Dear Writers: Read This For Your Own Good

Making editorial assistants cry is the equivalent to killing kittens: (1) it’s soulless; (2) selfish; and if these adjectives don’t scare you off, at the very least it’s (3) frowned upon. So read about how to avoid this cardinal sin over at the INTERN’s blog. (Here’s a hint: be a smart submitter and savvy negotiator before you get giddy and legally-foolish over the opportunity of being a published author.)

Also, if you’re having a hard time figuring out which writing contests are legitimate, or if you’re consistently losing money in a never-ending pattern of failed contest submissions, consider asking these six questions before entering another writing contest.

In more light-hearted news, for your significant other’s own good–or a potential significant other approaching upon the horizon–have them read the “10 Reasons Not to Sleep with an Essayist.” It’s only right to give them fair warning.

Dear 2011, You Win at Life: My Year in Review

The “Year in Review” has been a theme across the blogosphere this week and though I’m a bit belated—having been busy cramming some lovely last-minute activities into 2011 like skiing and fireworks in an area of the country where a good internet connection is hard to find—I thought that it was a worthy effort to give a fond farewell to all the excellent highlights of the past year.

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In the past twelve months, I got my very first publishing credit, followed by what was a welcome parade of several other acceptance letters (the only one currently available online is my academic paper, Lost in Translation: Retelling the Tale of Joan of Arc in the Honors Review), traveled to Boston, Massachusetts and to Savannah, Georgia for the first time, graduated with my undergraduate degree in Creative Writing and History, lived in NYC, got a Certificate in Publishing from New York University’s Summer Publishing Institute, met Meg Cabot, Jennifer Weiner, and Frank Warren of Postsecret fame (on separate occasions), commuted nearly 10,000 miles (and listened to 18 audiobooks) in my first five months working at my job as an Assistant Editor at Transaction Publishers, wrote an entire 50,000-word NaNoWriMo novel in the company of some great new local writer friends, won a few writing awards, and—we mustn’t forget!—since I started this blog in May, I’ve met lots of lovely new blogger friends, with a solid base of 32 lovely and loyal followers.*

‘tis been a good year indeed!

On a side note, over at Writer’s Relief, they’ve complied a round-up list of their best and most popular writing articles from 2011. I think it’s an excellent collection and they can help inspire some New Year’s resolutions for better writing and better submission habits. Another good resolution would be to sign up for the free Writer’s Digest newsletter! It’s chock-full of inspirational articles, writing prompts, and contest information. I know that since I graduated, I’ve been surrounded by less and less writing students, writing professors, and pressing due dates. Both of these newsletters do a good job of filling that hole by offering encouragement . . . or, when I’m more reluctant to compose something new, preferring to burrow under the covers and procrastinate with a book, the newsletters succeed at nagging me and reminding me of my writing goals.

Here’s wishing that 2012 is even better than the last!

*Waves at you through computer screen.

The Pros and Cons to NaNoWriMo

During the month of November, I pretty much secluded myself away from the writing world.  I didn’t read any blogs and I didn’t submit any new stories.  I was so busy trying to bust out my NaNo word count every day that I actually forgot I was waiting to hear back from several publications.  The month sped by.

This was both a curse and a blessing.

The Curse:  I got two rejection letters during the month which were extremely unhelpful discouragement.  One was from Cicada–FINALLY! I thought they had lost my submission ages ago–and the other was from New South.**  Both were form letters, but one was actually a forwarded rejection which just seemed to increase the impersonal nature of it all  [deep sigh of melodramatic depression]

The Blessing:  The month went by so fast that I didn’t even have time to count the seconds until I hear back about some contests I entered a while back.  I find out about the Tiny Texas House contest as soon as this Friday (cross your fingers!) and about the Writer’s Digest Young Adult Fiction Competition by December 31st.  Woohoo!

I didn’t know this until I read this article, but apparently the writing world is split into two camps concerning NaNoWriMo: friends and foes.  I think most of the Cons on the Writer’s Relief’s list are rather silly, so I’ve composed my own Pros and Cons list:

Pros:

  1. You get a whole book written–with a beginning, middle, and end, and an entire cast of characters.
  2. You don’t have the luxury to procrastinate and only write and rewrite and then rewrite the beginning again . . .  for years.
  3. You’ll become a better writer, with better writing habits and better discipline.
  4. Every writing project in the future will seem easy and completely achievable in comparison with NaNoWriMo.
  5. You’ll have taken so many wrong turns in your novel and reached so many dead ends that, through the process of elimination, you now know what can’t happen in your novel and, therefore, what can.
  6. Even though your whole book is crap (see below) it’s a lot easier to rewrite and edit when you already have the bare bones of the entire story.

Cons:

  1. Your whole book is crap.  When you go back to reread the draft, the sentences are horrifying, your descriptions are fluffy instead of visionary, and in general you can never show this book to anyone.
  2. You are going to have to rewrite the whole book which, for a moment, will make you question whether or not you wasted thirty days of your life doing something unproductive (you didn’t, I swear).
  3. Because of the attention to word count rather than quality, it is almost certain that your writing won’t improve over the month.

In my opinion, the pros totally outweigh the cons.  In fact, the cons aren’t really even cons.  They’re more like complaints, complaints that every writer will have some day.  Because we all must–and dread–the rewriting stage.

**Personal submission response time for Cicada magazine (see my write up about their submission guidelines etc. here): it ended up being 8 months, 29 days for a rejected poem; in the past, I only had to wait 27 days for a personal rejection to a short story.  Obviously, it ranges . . . What’s the longest you’ve ever had to wait to hear back from a publication?

(Image, No Copyright)

I Won and I’m Sharing the Prize with All of You!

I hope you all participated in the awesome free literary magazine contest Writer’s Relief hosted, took advantage of the super-discounted subscriptions, and are looking forward to a lovely journal coming to a mailbox near you!  After a long week of form rejection letters (I’ll talk about some of them later) it was a welcome surprise to learn that I am one of the winners (make sure you check the list!  Maybe you’re on it and you didn’t realize!) and am now a free-subscriber to Prime Mincer Literary Journal.  It’s a brand new publication that seems to only have one issue thus far–my favorite kind of literary journal to read and to submit to!–so I’m super excited.  It’s a print journal that publishes three times a year (March 15th, July 15th, and November 15th).  To make it feel like we all won, I solemnly promise to write up a summary review of the first issue as soon as I receive it so you’ll get a taste of whether you want to subscribe yourself or have something that would live happily ever after on its pages.  In the mean time, here’s the basic overview:

What They Want:  fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry. They “desire first, and foremost, solid, well-crafted and intelligent work, and beyond that are very open minded as far as form and style. Our hope is to push the creative envelope, give artists a place to take risks, and to bring a fresh, modern feel to the world of creative writing. To clarify, this does not mean that we publish only the strange and extraordinary. We love traditional fiction, but want to allow it to breathe and flourish outside of the confines of the creative writing workshop. Prime Mincer is a place to play, explore, create and exhibit, and we invite you to bring your most interesting work forward.”

How They Want It: via submittable (submishmash changed its name).

When They Want It:  The deadline for the winter edition is already done (October 1st) but it seems they have rolling acceptance.

Who They Want It From: “Although we plan on publishing established writers, we are excited at the prospect of getting first dibs on new talent, so submit away.”  (Meh.  I don’t really approve of this selectivity process, especially from new start-up publications who are not affiliated with a university, but it’s a free country so whatever floats your boat.  Just don’t make this your first submission ever, in your life, and try to beef up your publication credits before you submit.  And here’s an example of my own author’s bio.)

Archives: True, they have not published yet, but they have a few things online to give a flavor of who they are.  See here.

Submission Response Time: Unknown.

**Simultaneous submissions are fine (as long as you follow the polite writer rules) but previously published work is not.

 

 

Revealed: Real-Life Submission Response Time for storySouth

A bit unusual to hear back outside of the work week, but I got a rejection letter on Saturday from storySouth, a magazine all about the–you guessed it!–Southern experience narrative.  If you’ve got a story set in the South, about the South, or if you just happen to be a resident of the South, long-term or short, then it’s a good place to consider submitting to.  It’s one of those journals I recommend because it has submission restrictions and thus the competition is a little less steep.  So if you have any connection to the region, don’t give up the chance!

Expect to hear back in about 2 months, 12 days.

I’m a little sad that my fiction story got rejected, part because I truly thought it was a good fit, and partly because it’s the sixth rejection.  What’s your record number of rejections before an acceptance letter?  According to this article, writers should expect to submit a single submission to 100 markets, which might mean 99 rejections.

[gasps and tries to recover breathing]

No offense, but I can’t think of one other place to submit this story, let alone 94 more.  Does anybody know of a journal that accepts fiction with the themes of the South, ghosts, and the rebirth of a place after devastation (namely, Hurricane Katrina) all balled-up into one?  Would appreciate the recommendations!

What NOT to Do When Submitting to Literary Journals

We’ve been over some of these creative writing submission “don’ts” before, but I think that this article, “The Number One Worst Mistake A Writer Can Make When Submitting,” from Writer’s Relief is pretty valuable in that the quotes are from real life editors working for real life publications.  It even provides the links to their journals, some of which I’ve never heard of before.  I’m particularly intrigued by Inkwell Journal because of its commitment to discovering new talent.  (I’m new and upcoming talent!  So are many of you!)

You may have heard this advice before, but don’t ignore it this time.  These editors really mean it!  Even if your story is amazing, it’ll just piss them off (rightfully so) that you didn’t follow the basic instructions.  Their advice mostly boils down to these cardinal rules:

#1: DO NOT ignore the submission guidelines.  They are law.

#2: DO NOT submit without doing some background research (i.e. reading back issues, perusing the website archives).  Make sure you’re sending in pieces that the journal would actually want to publish.  Otherwise, it’s a waste of the editors’ time and yours because you should already know, it’s going to be a flat-out “no.”

If you avoid doing these things, you’re already one step closer to getting published.  I can’t really put it better than Writer’s Relief, in this case:

The fact is that many writers—more than you may think—are not making professional, well-targeted submissions. So if YOU are making professional, well-targeted submissions, you’re a step ahead, a cut above, at the front of the line, the head of the class!

Good luck!  Keep submitting!  And submit smart.

Unexpected Writing Scams: Should You Pay to Submit Your Writing?

Like Brevity, I’m a little confused about the cancellation of the Richard M. Thorson Literary Prize for Agrarian Prose, for the allegedly unacceptable practice of charging contest submission fees.  Very nearly every sanctioned writing contest I’ve ever entered, I’ve been required to pay a small reading fee.  None of them were scams.  Many were posted by sources that I trust, such as Poets & Writers writing contest listings online and in their magazine, or on the Writer’s Relief’s listings.  They’re hosted by completely reputable literary journals.  Even book contests organized by the National Association of Elementary School Principals have fees.  In fact, I won 2nd place in a writing contest at The Baltimore Review that required a small entry fee of $15 (normally it’s only $10 entry fee, but I opted into the reduced year’s subscription combo package).  Nobody is calling for all these contests to be cancelled and, as someone who has submitted to both the aforementioned contests, I’m certainly not feeling scammed.  I understand that writing contests depend on those fees.  Where do you think the prize money for winning first, second, or third place comes from?  How else would they function?

Some literary journals, such as Zahir, are now requiring writers to pay small fees for general online submissions too.  Ranging between $1.50 and $2.50, these literary journals argue that it’s the same price you would pay for postage to mail the manuscript snail mail style.  If writers choose to mail it snail mail, they don’t have to pay the fee at all.  I think it’s pretty fair, all things considered.  I accept that it’s a tiny donation to keep some of my favorite literary journals afloat.

But maybe I’ve just been lucky in my writing submissions.  There are a lot of scams out there.  Other writers have recommended using Writer Beware to safeguard themselves against lecherous agents and fake writing contests.  (P.S.  NEVER PAY TO HAVE A LITERARY AGENT READ YOUR WORK!!  Read this list of red flags for things reputable literary agents should NEVER ask you to do or pay for.)

What do you think?  Should writers have to pay an entry fee for contests?  Is there a maximum amount that contests should charge?  Is it fair that literary journals are charging for general submissions?  Have you ever encountered any writing scams that you’d like to warn us about?