resources we could create a traditional print version too. I'm old school in my own reading habits; I love a trade paperback that I can jot notes in the margin. Highlight! But the digital and social options available really have democratized the production and accessibility of good information, as well as bad information. But that's another topic!

Q: How much do you edit an accepted piece prior to publication?

A: We do not have time for developmental edits, though on occasion have broken this rule to include content that our team believed told an important story. Because we are receiving more and more content, we can look for pieces that need minimal edits. However, if a piece really moves us, our team is willing to work with the author to get it up to publication standards. Our authors approve final edits, our managing editor then does a copy edit, and authors are given a second opportunity to approve any suggested changes. Our goal is to ensure authors put their best work out via Please See Me for their own portfolio of excellence, as well as to keep our literary standards high.

Q: Do you nominate work you've published for any national or international awards?

A: Yes! We nominated our first Pushcart Prize nominee in 2019, and hope to do more of the same this year.