Written by A Guest Author December 21st, 2023

The Other Side of the Desk: Becky Tuch

This new series of articles is different from anything we’ve ever published before. Most of what we have previously published focused on the perspective of submitting writers and published authors with the occasional article from an editor’s perspective sprinkled in.

This series of articles, which are formatted interview style, will focus on the perspective of industry professionals, including editors, agents, authors who run Substacks to make their living, etc.

Our goal with this series is to give writers a more realistic idea of what it is actually like to be on the other side of the desk, and what it really takes to make a living (or part of one), as a writer.

We really want to highlight how many people have very different roles on the other side of the desk, and how many of these roles don’t pay enough (or at all).

Often authors can act (or feel like) agents and editors are the enemy, but often they are also writers themselves, and are equally familiar with rejection. I hope this series helps demystify what it is actually like to work in the publishing industry.

If you work in the publishing industry and feel like you are a good potential candidate for a future interview in this series, please send us an email: submit@authorspublish.com. We are paying all contributors to this series, and the questions will be similar to the ones asked below. These are the questions we think readers most want to hear the answers to. If you have any additional questions you think should be added to the regular rotation please let us know by sending an email to the same address.

We wanted to launch this series with an interview with a writer and editor whose work we first encountered back when she was running The Review Review, and whose work we continue to follow at Lit Mag News.

Becky Tuch is a fiction and nonfiction writer based in Philadelphia. Her writing has appeared in a variety of venues, including Salon, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Tikkun Magazine, as well as dozens of literary magazines such as Gulf Coast, Post Road, Salt Hill, and others. Her short fiction has been honored with awards from Moment Magazine and The MacDowell Colony. She is also the founder of Lit Mag News, a resource dedicated to news, interviews, publishing columns, and all things lit mag. Learn more at www.BeckyTuch.com.

We are very grateful for her generous answers to the following questions.

Describe a typical day at work.

My work with Lit Mag News is varied, which means each day is different (which is part of why I love it). On alternate Mondays, when I write my newsletter, I spend pretty much the entire day combing through links on social media and the web to find news about lit mags that I think my readers would be interested in. This includes lit mags undertaking cool projects, lit mags closing, important aesthetic changes, controversies, job openings, etc. Once I’ve gathered all I can find, I write the news round-up and send it off.

On other days, I interview journal editors and post the interviews to my site, including a summary of our conversation. The summary is especially important for readers who may have never heard of the magazine, or who might not have realized what a magazine actually does.

Each Thursday I run a column on the ins and outs of lit mag publishing. This is a column written by guest contributors. Throughout the weeks and days leading up to running this column, I am often working with these contributors to edit their pieces and make them right for my site. Sometimes what they send me is pretty much ready to go. Sometimes we go back and forth a great deal before the piece gets published. The editing work can be intense and time-consuming, but it’s also satisfying when the piece comes together.

Each weekend, I also post a question for my readers to consider and discuss as part of the Lit Mag News “Community & Conversations” feature. So I also spend a lot of time talking to writers and editors about what their concerns are, reading through my emails that are full of questions for writers, thinking about what to pose as a discussion topic and then writing it up in a way that explores the issue from multiple sides and gets people thinking and talking.

And this is just what I do for Lit Mag News. I also teach online workshops and one-day webinars, participate in interviews as a subject for others’ podcasts and blogs, and write columns for various venues about the lit mag submissions process.

Then, too, there is my own writing, which, thankfully with my flexible schedule, I’m able to work on fairly consistently. Even on days when I can’t get to my creative work, I always try to spend time journaling and brainstorming.

Finally, there’s personal time. I try to get in a workout every day. I know you didn’t ask about my exercise routine! But I consider it totally integral to all the other creative stuff happening. I’ve been amazed by the way an idea I’ve been struggling with for hours can suddenly resolve itself at the end of a yoga class or during a run with music cranked way up. So, that’s definitely part of a typical day as well.

What do you spend the bulk of your time doing?

Writing. Writing for my Substack, writing for my creative projects, and writing responses to my students in the online classes I teach.

Second to that would be reading—reading the news (both global and lit-mag related), reading my students’ work, reading novels, reading lit mags, reading social media, and of course reading emails, which often end up being important correspondences.

Does this job pay your bills?


What do you think makes you good at your job?

When I was a kid, I was always leaving notes for my mom in the kitchen. These were often long and occasionally funny, and would contain all kinds of weird drawings. Also, as a student, when I finished an exam early, I would flip over the paper and write long letters to my teachers. I would tell them all about my weekend, ask them if they had seen any good movies, and so on. (My teachers later told me they thought this was hilarious.)

My mom used to say that when I grew up I should be a professional Letter Writer. Of course, I thought that was ridiculous. No one writes letters for a living!

But, that is exactly what I have grown up to do!

I love writing letters to people. Perhaps because I just love writing, period. But I also love knowing who the reader is on the other side, and writing directly to that person. It makes me feel freer in my voice somehow, and I think that comes through in my newsletter, where the content is always a blend of serious and playful. I make an effort to speak directly to my readers, to really try to include them in what I say, to make them feel like someone is here, listening and responding to their concerns.

I’m also a fairly fast writer. Not, let me repeat, not, when it comes to fiction writing. But for articles, columns and criticism, stuff like that rolls out relatively easily. I think if you are going to build a successful and sustainable Substack, you can’t really be a perfectionist obsessing over each word. A perfectionist, for better or for worse, is something I am decidedly not.

Also, I’m not afraid of confrontation or conflict. Which is not to say I enjoy it, ha. It certainly gets my heart racing in uncomfortable ways sometimes. But, still, I’m not squeamish about writing about lit mags who appear to be cheating writers or whose editors behave in ethically questionable ways. I have a strong streak in me that feels duty-bound to speak up in situations like that, and since I am basically my own boss, then I am in a good position to do so.

What is a common misconception people seem to have about your work?

That’s a tough one. I don’t really know what people’s perceptions of it are.

To be honest, I’ve gotten so much support and such wonderful feedback from the literary community. I can’t say I’m struggling to correct a view people have.

I suppose, outside the literary world, people think lit mags aren’t very important. (Inside the literary world, I suppose, plenty of people think that too.)

And, of course, that’s not true. Lit mags are vitally important.

Have you ever considered quitting your job, and why?

I have certainly thought about quitting writing. But I never entertain it very seriously. Or, if I do think about it, I think about it while journaling, only to realize, Hey, I’m writing!

Even if I did quit writing, it wouldn’t be in order to stop creating. I’d just do something else—comics, collages, painting—which I’ve also done a fair amount of. If I’m going to be doing something creative, I always figure it may as well be writing, since I’ve already invested so much in the process. Besides which, of course, I love it, even on the days when it’s brutally hard.

In fact, whether I love it or not is besides the point. I need it in my life.

So the answer really is No, I’ve never thought about quitting in any real or serious way.

As for the newsletter, I have never once considered giving it up. I love doing it so much that I only ever think about ways to grow it further.

How does your work impact your creative writing?

It helps. I find the work for my newsletter helps me write more freely in my creative writing, and to feel free to be voicier in the work.

I also like having certain pressures around the creative work—it forces me to go at it harder. Since Lit Mag News takes up so much time, there are constraints around how much time I can spend on creative work. That actually helps me. Too much constraint and you can’t get anything done. But just enough and you know you have to work hard because the clock is ticking and the hours are short. So I’ve got to make the best use of the time I have, and really get to work.

What is the best part of your job?

Meeting people. I’ve met such wonderful, thoughtful, hilarious writers and editors that I would not have met were I not doing this work.

One Friday every month I host a Lit Mag Chat session, where subscribers to Lit Mag News come to ask questions about the submissions process, exchange resources, seek recommendations for markets, and just talk about what’s on their minds with their work. I cannot express how joyful these sessions are. They honestly make me feel high, and I swear the only thing I drink while they take place is water. It’s just a blast, after working for so many years in relative isolation, to talk to others who have all the same questions and frustrations I’ve had for so long.

Other best parts are the writing, of course. I always think I will run out of conversation topics for the weekend discussions, and I never do. The community sustains my work. My readers teach me, make me laugh, commiserate with me and with one another, and keep it all going and growing.

The flexibility is also pretty great. For instance, I am answering these questions at 7pm on a Saturday night, not typically a time when most people would be working. But the trade-off is that I can go to the gym on Monday morning, when others are heading into the office. I can’t imagine my life structured any other way.


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