Not long ago, a submission I sent to a blog carnival was rejected. I’m still surprised at how much the rejection bothered me. Part of the problem was that I didn’t find out until the carnival had been posted that my piece was left, as it were, on the cutting room floor. My surprise was compounded by the fact that this particular carnival does not have a tradition of exclusion; if you submit something on topic, you’re usually in. Last but not least, I thought this particular submission met my usual standard of excellence (though you and I may differ regarding the level of that standard!)
I didn’t push the issue. Frankly, I’ve got more important things to worry about. The beauty of revolving hosts is that if I want to participate in this carnival in the future, someone else will be at the helm. But my interest in the craft of carnival hosting was certainly piqued. A host is judged by his graciousness, how welcome he makes his contributors and guests alike feel. This episode struck me as an example of ungracious hosting.
The latitude a host is allowed regarding submissions varies from carnival to carnival. Usually, a host is charged simply to receive and sort submissions, turning away only those that fall outside carnival guidelines. This is for the best since, as we can all agree, few bloggers are really qualified to evaluate the worth of another’s writing. I can’t even predict which of my own posts will be well-received; how can I judge another?
In other cases, a host may or must separate the wheat from the chaff. The Carnival of the Liberals, for example, requires hosts to winnow contributions down to the ten best submissions received. Announcing that level of exclusivity up front goes a long way towards taking the sting out of rejection. Though my own infrequent submissions to COTL have always been accepted, I’ve never contributed with any real expectation of inclusion.
A host can assert certain editorial discretion if he or she makes his criteria clear up front. An example of this might be the controversial announcement by Aydin of Snail’s Tales as host of I and the Bird #15 to proactively ban any post submitted by bloggers who “support, promote or are affiliated with creationism/’intelligent’ design.” One can try to set limits on quantity, quality, or topic, though more often than not any rules will be treated more as guidelines. Such conditions may also have repercussions that ripple well beyond one particular edition of the carnival; going back to my example, one previous I and the Bird contributor was so offended by Aydin’s ban that he boycotted IATB and hasn’t contributed since.
Remember that a carnival is usually the product of a community. As host, you have to respect the community and the reputation of the carnival. One way to do this is to protect the carnival by rejecting — directly and constructively — posts that don’t suit its prevailing theme or standards. Another way is to avoid implementing quotas or quality control unannounced. After all, the carnival still goes on after you’ve relinquished the reins as host, which might be tough to do if you’ve bruised the talent!