Submission as Practice

Stack of magazines

If you want to be published, you have to submit your work.

This may seem like perfect logic, but you’d be surprised how many writers don’t get it. I didn’t get it. When I was in my creative writing program, I saw my classmates around me getting published and I was proud of them, a little bit jealous and a little indignant.

Then I realized (facepalm) I wasn’t submitting my work anywhere. It wasn’t ready, I thought. I wasn’t there yet. I was caught up in a cycle of uncertainty and inaction.

But one Saturday morning I sucked it up. I had a short story I had gone through several drafts on, had workshopped, one my mentor deemed was ready for the world.

But where to look first? I started with journals I’d seen friends published in, or journals I’d picked up around at literary events. I finally settled on a few I liked the name of and pressed send. When the rejections started rolling in, I actually was pretty stoked. It meant the inaction and fear had stopped. I’d learned long ago that rejection from any publication isn’t personal. Editors have a vision for each journal and sometimes your story, poem or essay just doesn’t fit. Sometimes it’s too similar to another story they recently ran. Sometimes they just don’t get you. The right match is out there, you just need to keep submitting.

Every Saturday after that, I’d submit something three more places. It took 62 rejections before I placed my first story. Then, by the time I’d hit 260 submissions, I had four pieces published. In seeing these numbers, I realized that it would take a lot of rejections to get my stuff published places. I’ve had stories published after 32 rejections. But it was the practice of submitting them that got them into the hands of the right editors, and only with dogged persistence could I hit those numbers.

Finding new journals was a guessing game. I subscribed to two at a time to get to know them better, but my repertoire was pretty small. Fortunately, technology caught up with me with Duotrope, a fantastic glass bottom boat of all of the literary journals out there with helpful filters and links to all of the journals. I could tell within a few reads whether or not the journal would like my stuff and my acceptance numbers got better as I was able to find the right flavor of journal for my work more quickly.

But I fell out of practice submitting. I got distracted by a novel. I kept writing short stories, and they would go onto my desktop where they would sit. I had forgotten the numbers game and had lost all persistence and I fell into a three year dry spell. Fortunately, I found Women Who Submit. My friends and fellow Antioch Alums Xochitl Julisa Bermejo and Dr. Ashaki M. Jackson started the group with Alyss Dixon in answer to the VIDA count. In an effort to close the tremendous gender gap in journal publications and the confidence gap in the number of women submitting, they created a group that meets once a month, encourages each other and submits together. In meeting with them, I found myself back in the practice of submitting and after a three year dry spell, I have gotten four stories picked up in as many months!

I also started my SUBMIT class on inspiration2publication. Sometimes we need a little nudge and I knew that if I committed to talking about submission with a group of writers, we evaluated strategies from where they should submit and I was able to teach them techniques for locating the best journals and magazines, I would stay in practice. If you sign up for SUBMIT, I will help you create a strategy for submitting your poetry, fiction or non fiction, how to find which journals would best suit it and best, how to get into a practice of submitting. You will also submit five places before leaving the class and you will be doing it in good company.

The best thing about this class is that every time I teach it, I get notices a few weeks later from students whose work has been accepted!

Kate’s class, SUBMIT! begins April 3

Kate Maruyama’s novel HARROWGATE was published by 47North. Her short work has appeared in Arcadia, Stoneboat, Whistling Shade and on Salon, Duende, and The Rumpus among other journals as well as in two anthologies: Winter Horror Days and Phantasma: Stories. She teaches in the BA and MFA programs for Antioch University Los Angeles as well as for Writing Workshops Los Angeles and the inspiration2publication program. She writes, teaches, cooks and eats in Los Angeles where she lives with her family.

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