The new year is upon us and I’m stoked to be teaching my SUBMIT class again, starting January 17th. The energy this class generated amazed me as we talked about strategies for submitting work to journals, wading through countless titles to find the place right for our stories, poems, essays. In SUBMIT! we go over the pieces the students would like to submit and they work on their portfolios, coming up with a concrete plan of action. Submitting can feel overwhelming, doing it in good company really helps and the combined energies of different writers working toward a common end creates something new altogether. And we’ve already started getting acceptances from this class!
I had one student, an old friend from my MFA program in my SUBMIT class when we ran it this fall. I was happy to have him there, to visit in virtual space, but was a bit surprised. He graduated when I started my MFA. We’ve exchanged work and I know he’s written some staggeringly good short stories and some killer articles. So when it came out in the class that he hadn’t submitted anything to any publication anywhere in the eight years since he’d graduated, despite writing constantly, I was stunned. It simply didn’t compute.
And I realized what a powerful and paralyzing emotion fear can be.
There is a whole bunch of “I’m not worthy” when it comes to submitting our writing. We have such noisy demons in our heads that tell us that our work isn’t good enough to be out there in the world.
Even the language around it is destructive. When I was in the film industry and a company turned down a screenplay I’d written, it was called a “pass.” The executive would call my manager and say, “We’re gonna pass,” and give the reason the film wasn’t right for them. The screenwriting world was harsh in a number of ways, but this use of language was helpful. In the lit world, where each journal receives up to three thousand submissions per publication, all of the thousands of submissions “passed” on are sent “rejections.” “I got a rejection,” or “They rejected me.”
Writers submitting their work for the first time ever, just getting their feet wet, take those rejections to heart and often give up. And if they are submitting alone, they have no one there to argue them out of this defeatist way of thinking. They don’t know that rejection is just a sign you are getting your work out there; it’s a sign that you are in the business of writing.
My friends Alyss Dixon, Ashaki Jackson and Xochitl Julisa-Bermejo did some research after the notorious VIDA count came out a few years back. They found that women are published in staggeringly low numbers. And while this is largely due to the publications themselves, in talking to editors, they learned that women were less likely to resubmit work after rejection than men were. The men would submit over and over, even sometimes only hours after receiving their rejection. In answer to this confidence gap, they created Women Who Submit, where women can get together locally for submission parties and submit their work, sharing rejection stories, encouraging each other and getting past these fears that keep us from submitting our work. As a result, a wide variety of voices are getting out there in the world, and getting published. Voices that maybe wouldn’t have made print.
When it comes down to it, it’s a numbers game. I had submitted five short stories a total of 70 places before I had my first publication within a year of submitting in the first place. I got to a point where I realized that the only difference between me and published writers in my program was that they had submitted their work. So I started submitting, on schedule and relentlessly. Every Saturday morning I’d submit my work to at least three journals. Some rejections were form rejections, but once in a while I’d get a “we like your work, submit more.” I’ve submitted 280 places and have had maybe seven or eight pieces published. I have short stories I love that are still out there trying to find homes. In my last SUBMIT class, along with all of my students, I pledged to submit five places by the end of our two week period. My students weren’t the only people discouraged by rejection. I had simply fallen out of the practice of submitting.
It’s the New Year. It’s time to celebrate the pieces you’ve been working on in your own space, to get them out there, to celebrate your work.
We at inspiration2publication would love you to get your work out there. Get read. Get rejected. Get published. Join me January 15, at any time of day, from anywhere in the world, for my class, SUBMIT! Take a look, also at our Professional Development package which bundles this class with Alana Saltz’s “How to Land an Agent” and Robert Morgan Fisher’s “Be Heard! Recording and Uploading Your Work” for extra savings.
Kate Maruyama’s first novel, HARROWGATE was published by 47North. Her short work has appeared in Stoneboat, Arcadia and Controlled Burn, in anthologies Phantasma: Stories and Winter Horror Days as well as on Salon, The Rumpus, The Manifest-Station and other sitPhantasmaes. She teaches in the MFA, BA and inspiration2publication programs at Antioch University Los Angeles, as well as for Writing Workshops Los Angeles. She writes, teaches, cooks, and eats in Los Angeles, where she lives with her family.