Monday, January 07, 2019

100 rejections

Every January for the past couple of years, this excellent Lit Hub article comes around again in my feed.   It's a noble endeavor, one I'm not sure I would be able to pull off.  But then again everyone knows that successful submitting is about 30% talent, 30% knowing what's suitable publication for the work you are doing, and 30% a numbers game (and maybe 10% stardust magic).  When I first started submitting work, I did so blind and cluelessly and had the expected results. Only when I got a little more targeted in the last couple of years of the 90's did I have much luck--a small local feminist journal that would also eventually publish my first chap manuscript, a really cool journal that was saddle bound in wallpaper samples.  I was still rather blindly sending to work to The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, because these were supposed to be the white whales according to everything I read, but I really had no clue of the qualities of what they seem to be looking for.   But the little publications spurred me on and made me feel like at least writing was something I might be able to do.

When I first started sending work to online magazines in 2001, it was like there was this whole new world that opened up to me. The journals were definitely open to newer voices, also easier to share your work with others (though I suppose at that point, pre-social media, I was sharing on the xanga blog that preceded this one.)  I was also enamored of the community aspect--getting real time reactions to work in the form of e-mails from people who had read the work and liked it (and this is still sort of true.)  They helped build communities as well, or multiply existing communities, around certain journals or clusters of journals and it was amazing. Sure, there were the nay-sayers and the poo-pooers of online publishing, the ones who thought print was the only way to go  (weirdly some people still think this, surely, but I probably don't know their names because, duh, they're not on the internet.). It was  sort of intoxicating and I started wicked alice wanting to be part of such community building.

Even perhaps more importantly in the trajectory of my own writing was that I had an AUDIENCE, or a potential one at that, and this spurred me to write more, to send out more, knowing someone would actually be reading it.  Responding to it, engaging with it.  I volleyed submissions of existing poem batches out like a pro until they eventually found a home (I've tried at points to be a simultaneous submitter, but have found this to be more work than it's worth) So things would go out when they came back, the bonus of the internet being faster turn around times.  When a journal would pick something up, I would carefully print out a copy and place it in a plastic sheeted binder I still have but I eventually abandoned.  Eventually everything was taken and I was writing new poems to send out, quickly and breathlessly.  It was insane how much joy this gave me, how much confidence, so by the time I decided to try my hand at an MFA, I had about 50 publications, mostly online but a smattering of print in small journals.  I was ready.

Of course, I felt a little weird when I landed in the program. I felt enormously out of place and conspicuous in my wanting to get my work out there. Also, the faculty seemed to look down and dismiss publication unless it was in the "right" journals.  I didn't even notice it,  but the self-consciousness of  my MFA years changed my attitudes toward submissions slightly.  I slowed down a bit and tried to hit more of those fancy journals, only to realize at some point that my work wasn't exactly right aesthetics-wise for many of them.  Or maybe the work I'd been writing in the early 2000's was, but not what I was writing in the latter half of the decade. But it also slowed my roll on submitting anywhere.  I lost my enthusiasm for it, so by the time I graduated, I was barely sending anything out at all.  Fuck, for a couple years there I lost my enthusiasm for writing almost completely. My productivity lagged and would not bounce back til around 2011-12.  I'd start writing more, and in turn sending intermittently out to new awesome journals that had sprung up in the interim as well as some of the oldies still humming along.   But even when I was writing regularly again, submitting was at the bottom of the priority list, and when I do it, and more so when I actually get an acceptance, I realize how much I miss it.

I've spent the last 5 years or so mostly not sending work out, but then getting a bug up my ass  once a twice or year and sending out a few batches (to actually pretty good success ratios) but more of my work that gets published at all  has probably been solicited more than submitted over the transom.   When I scrolled past the Lit Hub article this morning, it flashed through my head "Nice, but who has even that much work to send out?"  and I stopped myself because, I guess *I* do after this year's productivity.  Some of it has already seen light of day publicly through things like social media and my Tiny Letter series, but much of it has not and would be perfect to send out for a few spins to see what happens. I have a list of pie-in-sky journals, some print, some online.  Plus a lot of great discoveries of new-ish journals I am liking.   Maybe this is the year to go balls out.  Maybe this year I should give the advice a go...

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