5 lessons I learned while submitting to literary journals

Dear Reader,

What a wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

The national organization, Women Who Submit, organized a national Submission Blitz on Saturday. Blitz as in everyone get in Formation and submit your stuff. Stop playing.

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And I got in Formation — seven times. I submitted to seven publications and I’m actually eyeing two more that I’ll submit to in the next week. By far this is the most I’ve submitted in one month. My goal from the beginning of the year was to submit to three publications each month. So far I’ve been doing that except for the past two months (post coming up on that.) So I’ve definitely more than made up for the lack of submissions the past couple of months.

But here’s the awesome thing about the blitz, at least in Houston…the ladies who showed up to blitz were all women of color. All of us worked on our pieces and submitted them to places that, truth by told, weren’t ready for us. We had an opportunity here to really embrace the writing life, the scary part, the part where we expose our vulnerable underbellies to the world.

For me, it was empowering and a bit scary because this fiction writer submitted creative non-fiction and poetry for the first time. I’ve been working on Jennie so long that I hadn’t written any short stories.  For the first time, my submissions did not include fiction.

So we’ll see what happens. I can say that I received one rejection on blitz day but that was  a submission from a couple of months ago. I hope that’s not a sign.

So here’s what I learned about submissions to lit journals during the blitz:

1) Have a bio ready

It’s interesting how many journals ask that you submit a short bio along with your piece. I was actually surprised. Thankfully, I had something already written up that I could edit quickly but some of my fellow writers didn’t and they had to write one on the fly. That’s not an easy thing if your brain is already in submit mode and not in composing mode. Do yourself a favor. Write a short bio that you could use whenever you need. It can also be the last paragraph in your cover letter.

Talking about cover letters…

2) Learn to write a cover letter on the fly

This one kinda drove me nuts. All of my submissions required a cover letter, which is odd since there is a debate on whether lit journals actually read them. Some want to be seduced by a cover letter. Others just go straight for the entry.

Yeah, it’s a thing.

So, I defaulted to this little piece of advice for writing one. Basically, it shouldn’t take long to write one but there are some things you should follow, other than your basic grammar rules.

3) Be brave

So, I submitted to Tin House. THE Tin House. When I woke up Saturday morning that wasn’t something that I thought I’d be doing but there it was.

Sometimes, you just gotta be brave and hit submit. What’s the worst that can happen? Someone is going to say no to your poems? A no is better than a nothing, which is what you hear when you don’t submit. So be brave and hit the button already. You never know.

4) Love exporting into Word docs

My love for Scrivener knows no bounds. I heart that writing program so much I purchased it for every writing machine I’ve ever owned. My favorite thing is using the export button when I’m going to submit. Literally, it converts it to a Word doc and all I have to do it type the title in and give it a once over.

Seriously, I highly recommend Scrivener. And there’s a new iOS version I’m currently playing with.

5) It’s always better when you make it into a party

The best part of the submission blitz hands down was being among kindred spirits. We literally cheered each other on as we submitted our pieces. We could bounce ideas off each other. When one of us had a question, another person could answer it. And, of course, food and drink. Everything is better with food and drink.

Would I do this again? You bet I would and I hope that the organization plans another blitz and that more women and women of color submit our incredibly important and needed work out to the world.

Write (and submit) on!

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8 thoughts on “5 lessons I learned while submitting to literary journals

  1. Great post! I wish you the best of luck with all your submissions. I recently hit the submit button for The in House for the very first time, too. Your submission party is a great idea- I always find the submission process exhausting, probably because I tend to do it all at once and then wait for months before another attempt. Submitting with friends might take some of the feeling of drudgery out of the process.

  2. It’s so true about having a bio ready–good tip! Congrats on getting out of your comfort zone. I’m sharing this with my writing group! Good luck, and keep writing and submitting!

    Love and stuff,
    Michy

  3. Icess, I caught up with this at the close of a morning spent getting an article submission ready to send – via snailmail, believe it or not, since that’s what they want. First off, congratulations on your Owl award. The e-jection response to my Owl submission offered the kind of supportive communication I’ve come to expect from this now press, then literary magazine. And I really liked answering the question they posed, as opposed to the more standard bio and cover. Can’t resist crowing a bit – my Minerva Rising submission #3 was accepted!, and can be seen in the “Sisterhood” issue. I met the ever-more-renowned Kim Brown at my first-ever writing retreat, Rosemary Daniell’s Zona Rosa Tybee Island, in July 2014. The mentored, writing-hand-blessed energy I left with resonates still. Your insight into the submission process is so very on target I had to take this minute or so to tell you so. There are no candidates in my writing life at the moment for a submission party invite, but what a terrific idea. Maybe I’ll meet one or more at another writing getaway, my third, next January: the Winter Prose & Poetry Getaway sponsored by Murphy Writing at Stockton University, held near Atlantic City at a location I can reach in under two hours by bus. I take that bus once a month, to a wonderful free! poetry event – open mic, prompt, featured poet – sponsored by South Jersey Poets Collective and, yes, Stockton. Time to turn to the non-writing neccessities. Closing with overworked- to-banality-but-still” meaningful “thanks for sharing.”

    1. Thanks so much for your lovely comment! Yes, a submission party is so fun and I hope you do find some like minded folks to have a party with.

      Minerva Rising has been such a God send for my writing career. I was in their first issue — Beginnings — and was to honored when they chose me again for the Owl Award.!

      Good luck on your submissions!!!

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