“Dear Editor, thank you for considering…”

(Image: www.freepik.com)

I have 42 submissions out.

I want to say something about Schrodinger’s cat here, but I’m shit at anything to do with math or science, and would probably screw it up. My point is that I have 42 unknowns floating in the universe. They could get accepted, rejected, or languish in an abandoned email folder.

(Running total for the year is 70-something, with a handful of acceptances. Your girl can take rejection.)

All I want to do is write and revise, or chat with my writer friends about writing and revising, or read cool books. Every sub call sparks an idea, several of which I actually try to draft because I’m finally making time for it. I stay up late, ignore other obligations, and put off chores. I work with a mentor, enroll in classes and workshops, and have applied for a poetry scholarship. I have one story ready to go on the first, and another under construction for a different sub call.

And ideas for 4-5 book-length manuscripts, that I’ll write fuck-knows-when.

(This week, I’ve spent head time with a monster in a hotel, two women flirting over a fresh corpse, an amorous portrait, an Irish sea creature, and other creeps, I guess making me the biggest creep of the bunch.)

I hope there’s quality in all this quantity.

My “become a writer” game plan has three prongs. 1. Write and submit so damn much that by laws of probability, some stuff has to get accepted. 2. Write so much that my craft improves bit by bit. 3. Don’t stop.

Submitting work to magazines and anthologies is a demonstration of hope and stubbornness (and once or twice for me, spite). At this point, stubborness is in the lead.

Go, stubborness, go.

“[B]e surprised by the process,” an interview with Jessica McHugh

Jessica McHugh is a novelist, a 2x Bram Stoker Award®-nominated poet, and an internationally-produced playwright running amok in the fields of horror, sci-fi, young adult, and wherever else her peculiar mind leads. She’s had twenty-five books published in thirteen years, including her bizarro romp, The Green Kangaroos, her YA series, The Darla Decker Diaries, and her Elgin Award-nominated blackout poetry collection, A Complex Accident of Life. For more info about publications and blackout poetry commissions, please visit McHughniverse.com.

Here, she answers a few questions about her art, and how she got involved with blackout poetry.

Q: How is the experience of reading/absorbing blackout poetry different than that of traditionally written poetry?

A: I think the main difference is the amount of time you spend reading the piece, especially if the “blackout” portion is more complex and/or takes on the personality of the poem, which is what I try to do with my work. If the source material is apparent, I might spend even more time reading and re-reading, because the blackout poem sometimes honors and uplifts the original piece, whether it was intentional or not. And while I prefer to include a typed version of the poem with my pieces, not everyone does that, and if the blackout art doesn’t create a legible path for the eye, the poem might be more difficult to read/interpret and require a little more work to enjoy.

Otherwise, I think it’s a pretty similar experience. I’ve written poetry and monologues using blackout poetry techniques without actually creating a blackout piece, and I don’t think most readers would know I used a nontraditional method if I didn’t mention it. It’s an incredibly fun and versatile art form.

Q: With your unique work, you have carved out a niche in the horror writing community. How has the support of that community bolstered both your books/work and your sense of self as an artist?

A: It’s been an interesting journey, for sure. Since my first novel publication in 2008, I’ve had ups and down with my career and seen several iterations of the horror community. I’ve seen folks band together, I’ve seen them devour each other, I’ve seen people lose relevance due to an unwillingness to change with the times, and I’ve seen people going through darkness flourish with the support of their peers and come out better and brighter on the other side.

I count myself incredibly lucky to have found lifelong friends in this community and support throughout the phases of my career. Despite experimenting with playwrighting, my young adult series, and other mediums, I remained focused on horror novels and short stories and thought I’d stay on that trajectory. I never would’ve guessed that after 14 years and 25 published books, I’d be a 2x Bram Stoker Award nominee for my poetry, but I also never expected to fall in love with blackout art so quickly after I started playing around with it in early 2019. Nor did I expect such an outpouring of support from the community. While I will continue to write in whatever genre and format strike my fancy, the way blackout poetry rekindled my artistic passion after a long period of doubt, and how my horror friendos lifted me out of my gloom and doom to embrace my new artistic endeavors, makes me think blackout poetry will be a massive part of my life forever

Q: Can you tell us more about your Little Women blackout poetry? How it compares to or differs from your work in Strange Nests and A Complex Accident of Life?

A: Absolutely! My 3rd as-yet-untitled blackout poetry collection, inspired by Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, is definitely my most ambitious project so far. It will have 155 poems to coincide with the novel’s 155th anniversary in 2023, which is triple the number of poems in both A Complex Accident of Life and Strange Nests. That wasn’t my original intention, but I’ve come to realize that “original intentions” don’t matter much when it comes to these collections. A Complex Accident of Life only became a collection because Jacob Haddon of Apokrupha saw me posting Frankenstein blackout poetry and reached out about compiling the pieces. Strange Nests wasn’t planned either; it was more of a coping mechanism after my brother passed away in January 2021 and transformed into something so much more. So I’ve rolled with the punches and allowed myself to be surprised by the process. Deciding to make a lot more poems from Little Women has opened up the narrative in a huge way and allowed me to explore weirder paths, giving the collection more of a cosmic horror feel while remaining a fierce tale of sisterhood, selfhood, and feminine rage. While an official release date has not been set yet, it will probably be available from Apokrupha around April 2023. 

Q: Finally, is there a text you have your eye on for a future project? Are you willing to share what that is?

A: For collections, I’ll likely keep using classics written by women for as long as possible, and while I’d have to verify these are in the public domain, I’d love to play with Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, and pretty much any Agatha Christie. Outside of that theme, I’m also eager to make some creepy holiday pieces from A Christmas Carol. But really, I’m open to giving anything and everything a shot. I’ve found beautiful poetry in the most unlikely places, and I never get tired of discovering the hidden treasures within. 

To commission your own blackout poem, contact Jessica here.

Writing Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops: Guest Post from Allison Hong Merrill

The blog took a spring break, but is back with Allison Hong Merrill, author of the bestselling and award-winning memoir Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops. Here, Allison tells us about the process of rebuilding and restructuring her memoir after receiving beta reader feedback, and shares some of her best writing tips. Thank you, Allison!

When reading a book, I like to see the hook, setting, character, and conflicts of the story set up within the first few pages. So I make sure to offer my reader the same gift.

Originally, my memoir, Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops, was written in a nonlinear structure. But several of my beta readers suggested that I revamp the entire manuscript and change the narrative into a chronological timeline, so I did. It was a huge undertaking. The manuscript went through twelve full revisions. On average, each pass took two weeks. And when I say, “I revamped the entire manuscript,” I mean I even changed the title. It went from Grafted Mandarin to Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops because the new structure is in ninety-nine short sections. But even after this major overhaul and subsequent edits, the first ten pages remained unchanged from the first draft to the published book. It’s because the inciting incident, setting, main characters, and conflicts of the story are established within those pages.

When writing a book, I like to do the following:

1. Imagine my book adapted into a film, then I write scenes and dialogue as if describing them from the movie.

2. Do book research and save images on pinterest.com to create a mood board for reference. For a visual person like myself, this method works really well.

3. I make myself a different writing-related promise and a reward every week. This is not a goal; it’s a promise. A goal is for reference, a promise is to be kept. Some examples of my promises are: write an hour every day, revise a chapter, create social media content. If I keep my promise that week, I reward myself. My top three rewards are: watch a movie, buy a cute notebook, sleep in on Sunday morning. If, for any reason, I fail to keep my promise, then I give myself a second chance in the following week to restore my integrity and try again. Sometimes it’s necessary to promise myself to practice the art of self-care. I’ll take a week off from writing to recharge my creative energy. I work with another writer as accountability sisters. We check in every Saturday morning to support each other and to celebrate our victories, big and small.

4. I’m a memoirist. To dive deeper into my memory, I keep a tin box of NIVEA crème on my desk. Its distinctive scent takes me back to my childhood years and, from there, I get to explore the past and find inspirations for my writing projects. Smell triggers memory. If you’re writing about your past, please consider keeping something (lotion, soap, shampoo, perfume, scented candle, essential oil, etc.) on your desk with a scent that reminds you of the olden days.

5. Because I’m a visual person, instead of setting a timer on my phone, I flip over a sixty-minute hourglass on my desk to help me stay focused on one-uninterrupted-hour of writing.

I hope you find these tips helpful. Happy writing!

Should you create an author website? Yes.

I’ll keep this one short.

Recently, I stopped waffling about whether or not I should create a website and did it. Or, rather, I paid someone else to do it, because I’m from that in-between generation that didn’t grow up with computers but now we’re forced to use them for everything and to be honest, we’re still a little disoriented. (I had a word processor in high school that was, for then, top of the line.)

I dragged my feet about it because I thought, well, I don’t have a book. I’ll make one if I get my collection published. In the meantime, I racked up publications one by one, here and there, in smaller journals and online magazines, anthologies and even on podcasts (two of those forthcoming!). I realized I had plenty to put on a website, BUT, even if I didn’t, it still would have been worth making one. Create a website for the writing life you want, not for the writing life you have? Something like that?

If you create a website, you are basically making yourself “findable” via internet search. You are giving people a way to contact you. You are creating a professional presence, so that WHEN you get published (gotta believe, right?), you already have that piece in place. When you get stories or poems picked up by journals, small or large, you can actually fill in the “website” box on the bio form. And if you’re a blogger (whether it’s shouting into the void or talking to a few people or to many), it gives you a handy place to keep posts.

One of my favorite things about having a website, though, is a thing just for me. I love having one place where all of my publications and little accolades get to live. It’s like a digital creative resume. An online scrapbook. It’s nice to see all of my work together–like the last, oh, decade and a half of writing and revising and submitting has amounted to more than nothing.

If you don’t have money to spend on a website right now, create one for free on WordPress or a similar platform. You can upgrade it later and update it as you go.

(Also, it’s worth noting that there have been very few days with zero website visitors.)

If nothing else, I bet your mom/partner/best friend/dog/cat will think your website is cool.

“Comparisons are a waste of time,” an interview with Ellen Birkett Morris

Award-winning author Ellen Birkett Morris, whose titles include Lost Girls, Abide, and Surrender, shares here her philosophy on writing and the ways in which her career has continued to change and evolve, always coming back to words and their power. Find out more about Ellen, see her list of publications, and check out other interviews at ellenbirketmorris.ink.

Q: One thing I often remind myself and cheer on other writers with is this idea of determination and resilience–belief in one’s work, stubbornness even. Your own publications and projects are impressive in both their number and variety–you write and teach and publish in so many genres. How have you developed persistence? What can you share with others on the topic? 

A: My work is fueled by the fact that I really love to write.  Before I pursued creative writing seriously I worked my way into jobs in journalism and freelance writing that allowed me to write. Once I started to write creatively I learned how hard it is to get published and how much rejection was involved. I started by taking classes and working with a writing group. I made my work the best it could be. Then I reminded myself that each writer brings a different style and level of talent to the work so comparisons are a waste of time. I focus on what I do best. When it comes to rejection I realize that different editors like different things. It isn’t a reflection of my worth as a writer. If I get a no then I revise the work and send it elsewhere. No one is going to work harder than me to get my voice in the world, so I believe deeply in my work.

Q: Do you have a “home genre,” one you are more comfortable with than others? If so, which is it, and what about it appeals to you? 

A: I love the short story form the most and think I am good at it, but poetry is where I began as a writer. Poetry is my home. I love how crystalized poems are, how they capture experience through just the right image and in so few words. As a writer you have to bring the camera in very close in poems so you reflect both an outer world and an inner existence. Each poem is a beautiful puzzle. I have a new chapbook out called Abide from Seven Kitchens Press.

Q: What are your current projects or undertakings, and why are they energizing you right now? 

A: I am currently working on a collection of stories centered on the theme of home. Home is something we can all relate to and it can be looked at through so many different viewpoints.

I am also working on revising novel-length work. I just hired a developmental editor and I can’t wait to learn a lot from him about how to make my novel work better.

Q: If developing and writing and revising are one side of a coin, the other side is submitting and querying and promoting. That second side is the one many of us struggle with–either because we don’t have the skills or the inclination. How have you found a balance between the two over the years, or at least the tools and time needed to market and publicize your work? Do you have any advice for the rest of us? 

A: I had the advantage of working in journalism and getting used to seeing my work in print. I brought that same drive to my creative writing. As a reporter, I was on the receiving end of pitches and got to learn a bit about marketing. I’ve spent over 15 years doing contract public relations for a women’s foundation so that has helped build my promotion skills. I remind myself that my work won’t get published unless I put it in front of an editor. Once it is published it won’t catch reader’s eyes unless I promote it. That keeps me going. It is hard to find the time, but worth it. There are great resources on social media, especially The Writer’s Bridge run by Allison K. Williams and Ashleigh Renard. I also love “Before and After the Book Deal” by Courtney Maum.

“We do have a certain responsibility to be truthful,” an interview with Kelly Sundberg

Recently I had the opportunity to talk to Kelly Sundberg, author of the memoir Goodbye, Sweet Girl, (Harper Collins) about truth, bravery, and authenticity.

Q: What is the project you are working on now? How does it different from your debut memoir, and how has your craft evolved since then?

A: I’m working on a collection of linked, lyric essays that is tentatively titled The Witching Hour: Essays From an After. This collection is very different from my memoir. My memoir was mostly narrative in terms of style, and though there were flashbacks, the story generally unfolded in a chronological manner. The Witching Hour, first of all, is essays because I’m writing about PTSD. I don’t believe that any narrative of PTSD can be told in a linear fashion, because PTSD doesn’t unfold in any linear way. The essays use form to mimic the obsessive thought patterns that accompany PTSD. There is a lot of repetition and circling back. One essay is an erasure of my ex-husband’s apologies that he wrote to me. Another one is about single parenting, and it’s written entirely in couplets. Accompanying the essays are artifacts and snippets from my life. It’s a weird book, but I think it’s good weird. I haven’t seen anything else quite like it. I think my craft is deepened and more sophisticated in this book. I’m really excited by what I’m doing in it, and it’s almost ready to send out. My biggest dream for this book is that it finds a publishing home where it’s really cherished and allowed to be the book that I dreamed it would be. I worried a lot about sales with the first book (even though folks advised me not to), and that worry didn’t serve me well. Worrying about sales forces you to completely project your hopes and aspirations onto something that’s out of your control.  I know now that all I can do is write the book that I want to write, then trust that it will find the readers it needs to find.

Q: You are known for being open and honest on social media. How does that relate to your work as a nonfiction author? Is that sort of radical honesty something that takes practice, like a tool to keep sharp?

A: I am known for being open and honest on social media, and though I’m not sure that’s always served me well, it is who I am. When I was in an abusive marriage, I had to keep a lot of secrets. I kept secrets to protect my ex, myself, my child, and because of shame. What happened is that my physical body got ill. I genuinely believe that secrets are like poison. Since then, I’ve committed myself to truth telling and to being my authentic self as much as possible. What that means is that I’m radically honest, even if that hurts me or puts me in a bad light. Ultimately, I’d rather have people in my life who like me as I truly am than people in my life who like a mirage of what I want to be. I mean, I’m not saying that I never lie. That would be completely disingenuous. What I’m saying is that I’ve identified honesty as a value that I care about, and I work very hard to live by my values.

I will say that the nonfiction world is small, and I think that all of us know of certain writers who embellish or are “truthy” or who outright lie, and that frustrates me a lot because folks in the community just kind of step aside and watch it happen. It’s easier to keep the peace than to speak out, you know? As nonfiction writers, I think that we do have a certain responsibility to be truthful, and if you’re not able to be truthful, then why not just write fiction?

I think it’s important to note that, because of my history, I have a genuine and sincere belief in accountability culture. I believe that folks should be held accountable, whether that’s through a call-out or a call-in, but I’m not some kind of vigilante. I’m someone who was harmed by an individual, then harmed even more by the people who covered for and/or defended him. I have a personal stake in this. I worry sometimes that folks think I’m inflexible or judgmental. I expressed this worry to a friend recently, and she said, “Kelly, you’re very generous and allow folks all kinds of room to be human. You just draw the line when it comes to liars and abusers.” I found some consolation there because I’m human, and I’ve harmed people in ways that sometimes keep me up at night. No one is perfect, and I’m not even close. But because of my history, I have to draw some lines for myself.

Q: Your essay and memoir topics often inspire others to share their stories with you, AND you’re a writing instructor who reads a lot of student work. How do you maintain your emotional boundaries and your empathy? How do you avoid burnout? 

A: Oh man, Wellbutrin? I don’t know that I have an answer for that question. The truth is that I don’t have great emotional boundaries. I cry in workshop when my students read something hard. I cry at home when I’m reading their essays. I feel for them. I wish that I could adopt some of them. I’m an instructor, and my job is to help their writing get better—not to fix their lives—because what I’m not is a therapist. Still, that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel it all in my heart and deeply wish that I could step in and help. I do help in the ways that I can. I listen, I offer advice that’s within the realm of my experience, and I make referrals to mental health providers when necessary. My classroom environment is very safe and inclusive, and I know that my students would back me up on that. And for every sad story that I read, there is a story of joy or triumph. I also get to see most of these students at the beginning of their adult lives, and I know that they are not defined by anything that has happened to them. One of my greatest joys is getting to see a student thrive years after graduation.

And as for burnout, it’s not reading student papers or holding their stories that causes me burnout. It is a gift to hold space for all of those stories. What causes me burnout is the world that we live in where so many of my students are not born into circumstances that are designed to help them succeed. Watching them struggle in the face of capitalism, institutionalized racism, ableism, etc., etc., etc. (while I struggle alongside them in many of the same ways), that’s what causes me burnout.

Q: Finally, would you offer some advice for those of us who are working on personal essays or memoirs? 

A: My advice would be to trust yourself and your voice. The best writers aren’t afraid to take risks because they trust themselves. If you take a risk, and you fail, you’ve still grown as a writer, and every risk gets you closer to success. It was when I really trusted myself to explore and experiment and question in my writing that it bloomed into something I was proud of. And honestly, trusting yourself and your ability to fail and come out alive is good advice for just about anything.

Writing resolutions: yes or no?

We’re two days into the new year. We’ve all seen the memes–walk quietly, don’t claim this will be your year, don’t tempt fate, it can always get worse, etc. We thought 2021 would be better than 2020, and we were disappointed. So.

We’ve also all seen the range of social media posts about resolutions–why they are helpful, and why they are terrible, and the folks in the comment sections are really feeling some feelings. So.

Where do you fall? Are you making any resolutions this year, particularly for your writing or reading or research?

A while back, a friend of mine said she doesn’t call them “resolutions,” because she thinks there is a succeed/fail dichotomy inherent in the term. A resolution is a promise, and you either keep a promise or you don’t. Instead, she sets New Year “goals,” which are a little more malleable. You work toward goals, you make progress toward goals, and goals are adjustable. The “reaching for” is the whole point. I love that, and though I also use the word “resolutions,” I think of them as goals–as long as I make progress, I have nothing to beat myself up over at the end of the year.

This year, some of those goals are vague, and some are more specific. I want to write more, and I want to work on getting 100 rejections (and so submitting my butt off). Credit for that last idea goes to Kim Liao at LitHub. I also want to finish my story collection and start sending it off to whole-manuscript contests and publishing houses that don’t require an agent (I’ve heard from other writers that it’s an extraordinary feat to get an agent with a story collection; my energy is likely better spent elsewhere). I’m signed up for an awesome class in February (Feminist Horror with Lindsay Merbaum), and in June, I’m taking myself on a five-day writing retreat at a cottage near a lake. I want to read at least one book each month and lift up other writers whenever possible. I also want to post to each of my blogs twice per month, with one of those being an author interview or guest post. And I’ll keep tracking my submissions, fees, and responses, so I can compare 2022’s numbers to those of 2021.

I know now that I will reach some of those and not reach others. But that’s fine. I’ll be reaching all year.

“I really need a deadline and accountability to be my most productive,” an interview with Heather Frese

Recently I had the chance to talk to my pal Heather Frese, author of The Baddest Girl on the Planet (Blair) about the challenges of writing while parenting and the importance of finding your “people.”

Q: What are some of your recent and current projects? What are you working on now?  

A: My debut novel, The Baddest Girl on the Planet, won the Lee Smith Novel Prize and was released in spring of 2021 (Blair). Prior to that, I’d published short stories and essays, and was shortlisted in the Pushcart Prize Anthology and Best American Essays. I’m currently working on, or trying to work on, a big revision to a novel that’s been sitting in a metaphorical drawer for a long while now. I’ve got a few essays underway and I have some ideas percolating for a new novel, but nothing has solidified yet.

Q: Recently, we formed a small writing support/workshop group. What does that do for you or your writing? 

A: I really need a deadline and accountability to be my most productive, and this group gave me that. And it was an extra bonus to have that accountability provided by some of my favorite people! 

Q: Including our workshop group and friends outside of it, why is it important to you to connect with other busy writers? 

A: I think for me, after I finished my MFA program and moved, I had a bit of an identity crisis that was compounded by my transition into the overwhelming-ness that was early motherhood. So connecting with other busy writers was a really vital way to remind myself that I was, indeed, a writer. Even when I wasn’t really writing (and I had a good chunk of years where I was intensively mothering and not really writing), that connection was so important to me in maintaining the idea of myself as a writer, and kept me holding on to a near future where I would write again.

Q: What else is competing for your time? What other priorities and obligations are you trying to write around? 

A: I’m the primary caregiver to three young kids. They’re awesome little humans. They’re sweet and smart and hilarious, and oh boy do they take up nearly everything I have, mentally and physically. I came to realize pretty early into motherhood that I couldn’t write while they were awake and/or in my near vicinity. You can catch tiny snippets of time that way, like a sentence or to jot a note, but the sustained flow of creativity and concentration to really dig in and shape something? No. And I give mad props to all those authors who wake up at 3 or 4 or 5am to write, or who stay up until 3 or 4 or 5am to write, but I can’t do it. I’m just too exhausted. This fall my youngest started preschool a few mornings a week, so I drop everyone off at school, dash to a coffee shop, and try to switch gears and slam myself into writer-mode for a few hours. And it’s working! I’ve been so much more productive in those few kid-free hours than I’ve been in years of trying to work with kids in the house.

Q: How has being a part of communities helped your projects come together in the past? 

A: Having trusted critique partners has made a huge, huge, massive, giant impact on my writing. Oftentimes when I’m stuck on something, a writing partner will be able to quickly see what needs to happen or have an idea of how to fix things. Without that help, I’d be struggling for months before figuring it out, if I ever did. It’s also so important to have moral support and to know that I have people in my corner who understand what I’m trying to accomplish and are giving feedback based on getting the project to the vision that I have in mind, you know? Feeling like I’m not alone in this often overwhelming and demoralizing process of writing, revising, and publishing is so helpful.

Q: What recommendations do you have for writers out there who want to find a community of their own? 

A: Honestly, connecting online through social media was really powerful for me when I was living far away from my in-person communities or hadn’t found local writing friends yet. I know Facebook can be problematic, but it’s been a big positive for me in staying connected with other writers. I’d also say that it’s really important to find people who connect with your work and get what you’re trying to do. You don’t even have to write in similar styles or genres, but feeling that sense of connection or gelling with where the other person is coming from helps a lot.

The skill of being rejected

Pic: This is how I keep track of submissions. Low tech but effective.

I have found, pretty recently, that being rejected as a writer is a skill. And like any skill, you can get better at it.

During lockdown, I got back to work on my own writing, spending more time and energy on it than I had in years. Instead of finding the creative well dry, as I had feared, a couple of stories seemed to write themselves. I joined four friends in a Zoom writing workshop (we still meet). I made appointments with an excellent editor-for-hire, and we’ll schedule another session soon. I wrote and I revised, and then I wrote some more. I went on a personal writers’ retreat, renting a cabin in the Catskills with my wonderful friend N. West Moss for a few days, and drafted two new stories. For a while there, I was kicking ass.

In that time period, I also got back to submitting my work to journals and magazines and writing contests. I realized that the process energizes me–everything sent out is a chance that it will find a place in the world. Submitting stories (and sometimes, essays and poems) makes the process more real for me–it makes me feel more like a “real” writer, whatever that is.

And wow, did those rejections roll in. And they keep rolling in. And honestly, yep, sometimes they stung, and sometimes they still do. But they sting less all the time. I shrug at them now, mostly. If I get two in a day, I laugh. It sucks, even now, if I get a rejection on a submission I thought was a good fit–like if my story matched the theme, or aligned with the goals of the publication.

A few came close. “Joiner,” a story, was a finalist in the New Millennium Writing Awards. A flash piece, “Rest for the Wicked,” got a lovely rejection from the Parsec Ink contest, saying it made the longlist. Fatal Flaw rejected two poems, but encouraged me to send more (I will!).

I’ve gotten acceptances, too. For the year of 2021, my record is 5 acceptances, 43 rejections, with a handful of submissions still out. Most recently, The Elpis Pages, a print collective (with profits going to Planned Parenthood), took my essay “What’s Left.” That will be out this month. Then, I got an email from Last Girls Club, saying my story wasn’t a fit for their magazine, but could they read it on their podcast, Blood & Jazz? (The answer of course was YES.)

A lot of what has gotten accepted from 2020-2021 had been in the works for a while. Like a long-ass time. A poem that Blueline Magazine took (“Bargain,”) had existed in various forms for over seven years. “Tourist,” a flash essay Anti-Heroin Chic published, was first drafted about three years ago. Every time those pieces (and others) got rejected, I would take another look at them. Tinker. Fiddle. Tighten them up. And, not surprisingly, they got better. And then they found homes.

I was inspired by the article “Why you should aim for 100 rejections a year” from LitHub by Kim Liao. I was also motivated by a Facebook thread posted by the editor of a small press, which turned into a big conversation about why women tend to submit less often than men. (Spoiler: it’s because patriarchy.) The main idea with both of those? Submit, submit, submit.

I look for opportunities on various Facebook pages, through Reedsy, Newpages, and Erica Verillo’s blog, Publishing and Other Forms of Insanity. I don’t mind submissions fees–publications are expensive to run and print, and need to pay for staff and software, etc.–but I don’t break the bank. I look for cheap and free submissions opportunities, too. I keep track of everything in a janky notebook–see photo. (I tried keeping a tidy Excel file, but that’s just not me–I’m a pen-and-paper gal at heart.)

In 2022, I hope to hit the 100 rejection mark. If I double my rejections, I might just double my acceptances, too. Who’s in?

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑