It’s funny how fast things can change.
In the last post I wrote, which was about a week ago now (I’ve been in BC visiting family), I was feeling a little bummed about writing–or a lot…it reads pretty mopey in retrospect.
Today, I’m in the middle of gathering up a package of info (bio and photos of me) to email to 34th Parallel Magazine, a print and online lit journal in California who accepted one of my short stories for publication. The time I spent researching all of those publications definitely paid off, at least figuratively (no money from this mag, sigh).
This will be my third literary publication, not counting the 50+ (or more?) articles I’ve written for newspapers.
The first short story I ever submitted to a lit journal anywhere was accepted for publication in 2010 (?) by The Prairie Journal, based out of Calgary, Alberta. They paid me $50 (wooo!) and then a few months later, they submitted my story for consideration in the Journey Prize Stories national contest, which awards $10,000 to the winner. The top ten or so entries, including the winner, are published in a yearly anthology. I wasn’t accepted into the anthology, but oh well. Better luck next time.
The second piece, non-fiction this time, was published just last fall by a magazine in Saskatchewan called Transitions. They paid me $100, so the pay is improving!
This time, the acceptance came on Feb. 2, just last weekend and it made my week! No money, but a digital copy of the publication and a discount on print copies I want to purchase. So, better than a kick in the pants.
The tough thing about writing and submitting stories for publication is that there seems to be no guarantee. It’s nothing like riding a bike. Once you’ve got one publication, that doesn’t boost you into ‘the next level’ where everything you write is snapped up. Nope, even often-published authors are out in the cold like everyone else; this is a point on which I have mixed feelings.
It’s nice to know that the smooth, often-published authors don’t necessarily get fast-tracked into publications. Often, the submissions process is blind, especially in contests. So really, each piece chosen is generally chosen on the merit of the story in the eyes of the reader. I like that. However, as a writer starting out and working hard to get my work published as much as possible (to gain credibility), this is a point of frustration. I know I haven’t deciphered the magic equation of elements that will guarantee my work is published, so every submission is a gamble.
Anyway, that’s the way the world turns, I guess. I’m really impressed with 34th Parallel, though. Despite the lack of payment, I only had to wait about two weeks before I got my acceptance letter. All of the other lit journals I’ve submitted to have required waits of six months or more; then, add insult to injury by being rejected. Writing is not for the faint of heart. It’s for those of us who can take rejection, criticism and other people’s advice showered upon us day in and day out and just keep going, despite the hurt, frustration, disappointment and discouragement we feel so often.
In fact, I was so discouraged that I stopped sending my work out for hopeful publication. I had a dormant period of about a year. This piece that was just accepted was actually written about two years ago, maybe more. I just put it away in a folder on my computer with all of the other writing I have stored there for safekeeping and eventual publication.
But this was just what I needed, a little encouragement to keep going and to keep sending out my work, hoping someone somewhere will pick it up and like what they read enough to publish me and send me money. Of course I will still write even without money or publication, but I would be a lot less angstful with both.
If you are reading this post and are feeling discouraged about your writing, that’s okay. You’re allowed. But I definitely encourage you to keep going. Put your heart and soul into your writing, put everything you can into it. People want to read your heart and soul so they can feel connected.
The importance of writing isn’t necessarily in producing the best, most polished prose you can (although I’m a bit obsessive about that–my quirk). It’s about sharing your experience and helping other people find some value in what you’ve lived. That connection, the shared bond between writer and reader, is truly beautiful.
Don’t be discouraged. Spread more beauty.