When the guest speaker in my grad school class asked the question, I didn’t expect to have my whole perspective of the publishing world upended. It seemed a simple enough question, one that would be forgotten when the topic shifted in class, but I’m still thinking about it these two months later.
And we’ve revamped everything we’re doing at the MockingOwl Roost because of it.
“What is an example from your career or ministry setting that is an example of ‘ϵραρχα’ can you think of?” (That is, hierarchical power that more commonly is associated with abuse of power.)
Without any preconceived thoughts on this topic, the words “Industry standards” popped into my mind. I waffled – this couldn’t really be true, could it? Publishing has to have industry standards. That’s simply how it has to work.
Before I raised my hand 10 seconds later, my brain shot my memories through the many examples of “industry standard” use that has effectively dismissed, denounced, undermined, rejected, and overlooked people who didn’t meet the “norm”.
I thought particularly of the journalism world that often favors white men over women of any color, even when what has been submitted by the man is utter garbage.
Since this classroom dialogue, I’ve been thinking a lot about these standards that have been imprinted on my brain. It is not uncommon anymore for women to run magazines, publishing houses, or production companies (though still enough that it’s notable when people are looking to choose groups or businesses to support).
But those standards that dance across the pages of most publication’s policy documents are still there, and much like the other systems in our world, are set up to bolster certain people in success and drown others in failure.
The conversation with the MockingOwl Roost editors and publishers began: How can we break these industry standards without breaking our ability to work collaboratively with authors, artists, and the many amazing groups that have supported us through posting our submission periods, magazine posts, and others?
A sabbatical for myself was already slated for this spring as I head to Australia and New Zealand to study Indigenous Art and Contemporary Performing Arts in my area of study (missiology). But in preparing for the sabbatical, this breaking of industry standards has lingered.
How do we come back from the editor-in-chief’s sabbatical with a healthier viewpoint on rest, industry standards, and true community?
The industry standard may offer sabbaticals, but for freelancers like me, and most editors I know, sabbaticals are rare, time off for family needs, mental health care, wellness breaks, team retreats, breaks for creative nourishment, and, of course, just plain rest, are equally rare or overlooked.
I’ve been running the MockingOwl Roost since June 2020, about 6 months before the first issue hit the public eye. I haven’t had a break from duties, save a week here or there during which I was overburdened with other tasks. If this was a paying full-time job, it might look different, but as a full-time volunteer (like the rest of the staff), it has a different pull on the calendar.
Who set these kinds of demands? Industry standards – and me by giving into them.
Last year, we granted our first sabbatical to our artist-in-residence, Sue Cook, for time to work on her poetry book (forthcoming from the MockingOwl Publishing House in September!) but it wasn’t what it should have been. None of the rest of the staff have had sabbaticals, either.
And while the family at MockingOwl has done the hard work of being sure to see each other, hear each other, and know what life contains for each other, it’s still pretty easy to feel Unseen or Unknown in the midst of burn-out, medical concerns, and other life-altering points. The small staff has had quite a bit of this in the past couple of years.
My 2022, alone, was disrupted by a brown recluse bite that took more than 2 months to heal from, a broken arm immediately after recovering from that bite, and then moving my elderly mother in with us during the recovery from my broken arm (it was fun moving boxes, let me tell you!).
That only covers a portion of the major events in my life in 2022; the rest of the team had their own trot through of calamities equally severe or more so.
The topic chosen for our first triannual in 2023 was, I believe, an unconscious choice by the team. Our expectation was to hear the stories outside the team; the result was both this and hearing each other’s.
Consequently, the MockingOwl Roost family has determined a few things.
- Each time an “industry standard” is raised, we now examine this. Why is this standard? Who does it help? Who does it hurt? Are there legitimate reasons for this standard or is it about control?
- We are now instituting an editorial and team calendar that includes both an annual sabbatical for everyone and a holiday break that’s defined (instead of just “when we finish for the year…”).
- Our calendar is also shifting our submission periods to a single 3-month period for commissioning for the entire following year. This allows us to know what we’re working with for the coming year, as well as have more time to work with each contributor on their pieces with the editorial energy and empathy needed.
- We are actively working to raise awareness of mental health, wellbeing, self-care, self-love, and the tools we need to both engage in these areas and encourage our family of staff and contributors to partake of.
- We will be hosting our first in-person and virtual community gathering point within the next 12 months to encourage this pursuit of wellbeing and community building that we all crave and so desperately need.
In the meantime, as you read the pages of the upcoming issue, Unknown & Unseen, the stories on our blog, and previous issues, may you see the stories are birthed out of the reality that we all have experienced, in one way or another, that sense of being unnoticed when we so desperately need to be known.
And know that you, particularly our contributors and readers who invite us into your lives and stories, are seen by us and known by us and welcomed with open arms.
Watch us break these industry standards that harm, take sabbaticals and deep rest that restores the soul, and join in with us on the journey.
~Rita Mock-Pike, a tired, burnt-out editor-in-chief no more
In our pursuit of self-care, wellness, and mental health, we are now commissioning and publishing articles on the topic. In the meantime, we have some self-care and wellness pieces in the Positivity Corner, Fitness for Creatives series, and My Favorite Things series that may help you make that first step.
- New Year, New Year – doesn’t just have to be for New Year’s Day though!
- Yoga Poses for Creatives
- My Favorite Things: Peppermint Mocha Coffee
- Self-Care for Chronic Illness
- My Morning Power Hour
- Walking Three Times Daily
- Take a Break – Cleansing for the Soul
Editor-in-Chief of The MockingOwl Roost, Rita Mock-Pike is the granddaughter of aviatrix, Jerrie Mock, first woman to pilot an airplane solo around the world. Rita has found inspiration from her grandmother’s life and flight and pursued many of her own dreams in theatre, podcasting, novel writing, and cooking up delicious food from around the world. She now writes on food, travel, pets, faith, and the arts. She’s happily married to Matt, and faithfully serves the very fluffy kitten queen, Lady Stardust.