I am the slush pile

Morning, everyone!

As many of you probably know, I’m the editorial assistant for Heartwarming. I'm looking forward to working with all of you. If we haven't been in touch yet, I'm sure you'll hear from me soon! And whether or not you're a contracted author, you're always welcome to drop me a line with quick (or not-so-quick) Heartwarming questions.

I correspond with our authors almost every day, but another big part of my job is coordinating the unsolicited submissions—also known as the slush pile. When an author sends her manuscript to Heartwarming, I’m usually the first to see it, and it's my job to record the submission and to ensure it makes its way to the right reader. It's pretty thrilling to have so many stories cross my desk, but since I started at Harlequin in August, I've felt a bit like a character from Freaky Friday: as a working poet, I'm used to being in the writer's role. I am the slush pile.

I've sent my fair share of manuscripts to literary journals and publishers, so I'm familiar with that particular mix of satisfaction, anticipation and anxiety that bubbles up whenever you send a piece of writing—of yourself, really—out into the world (every time I slip a manuscript into the mailbox, I swear my stomach drops to the bottom along with the manila envelope). But having been on both sides of the slush pile now, I'm hoping I can give some advice that will make the process feel less agonizing and more exciting.
First of all, I want to stress that we REALLY want to read your story. Yes, yours. But before we dive into the first few chapters, we like to find out a little more about you and your work. Besides listing your professional writing experience, it's helpful if your cover letter has details like word count and whether the manuscript is complete. And we're always interested in why you chose to submit to Heartwarming.

We've all heard rumors about hard-nosed editors who dismiss submissions at the first sign of a typo-don't worry, we're not them. That said, some errors—like misspelling an editor's name—can come across as unprofessional. And it can be distracting when manuscripts are full of grammar issues like wonky verb tenses or punctuation. We don't expect perfection, but the more attention you pay to polishing your manuscript, the more we can dedicate to what really matters—the story.

I feel totally privileged to have a job that allows me to come into contact with talented, creative people and the wonderful worlds they create on a daily basis. Whether you’ve submitted dozens of manuscripts or it’s your first time figuring out where to send that warm, printer-fresh hunk of ink and paper, you can be sure that there’s someone out there who just can’t wait to read it.


  1. I have a question - in your post you said you send the MS to the 'right reader' - how do you decide who that is? Do you read part of the MS first? Or do you have a group of readers and choose the next in line?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Marcie, thanks for your question.
      We send Heartwarming submissions to a freelance reader, who writes up a report on the work and returns it to us. At that point, one of the Heartwarming team members (Victoria Curran, Laura Barth, Adrienne Macintosh, Dana Grimaldi or myself) will give the manuscript a second read. If both readers agree that the story should go to contract, Victoria (who's our senior editor) will give it another read at that point and follow up with the writer.
      I hope that helps! Have a great day :)

  2. Claire, I don't believe we have met, but everyone always wonders about "the slush pile" and you have cleared it up beautifully. I've always admired poets, because they have to be the ultimate wordsmiths. It's good to read poetry for inspiration. Have a good week.

  3. Hi, Claire! We've had some contact over art sheets and titles, so I'm delighted to learn a little more about you. As someone who was found in the Slush Pile all those years ago, I appreciate your attention to it. Don't you think there's a poem in "I Am the Slush Pile?" You could read it at the next RWA conference! (That's not intended to joke about serious poetry skills - just that the title is so grabby, you should do something with it. And RWA seems like the perfect venue.)

    Happy Monday! Muriel

  4. Claire, good to see you hear. I've always wondered at how utilized the outside reader was. Thanks for the specifics.

  5. Claire, I've also wondered about the slush pile. Thanks for giving us insight!

    In my mind (and probably not your reality lol), you have the perfect job: reading all day. But like I said, I'm sure the reality is very different lol.

  6. Hi Claire! It's lovely to meet you :) Thank you so much for 'demystifying' the slush pile process! Your post was so clear, full of great information and- most importantly- encouraging. I believe more writers than ever will want to submit their pieces to work with such a positive editor! I love writing for Heartwaming because of the style of romance as well as the terrific people like you that truly make it a warm environment - and yes Roz, I did tweet about it- lol :-).

  7. Hi Claire! I'm excited about the new Heartwarming line! Thanks for being so gracious about the slush pile. :)


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