Dear Writer: If You Ever Again Go Above Me to My Boss…

Editor 1 is me, the magazine’s editor; Editor 2 is the magazine’s articles editor, who works mostly with freelance writers. Writer 1 is someone who has written several books and wants to write articles for the magazine and has communicated that to Editor 2. Like many articles editors, he is too busy to please everyone and frustrates some writers.

Writer 1, a few months after submitting a story proposal to Editor 2 and not getting a response, is at a Washington social event, meets Phil, the magazine’s publisher, and tells him of her dissatisfaction with her treatment by the magazine’s editors. Phil suggests she call me. I get the call and write a note  to Editor 2:

I got a call from Writer 1, who says she contacted us months ago and she’s waiting to hear from us. Luckily, she ran into Phil yesterday and he told her to call me. She’s written four books, and has one coming out next year. She writes a lot for the Times and for that reason doesn’t want to write for the Post. She says she wants to write about food.

I told her that she probably didn’t hear from you because we have a pretty full staff now and aren’t buying much freelance stuff.

Her number is xxx-xxxx. You want to talk with her?


Editor 2 writes a letter to Writer 1:

Jack Limpert has asked me to give you the current outlook for potential contributions to the magazine’s food pages. Apparently I missed an opportunity to contact you several months ago due to a regrettable misunderstanding.

Not much has changed for the better for would-be Washingtonian food writers. Space is still tight, and so is the budget. While we’re familiar with your works and professional credentials, we aren’t in a position to offer any assignments.

However, I do hope that before your next book comes out, you’ll send me publicity for the book so that the book can be written about in our food pages.


Editor 2

Editor 2, who has a dark sense of humor, sends me a copy of his letter to Writer 1 with this note attached:


It occurs to me that we could have some fun someday with a “what he said, what he meant” piece. See paragraph one of the letter for what I said. Here’s what I meant:

“If you ever try to drygulch me again with a letter or call to my superior, I’ll rip your lungs out and serve them in a medley of organ meats at the next Taste of the Town celebration.

Editor 2



  1. Avery Comarow says

    You know what? Your articles editor may have been a terrific editor, but why does he get a pass on MONTHS of crickets after getting a story idea from a demonstrated writer? Why was he so PO’ed that she let the upper echelon know about it?

    I handled freelance writers at a science mag and would have reached for the phone to apologize 30 seconds after hearing from above that I’d let a writer fall through the cracks–not because I wanted to get my boss off my back but because there’s no goddamn excuse for treating writers like that. I’ve BEEN a freelance, been treated that way, and fumed helplessly because I knew I wasn’t going to get satisfaction from story editors puffed up with their own busy tinpot importance.

    I wonder, probably unfairly, how long that articles editor took for lunch, and how liquid those lunches were.

    Avery Comarow, retired
    Washington bureau chief, Money magazine
    Washington editor, Consumer Reports
    AME, Science 86
    AME/senior writer, U.S. News & World Report

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