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Out where? Well, there, and there, and there.

I’m talking about getting the creative writing out there, into the great wide open–beyond the blog, and into news outlets, magazines, and journals–and so are a lot of other bloggers. So, I thought I might start a convo here, where we can collect some pros, cons, and lessons learned.

Sound good? I’ll start with a disclaimer. I am no expert. I have an MFA in Creative Writing under my belt (along with a lot of Xmas cheese); yet we rarely discussed in short fiction and novel-writing courses what to do with our pieces after we’d written them–past the Sisyphean process of write-edit-trash-revisit-rewrite-edit, that is. Really, a piece of writing may never be “finished,” but eventually, it’s good to let it go. How do you know if your writing might be ready to submit?

  1. Join a writer’s group and find honest readers for honest critiques of your work. In-person groups are great, so long as it’s about the work and not just the wine; online’s OK too. For years, I was active in a novel-writing critique group hosted at Zoetrope and made very meaningful–if virtual–writerly connections. In real life or via FB or other social media, your best readers aren’t necessarily your best friends (or even the best writers you know); they are thoughtful readers. (And that’s exactly what we writers should be doing anytime we’re not actively writing: reading.) And, don’t forget your thick skin for the critiquing process! Best to separate yourself from your writing. The key there: write a lot; move on to the next essay or story or poem or chapter, and you won’t feel so “attached.” Ya know, as Samuel Beckett said, “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” It’s a process, and it takes a long time.
  2. Got a piece worth submitting? And, boy is “submit” the right word . Want to read about my submission angst: here you go. Want a short cut? There are ways to make the process a little easier. Start local. Check out your town’s free newspaper or the journal published by your local community college. For regional literary publications and the big journals we’ve heard of–Literistic* will send you a list of publications that might be looking for work like yours. (Note that many of these publications have readerships smaller than blog follow-ships, so that’s important to weigh.) Writer’s Relief, while more expensive, will even submit for you. While I don’t recommend cutting out the process of connecting with journals and magazines, yourself, I have used their a la carte offering to better target my submissions–with some success. Literary publications come and go all the time–Tin House,Β you will be missed–and for that reason, Submittable‘s “Discover” function helps the search; the site also keeps track of your active, declined, and accepted pieces, which is handy for the spreadsheet-phobic (me). Bottom line: submit a lot; it’s a numbers game, with some estimates of 100 rejections for every one acceptance. My number’s game story here.
  3. Do what we bloggers already do well. That is, learn from our betters and connect with our peers. Here’s where the conversation can get really heady, if you want it to, and we can parse what it means to be a literary citizen. For a deep dive into the rise of identity politics in literary writing, check out this piece from Subtropics. For my purposes here, I define literary citizenship as taking an active and responsible role in the communal writing life. For writers, this means writing. But also reading what’s come before and what’s contemporary. This means keeping literacy and literary organizations alive. Ya know, interacting and giving as much as you get. We bloggers are nodding our heads, because this kind of reciprocal relationship is what blogging is all about. At the risk of ensuring Jonathan Franzen will never blurb a book of mine, such a reclusive literary personality would never make it as a blogger. Just sayin.’

Have I made myself out to be a complete altruist in this writing life game? You know I’m not. I want my writing to be read. I want to be able to write, first and foremost, what I want; not what’s required by university marketing and comms departments (God bless ya for keeping me in said Xmas cheese!).

But I am happy to work for my spot in the writing life, because this literary citizenship stuff is good stuff: 2018 was a good year for it, during which I participated in a literary festival near my hometown; conducted writing research online and off; made a method of my writing by taking it outdoors; published work by artists I admire. And, post after post, connected with you here.

I’m not one for big resolutions but I am one for glomming onto other writers’ resolutions (thank you, Kelly Griffiths). For 2019, it’s agent or bust, “bust” being defined as 100 rejections. Agent querying is hard–maybe not hell, but a suburb of hell. Still, connecting with agents as people makes querying feel less like torture and more like part of a necessary process that’s helping me hone my skills and art (and patience, yes, there’s some of that.)

So, let’s keep up the back-and-forth here. Tell me what you like and what you don’t. And I hope you’ll keep an eye out for my next posts, including my forthcoming interview with Ohio Poet Laureate Dave Lucas as well as notices of two of my stories, which are to be published–one online, one in print–later this month.

In the D.C. area? I’ll be reading at the issue launch event for Little Patuxent Review later this month. In April, I’ll be attending the Conversations and Connections conference sponsored by Barrelhouse, which brings together writers, editors, and publishers.

*Note that if you sign up for Literistic‘s submission list service, I’ll receive a small kickback. But I know you’ll like it.

P.S. Thanks–and congrats again–to Lutheran Liar Looks at Life for getting “out there” and helping to inspire this post.

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26 thoughts on ““Out there”…toward some semblance of literary citizenship

  1. I’m nowhere near releasing my work — I’m not even through the first draft of anything. But it’s down the road. My writing has become such an insular process that it never occurred to me to join a writers’ group, so thanks for that V-8 moment. πŸ˜€ In the meantime, I’ll keep picking away at my projects until my workload lightens a little!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sure! The wonderful thing about my in-person writers group is that we meet when someone has something to share–whether that’s once a month, or some years, it’s only been a few times per year. We read ahead of time and then meet at a room in the library (so it feels very official) and conduct our critiques. Then we go to lunch and discuss other, fun stuff, what we’re reading, etc. And I always let a critique of something I’ve written settle in me for at least 24 hours before I respond–to gain a little objectivity. There will be time for you, eventually, once the kids get older, and I bet you’ll be glad you had the blog and picked away–until you were ready to dive in! Thanks for checking out my post!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow – impressive research on how to navigate this aspect of writing! I cheat and submit articles to the Senior newsletter in the area (along with a paid advertisement…it works every month and they even asked for my photo so the readers know what I look like…LOL!) Seriously though, you’ve done an excellent job, and 2019 is looking like a great year for you. PS – I’m happy to read and do critiques from a novice’s perspective. But then again, I did that once last year for another blogger who wrote a book and I never heard if she published it or not? I hope she did, it was a fun read. Happy Writing – Happy New Year, Cheese Cheers to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Shelley! I love that your writing is featured in your local newsletter–that’s wonderful! Readers are readers, and with local outlets, you share important local concerns with them. And I just might take you up on your offer to be a reader for me sometime. Be careful what you wish for! You would definitely hear if I got a book published. But, ack, no more cheese…for now. Hope you have a great week!

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  3. Excellent post. I really needed to read this. I’m just sort of dipping my toe into submissions and have only gotten rejections so far. It’s frustrating to break out of your small blog bubble and realize you won’t always be as well received, but it’s part of the process. I have yet to develop the thick skin. I need to work on that. Thank you for this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Christine. I know the fiction market much better than the market for essays, or poetry, or anything else. A friend recently passed along this site, which looks interesting: http://womenwhosubmitlit.org/join-us/. It’s not an s&m site, I promise! Also, I’m keeping my eye out for journals and mags, online and off, that don’t require that all work is original. Brevity’s blog is one. Great essays on the writing life there. I’ll be sure to let the FB group know of any other places I find where we can submit our more essay-like blog posts!

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  4. Wow! An article full of wonderful advice. The only time I’ve submitted my writing was when I submitted my cross-country skiing article to Discover, so I have very little experience, but I feel like I can take a lot from this article of yours to get started. I’ve been feeling a pull to write a children’s book full of outdoor adventure, so that may be my next project. Thanks for all the information, Rebecca, and congrats to Alice at Lutheran Liar. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ve done such an amazing job with your blog–and submitting to Discover is a lot like submitting to other places. The frustrating thing is that the majority of websites/magazines want never-published material. Believe me, I’m on the hunt for the exceptions! See my answer to Christine, above. However, blogging is great training ground for essay-writing, as Alice has demonstrated! Isn’t that awesome!? I would adore a children’s book from you–and you could do your own art! I’ve got the blog for you, in case you haven’t found it: https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/ She’s a huge wealth of knowledge with respect to the children’s lit market!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Rebecca, your words mean a lot – thank you. Also, thank you for the link to Kathy’s site! I will devour all the information she has!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Glom away! I’m chuffed to inspire. You know the feeling is entirely mutual. I love your voice and all the helpful links you share. I checked out Lutheran Liar (how fun!) and found we too have lies like that. We call them Obi Wan Kenobi truths. It feels better to call them truths. Haha!

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  6. A great post full of helpful advice and a nudge of two…I totally agree about the Writers Group I start out in a brilliant one a few years ago they helped me find my writers voice unfortunately the lady who started the group went back home just a few thousand miles I moved a few hundred and Annie was the glue…Bookmarked and shared πŸ˜€

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  7. Hey there! First things first — thanks for the shoutout, dear Becca. Yes, I was published recently in a regional newspaper called The East Hampton Star. I sent the story to them this summer as an idea for their “Guestwords” column and was told at the time that they weren’t currently running any “humorous pieces”. Well. I promptly did my best to forget all about it. And, lo and behold, right after Christmas they contacted me by email and asked if “I still would like the story to be used”. Well hell yes! It was quite a rush. And very encouraging. I will keep you posted on any success. And if successful, will share what “did it”. More later — I hope!

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    1. I took quite a break from serious writing when my kids were small, and I really wish I would have kept it up through blogging. Blogs are a perfect training ground for essay writing–and every other kind of writing. The unfortunate thing is that most publications will not take writing that’s been published on a blog, so we must just write more and more…How we get better at anything, I suppose!

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