Anthology Submission Process and Evaluating Criteria

The anthology published annually by the San Diego Writers and Editors Guild is a collection of poetry, essays, memoir tales, and imaginative short stores by our members. Submissions are judged in three categories: narrative, essay, and poetry.

The Process

Submissions are sent to the managing editor who removes all identifying information, categorizes each submission, and assigns an anonymous control number. Each anonymous narrative or essay submission is sent to no less than two reviewers. Reviewers are asked to grade the submission according to prescribed evaluating criteria using a set of metrics to determine how well the submission has met the criteria for the category. Submissions are guided through the review process by the managing editor or one of two additional assistant editors. (Note: Poetry submissions are sent to the poetry editor.)

After a submission has completed the review process, the author is notified by an editor whether or not the submission is accepted for publication as is, or if there are recommended changes. When revisions/corrections are recommended, the editors offer to work with authors to bring the submission into compliance with the recommendations for publication.

Submission Categories

All submissions must fit a specific category: Narrative, Essay, or Poem. Volumes have been written describing each and every nuance of these categories from the narrowest to the broadest. However, in its simplest terms and for our purposes, the three categories are defined as follows:


narrative is an account of a sequence of events usually presented in chronological order. A narrative may be real or imagined, nonfictional or fictional. Another word for narrative is story. The structure of a narrative is called the plot. Narrative writing can take various forms, including personal essaysbiographical sketches (or profiles), and autobiographies in addition to novels, short stories, and plays.


In the broadest sense, the term essay can refer to just about any short piece of nonfiction—an editorial, feature story, critical study, even an excerpt from a book. However, literary definitions of a genre are usually a bit fussier. A personal essay is a short work of autobiographical nonfiction characterized by a sense of intimacy and a conversational manner.

A critical essay is a form of academic writing that analyzes, interprets, and/or evaluates a text. In a critical essay, an author makes a claim about how particular ideas or themes are conveyed in a text, then supports that claim with evidence from primary and/or secondary sources. In casual conversation, we often associate the word "critical" with a negative perspective. However, in the context of a critical essay, the word "critical" simply means discerning and analytical.


A poem is a literary work in which the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity by the use of distinctive style and rhythm. A poem is writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound, and rhythm.

Evaluating Guidelines

Once the submission is assigned a category for review, the piece is reviewed by no less than two reviewers using the following guidelines by category:



  • Is the lead-in intriguing? Does it pull the reader into the piece?
  • Are there sufficient sensory details for the reader to visualize the situation?


  • Are characters effectively revealed through multiple methods of characterization (physical description, actions, inner thoughts, speech, etc.)?
  • Are main characters given specific internal markers (motivation, emotion) and external markers (attributes, mannerisms)?
  • Are minor characters made realistic in some way (action, dialogue)?

Plot and Theme

  • Is the plot interesting? Does it make sense within the confines of the genre?
  • Is the action described in enough detail so the reader can visualize it?
  • Does the plot come to a satisfying conclusion?


  • Does the piece stand on its own?
  • Is the content suitable for publishing in the anthology (i.e., no vulgarity or gratuitous violence, etc.)?
  • Is the verb tense consistent with the flow of the story?
  • Are there no more than 4-5 minor errors in grammar, usage, or mechanics?


  • Does the piece demonstrate a clear and consistent mastery of the subject matter?
  • Has the author demonstrated an effective and insightful point of view on the issue?
  • Is the piece well organized and focused?
  • Is there a skillful use of language, using a varied, accurate, and apt vocabulary?
  • Has the author demonstrated a meaningful variety in sentence structure?
  • Are there no more than 4-5 minor errors in grammar, usage, or mechanics?


  • Does the form, rhythm, and meter complement the content, and are they natural rather than artificial and forced?
  • Has the author chosen words that enhance the meaning by producing feelings and images that enable the poem to realize its intent?
  • Is the language precise, vivid, and detailed?
  • Are line endings and breaks used to appropriately create emphasis?
  • Are poetic devices used effectively?
  • Does the poem provide a fresh perspective on the topic?

We hope these guidelines will help you as you prepare your narrative, essay, or poem for submission. Should you have any additional questions, please contact the managing editor at


(References for definitions of Narrative and Essay forms of writing from: “Glossary of Narrative and Rhetorical Terms,” Richard Nordquist,; definition of poetry from on-line reference material: English Oxford Living Dictionary and Merriam-Webster Dictionary.)

Image credit: Maria Fernanda Gonzalez

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