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Everything wrong with publishing: Christopher Beha and Katie Ryder of Harper's ("guilty is guilty")

Monday 10/25/21

There was an entry in these pages last week, which could have referred to any venue, really. Not literally any. But it certainly was not identified. I didn't send it to anyone, by putting the link in an email. Was something I wrote, which was true, that I put up.

A guilty conscience, though, when we are talking about someone who is also a liar and a coward, will always help incriminate the person who possesses it. I knew exactly what was happening last week with Katie Ryder, who received three stories from me, totaling almost 15,000 words of fiction, and then boilerplated me after two days. I learned that my email went all over the country. I strongly suspected the stories were not read. But this was not even handled convincingly. What you'd do in that situation--if you want to dupe someone--was wait a bunch of weeks, say three perfunctory comments--one about each piece, especially as it's a contributor--and wash your hands of the works and the person. I politely asked if she might tell me what she thought was lacking in the work. This is a very are kind of thing for me to send. I have to know for certain what someone is doing. There has to be no doubt. I don't have a habit of doing this in my career, but now, I will. This was only the third time ever that I sent an email like this. Asking for clarity. But again, I know what is up with this place. Here's that email:

Any reason why? Those are good stories, and they're certainly not of a lesser quality than the story that Harper's did publish of mine. Forgive me for asking. Sometimes I feel like I'm simply being handled, when there's nary a word about the actual work.

Let me repeat: I know what's happening. I know it's personal. I know this is part of the blackballing of my work. What they don't want to have happen is for me to know. But know I do, and I'm just seeing it through. Here was her response. Again, she has nothing to say, because she's lying. She didn't have a reason not to take those stories. She certainly didn't have a legitimate reason not to address them at all.

Hi Colin,

We run twelve stories a year, and it's just an extremely competitive selection process. Again, we appreciate the chance to read these.

all the best,


First of all, it's not competitive. Look at this story. It's basic. Anyone can do it. It's not great writing, it's not good writing, it's mediocre high school writing.

A lot of people read this blog every day. One should see the numbers. Many people get in touch to say they admire the one person who says the truth about this industry. And I'm sure plenty of people hate read the blog. And gossip. I really don't care at this point. All that matters is these people are not going to beat me. The truth is coming out. The work is too good. You want to put up a full story of mine like the three I offered Katie Ryder vs. what goes in? Then I can tell you why what went in went in.

Now, a word about Chris Beha, before you see what he sent me today. Chris Beha is the editor in chief of Harper's. They had an amazing editor and man in James Marcus who was absolutely screwed by this venue. James is one of the best people I've ever known in publishing. James is a good person, period. He's a smart person. And what James would do is treat people fairly. He'd read work wanting to find the best work. Those were James's principles as an editor. He always gave me a fair read. Over the years, having seen many stories of mine for Harper's--I'll say twenty--there were four he wanted to publish: "First Responder," "Old Pyke," "Find the Edges," "The Last Field."

The first two were shot down by Ellen Rosenbush, who was a horrible person to try and deal with. She was the editor in chief when James was the deputy editor. You want to know how awful these people are? Well, this is nothing compared to everything here, but it gives you an idea. James and I did edits on those first two stories, but Rosenbush had to sign off. I wrote her thanking her for reading one of them, at the time. Said I enjoyed working with James, which was true--his writerly counsel is invaluable--and I appreciated her taking the time to see what she thought. It was the most polite, simple email you could imagine. She comes in to work and blasts me to James for daring to have sent her this on the weekend. She turned down the story. I wrote the queen with the nice note on the weekend. That's the kind of person with whom you're dealing.

James became the editor in chief, and he ran "Find the Edges" in spring 2018, with an eye to us both working on "The Last Field," which one will find in the current issue of Post Road. But then James was fired over the Katie Rolphie situation, which you can read about elsewhere. James, as I've said, has ethics. He refused to compromise his morals. He was pitched aside.

Chris Beha became editor. And what Chris Beha did, for several years now, was ignore any story I sent him. He wouldn't respond. You know right away--you can always tell--if you're dealing with the rare person in publishing who is open to quality. Who operates around a system of merit. You don't have to be their crony. You don't have to have a certain agent. You don't have to be one of them.They care about the work. James Marcus is a man like this. Chris Beha is not. He's the opposite of a James Marcus.

But still I played this out for these years. I knew I had no chance. I knew my work was not being considered. My fiction was not considered. My nonfiction pitches were not considered. Next to nothing was responded to. You have to understand, too, that I have sources, and I have means of procuring information that I will not reveal here. I know what is going on at a place quite often. I know when someone has interest in something, and then someone down the hall says, "No, I hate him, and you will hate him now, too." And these people will, usually. Or they'll pretend they do. They don't have character. They are not individuals, save in rare cases. I want you to keep all of that in mind as you read this hypocritical, lying, self-serving letter that Chris Beha sent me today.

Katie Ryder has been checking this journal often, because she knows how guilty she is. She knows that I know what is happening. Today, she comes to work and tattles to Beha, saying I said mean things about her on here, when I said nothing at all about her directly, and certainly nothing cruel. Until this entry, her name does not appear in these pages. Neither does Beha's.

Why? Because I've given every last centimeter of rope to these people, hoping they'd stop with the discrimination against me. But I also knew, of late, that they were setting me up, then they were going to try and find anything they could to send me a self-serving, mendacious, pathetic letter like the one Beha did today. Again: wouldn't respond to work. Wouldn't respond to pitches. So what we end up with is something from a person like this that is beyond childish and pouty and pathetic. Not grown-up. Not valid. All because of these other personal things, regarding someone with the great work, who did no wrong.

As I've said, it is not going to go the way you want it to go if you are trying to do this with me, or have been doing it with me. You're not smart enough, you're not strong enough, and you are 100% guilty. Which every objective third party who reads these pages will know. My character, my work, my ideas, my track record, all speak for themselves. I'll say it again: Knock it off. Stop the discrimination. Treat me and my work the way I and it deserve to be treated. I only want to move forward. But I am not going to sit back and let anyone get away with doing me like this.

You can also hardly impugn someone you don't mention, and the truth is not an impugning agent, anyway. That's the thing about the truth. If you remember, I was writing on here recently about Poe's "Tell-Tale Heart." Look how obvious it is that these people know exactly how how guilty they are. That's why Beha is trying to get ahead of this. He's trying to cover himself. Note the language with its tone of "I didn't do anything wrong, no one did anything wrong, here it is in writing." Remember how I said they default to boilerplate when they know that you know they are absolutely busted.

Treated fairly for years, hmmm? This hypocrite. Like I don't have the emails I sent this man? Want to come in my inbox and do a search on his name to see his absence of responses? I know, as I've said, someone like this better than I know my own mother. And Katie Ryder, too, of course, but she's someone who's just weak and doing what she's told to do. It's all weakness, though, in one form or other. Here's Beha's letter to me today, which was titled "Harper's submissions." You get the boilerplate right from the top.

Dear Colin,

I'm writing to let you know that Harper's will no longer be considering submissions from you. I believe you've been treated fairly by the magazine over the years, and I am quite certain that everything about the way your most recent submission was handled was entirely appropriate. I am not interested in working with someone who would impugn the integrity of my staff on the basis of that exchange.


Chris Beha

Here was my response. Of course, I knew he wasn't going to reply, because, well, we all know what's going on, and like I said, guilt is guilt, so what are you going to say? It so clearly is what it is. And everyone here knows it.

It really doesn't matter, because you were not considering submissions from me. You, personally, were certainly not, and you couldn't have acted less professionally over the years. You would reply to nothing, because I am not personally anything to you. I'm not your crony. It was never about the work. And I know exactly what happened the other day. I have proof of it. I have proof of my email going around the country. I have proof that the submissions were not read. On the blog, which I assume you're referring to with your obvious guilty conscience--because I named no names, and I could have been referring to anyone: that you assume this was Harper's is telling. You're going to strike this sanctimonious tone when you are obviously in the wrong? Guilty is guilty. People always know. You know. Your staff knows. And now, with specificity, a lot more people are going to know. Wrong person to try and bully, handle, and lie to. You're not handling me now either, as you have hoped to, and the problem is not going to go away.

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