On Getting Your Writing Anthologized

Imagine this, but the 2012 version, coming soon (October) with MY writing inside!

The moment you find out, you get this warm, fuzzy, ridiculously happy feeling. And then you look at previous editions of the anthology on Amazon to see their popularity/sales ranking. Then you look at those same past editions on Goodreads to see how many people actually read them and liked them. And then you go and rewrite your author bio everywhere it exists on the internet or in your files, never copying and pasting it but rather rewriting it over and over again so you can revel in the excitement and joy of this accomplishment and do a little happy dance every time you start typing out the new sentence “. . . and with work anthologized by Press 53.”

I actually got the call informing me I had been awarded Honorable Mention, and would thus be included in the anthology, a few weeks ago. But they asked that I keep it hushed until they had made the official announcement.

FINALLY! I can celebrate with all of you!

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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.

How Winning a Writing Contest Can Improve a Writer’s Self-Esteem

Wonderful news, folks! You are officially reading the blog of the winner of Honorable Mention in the 2011 Writer’s Digest Young Adult Fiction Competition!* According to their congratulatory email, “competition was fierce,” so I’m super proud! While first and second place comes with fame (publication of their entry in Writer’s Digest) and fortune (they won some prize money), honorable mention certainly isn’t a shabby win!

Benefits from Winning Honorable Mention:

  1. One free copy of the 2012 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market
  2. Mentions/Promotion in the May/June 2012 issue of Writer’s Digest and on www.writersdigest.com
  3. Bragging rights in future cover letters
  4. Bragging rights in future query letters
  5. Total rejuvenation and inspiration to jump back into my NaNoWriMo novel

You see, the short YA story I submitted to the contest was an excerpt of my NaNoWriMo novel, Waterlogged.  I had already written the first three chapters of the novel for my senior undergraduate creative writing seminar last spring and decided to finish the rest of the book during November. It was the best writing I had on hand when the deadline for this contest rolled around so I also decided to submit an excerpt of that already revised/edited/reviewed beginning. And it won! This recognition makes me feel like the entire month of November wasn’t wasted, like my novel has some real potential and merit, and now I am pumped to start the year-long process of rewriting the entire hot mess that is my 56,000-word novel! And I’m even more pumped to have the polished manuscript ready for literary agent submissions so that I can insert this mention-worthy award in the query letter. I already feel like this book has a statistically-better chance of getting an agent!

New Year’s Resolution: Finish the entire manuscript and query it at least once before New Year’s 2012. Everybody hold me to this goal!

*Please excuse me while I jump about in unadulterated joy and excitement.

All I Want For Christmas is an Acceptance Letter

It’s not really the only thing I want this year (I’d really like Bank of America to stop dragging their feet–they’re taking so long that paperwork keeps expiring and we have to resubmit things over and over again–and let me buy the condo I’ve been waiting on for months so I’ll actually have a place to live) but an acceptance letter would be a nice gift to receive! I’ve gotten several rejection letters as of late and haven’t been submitting great quantities of new short stories anywhere, but I am still waiting to hear a “yes” or “no” from the following:

Painted Bride Quarterly (date submitted: January 4th, 2011; what submitted: 1 fiction, 1 non-fiction)  Official Response Time:  unknown

Writer’s Digest Young Adult Fiction Contest (date submitted: October 16th, 2011; what submitted: 1 fiction) Official Response Time: December 31st

Literary Laundry (date submitted: October 1st, 2011; what submitted: 1 fiction) Official Response Time: 6 months or under

Tennessee Williams Fiction Contest (date submitted: November 13th, 2011; what submitted: 1 fiction) Official Response Time: March 1st, 2012

Press 53 (date submitted: September 24th, 2011; what submitted: 1 non-fiction) Official Response Time: July 1, 2012

I never heard back from skirt.com and on their submission page they state that if they don’t respond within eight weeks, then it’s a rejection. This, I would just like to mention, is my greatest pet peeve as a writer–especially when they don’t even confirm receipt of your submission–so I’m not even sure if someone read my story. Let’s hope that all publications make a New Year’s resolution to use submission managers like submittable from now on!

The Scoop on New South Journal

As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the rejection letters I got in the past month was for New South, the official literary art journal of George State University. I submitted a fiction story that I’ve been shopping around for two years now–a story I’ve fixed-up, reorganized, and rewrote at the recommendation of different editors (and at my own recommendation as my writing has improved over time and each old version becomes stale) for the same length of time. It’s gotten more rejection letters than all of my other rejection letters combined,* but I simply cannot abandon it and put it in a drawer. It won the 2009 Fuller Fiction Award, an undergraduate award specifically for Bloomsburg University students, and got an “almost, but we don’t have time to wait for the edits” rejection letter.** This convinces me that it must have some literary merit and I am determined to find people who agree. Have any of you gone through similar repetitive experiences with a submission? Did it pay off?

In any case, New South isn’t the right home for this story, but it might be for your work! Check out the information below, read some excerpts from past issues here, and consider submitting.

What They Want:  “New South seeks to publish high quality work, regardless of genre, form, or regional ties. We are looking for what is new, what is fresh, what is different, whether it comes from the Southern United States, the South of India, or the North, East or West of Anywhere. ” This can come in the form of one fiction story up to 9,000 words in length, or up to five short-shorts under 1,000 words each; up to five poems; creative nonfiction or lyric essay up to 9,000 words in length. For criticism, please query first.

How They Want It: Via their own online submission manager, Tell It Slant. See further submission guidelines here.

When They Want It: Anytime. Rolling submissions.

Contests? Yes! They’re having one right now; there are awards for both prose and poetry. Grand prize is $1,000.

Simultaneous Submissions Allowed? Yes.

Paid Market? No.

Official Submission Response Time: Not mentioned.

Personal Submission Response Time: 2 months, 9 days

*This isn’t actually true. The story has gotten ten rejection letters total and I’ve certainly received more rejection letters than that.

**”Why not resubmit there?” you ask. Well, the journal in question, Glass Mountain, only accepts undergraduate writing and by the time the next period of open submissions rolled around, I had graduated. It’s an excellent journal though, so if you’re an undergraduate, definitely consider submitting!

What 1,100 Words Looks Like: Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo 2011

I’m currently plowing through the book No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty, the creator of NaNoWriMo, as I prepare for the incredibly unplanned month of writing ahead of me.  (Being that I’ve gotten SNOWED IN  the weekend before Halloween–strange and unacceptable–I have time to start and finish an entire book.)

Four inches of snow before Halloween; Pennsylvania, 2011

Reading it is actually calming down my nerves quite a bit . . . and leading me to call everyone I know and begging them to be a “NaNoWriMo Nazi and/or slave driver” for the next month.  (Baty recommends that NaNoWriMo participants brag about our aspirational, completed-novel intentions beforehand so that we’re guilted into actually finishing.)

One of the main things the book stresses is pre-planning our writing time by recording what we do on a daily basis, color-coding the essential, important, and non-important activities and committing to replacing the non-important and occasional important activities with writing time.

My average day as it stands now looks a lot like this:

6:30 am:  Wake up, make sure younger sister hasn’t overslept her alarm and is heading out for school; fall back asleep.

7:00 am:  Wake up again.

7:00 am-7:30 am: Shower, dress, eat, pack lunch.

7:30 am-9:00 am: Drive to work while listening to a lovely audiobook.

9:00 am-1:00 pm: Official editing day job.

1:00 pm-2:00 pm: Lunch break.  Sometimes blog, sometimes read, sometimes take a walk in the local park.

2:00 pm-5:00 pm: Official editing day job continued.

5:00 pm-6:15 pm: Drive back home while listening to more of the lovely audiobook.

7:00 pm-8:00 pm: Physical therapy.

8:15 pm-11 pm: Hang out with family and/or boyfriend.  Sometimes this involves writing/blogging while boyfriend is doing homework.  Sometimes this involves watching unnecessary amounts of television.

I’m thinking that if I forfeit that extra half hour of sleep every morning (even as I say this I know it’s unlikely), make my lunch break a power-hour (higher likelihood), write some more in the parking lot before physical therapy (similarly high potential, as long as traffic doesn’t steal away the time), and commit to being in the same room with those I love but generally ignoring their presence (possible, especially on nights when the boyfriend is ignoring me because of his own heavy homework load) while I write should make NaNoWriMo physically possible for the first time ever, for me at least.

If you were reading between the lines, you noticed that I cut out my blogging time for the next month.  Sad, but true.  Unfortunately, I’m going to have to take a working vacation and neglect the blog for awhile (I’m sorry!!).  I’ll still be on Twitter–mostly for the daily bragging (or shamefully pathetic) tweet of my word count–and apparently we can have friends on the NaNoWriMo website this year, so don’t miss me if you don’t want to; be my writing buddy and we can cheer each to the finishing line!  (I’m listed as HannahKarena.)

I tried NaNoWriMo once before, my sophomore year of college, and promised myself I would never put myself through it again until after I graduated.  You don’t have free time in college; you just have time where you can multitask homework with something more social and pleasant.  Like doing homework in a group at Dunkin Donuts at 11:00 pm.  Or watching reruns of Will & Grace on the couch with your roommate while you read your textbooks during the commercials.  There was simply no room to fit more homework-like activity.  Kudo’s to Amanda, a freshman who’s making a go of it despite the odds.  Also kudo’s to Katy and Sammy, who are not freshman but lead busy lives and deserve ample amounts of credit for their pledge.

I did write my first book in college, though.  I invented a “How to Write a Children’s Book” independent study where I wrote my book for credit, so my class schedule actually built-in writing time.  Every two weeks I had 2,000 words due.  As I face NaNoWriMo–where I’m expected to write 1,667 words a day–that deadline of long ago seems laughable, but it was really good practice for me.  By the end of the semester I had a roughly 18,000-word manuscript with a beginning, middle, end, and break-neck-speed pacing.  (That summer I rewrote/edited it and it slowed down into its expanded current size of about 35,000).  The reasons for this less intense productivity were:

  1. I was carefully editing my pages as I went so that my adviser (shout out to Professor Lawrence!) could actually enjoy and potentially be mildly impressed by my prose.  NaNoWriMo, on the other hand, results in 50,000 words of garbled crap worthy of nobody’s eyes but mine own; instead of being born naturally–complete with all ten fingers, plot devises, and toes–NaNoWriMo projects are like a really horrifying Frankenstein experiment.  It’s going to take months of rewriting and hardcore editing before this new book is even reasonably presentable to the general public; and,
  2. It was historical fiction and I was spending hours every week doing extensive research.

To help myself along this time, I’m doing a completely fictional book.  No research.  Everything will be pieced together from my own imagination.  Also, to help I’ve already gotten 6,000 words written.

Now stop right there.  I heard all of you start hissing “cheater.”  I promise, I’m not cheating.  I solemnly promise that I will not include these first 6,000 words toward my 50,000-word goal.  Instead, in the end I shall have a 56,000-word manuscript.  But the benefit of already having a head start is that I have a grasp of my characters, the narrative voice, and a general idea of what I want to happen along the way.  I went into my first NaNoWriMo experience completely blind and started writing a random novel.  When it died after 6,000 words or so, I started a new one.  And when that one died, I gave up.

This year, I’m dedicated to actually finishing.  My motivation?  The 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.  They have two categories–general fiction and YA fiction–and the winner of each gets a $15,000 royalty advance and a publishing contract with Penguin.  What’s not to be hopeful about?

Hope to see a bunch of you in the NaNoWriMo chat rooms, lots of you at the finishing line, and everybody else in a month!

Just keep writin’ writin’ writin’ and don’t forget to submit, submit, submit.

*For gauging purposes, this post is an example of 1,100 words.  Can you write that plus a smidgen more every day?

When They Came to Delete the Book from the Syllabus

Sorry to have broke my usually reliable blogging schedule.  For some reason a billion writing deadlines have piled up on me this week in particular (I’m submitting something to the Tiny Texas House Writing Competition I mentioned a while back and Sucker magazine, which I mentioned even father back; deadline: this weekend) and instead of dividing my writing time I’ve been (am) burrowing and focusing solely on polishing up my short stories.

But I cannot let something so completely wonderful and appropriate as Banned Book Week go by unmentioned!  My favorite way to celebrate is to start of the week at the National Book Festival in D.C.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to attend this year and I am extremely jealous of all of you who saw Toni Morrison, Tomi dePaola, Katherine Paterson, and Brian Selznick, the author of the new talk of the town title, Wonderstruck,* a graphic novel like children’s book that made such a big splash that the NYC bookstore Books of Wonder renamed itself Books of Wonderstruck (I believe this is temporary and promotional).

But I did go the year Neil Gaiman made his appearance and read an entire chapter from his not-yet-released, not-yet-a-Newbery-Award-winner book, The Graveyard Book.  Magic.

Aside from this wonderful event, the best way to celebrate Banned Book Week, in my opinion, is to share moments when you personally experienced book censorship.  So here’s my story.

My tenth grade English teacher was an amazing lady.  She introduced me to two of the books that completely changed my life: To Kill a Mockingbird and My Antonia.  I always knew I loved writing, but her class was the first in which I felt that I was actually good at it.  Her prompts were tough, but I honestly enjoyed writing the essays on the weekends.  She assigned a lot of the classics and nobody censured her choices.

But my eleventh grade year, when I had moved on to a different teacher, she decided to add some new material to her class.  She had all her students read Snow Falling on Cedars, a book I was unfamiliar with at the time.  It wasn’t until after her classes read and discussed the book that problems arose.  I don’t want to ruin the story for you but, you see, there’s an extremely brief and extremely not-graphic sex scene.

Are you scandalized?

Apparently somebody’s parents were.  Calls were made and the district formally decreed that the book was never allowed to appear on class syllables again.  Let me explain something here.  My hometown and high school are considered very liberal in the grand scheme of the United States so this minor act of censorship was not taken lightly.  People were furious.  Similar to the recent national outrage about the Republic school district and the not-so-minor censorship of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five (a book, which my school district happened to assign as required reading this summer for my younger sister).

But do you know what the best part of it was?  Everyone took the censorship as a book recommendation.  For weeks afterwards, every copy in the local libraries was borrowed out non-stop.  People went and bought their own copies.  A majority of the students and teachers carried it around in the hallways, reading it during study hall and lunch break.

So if you hear about a book being banned, rush out and get a copy immediately.  If it’s worth being banned, it probably means it’s worth reading.

What’s your banned book story?  Recommend those books!

*I would just like to mention that I’m betting it AT LEAST gets short listed for the Caldecott Award.  He won it back in 2008 with The Invention of Hugo Cabret too.  You heard the prediction here first!