WWS Poetry Submission Blitz

By Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo

In honor of National Poetry Month, Women Who Submit is hosting a Poetry Submission Blitz on April 9, 2017 from 12pm-3pm at the Arts District Brewing Company. A submission blitz is a call to writers to submit their well-crafted and cared for work en masse to tier one literary journals that historically have shown gender disparities in their publications. A submission blitz is a call to action.

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Highlight on WWS-Long Beach, CA: An Interview with Chapter Leads Desiree Kannel and Rachael Rifkin

How would you describe your city and your local literary community?

We like to say that Long Beach is a “little ‘big’ city.” We have a big and diverse population and lots of very different communities. In fact, LB was named one of the most diverse cities in the US according to the last census. A fact we are very proud of.

LB has a lot going on in the literary world. It isn’t hard to find a poetry reading, someone doing a book launch, or even a critique group. Independent businesses like coffee shops and book stores like to support LB writers and welcome small groups to do events such as readings or workshops. Continue reading

Highlight on WWS-NYC: An Interview with Chapter Lead, Kirsten Major

Women Who Submit: How would you describe your city and your local literary
community?

Kirsten Major: New York is a big-little city. We are 8 million in number, but the literary scene is small–everyone is about 1 person away from everyone else. Sharing air with literary giants is not uncommon. The five boroughs, plus Jersey City, plus Long Island reading scene is endless. My fantasy day job would be to be the Bill Cunningham of the literati, on my bike every night with a camera around my neck, on my way to a reading somewhere to take pictures of my world.

WWS: How did you hear of Women Who Submit, and why were you drawn to start a WWS chapter in your area?

KM: It just gets so. Darned. Hard. To keep putting yourself out there. Leland Cheuk, who wrote The Misadventures of Sulliver Pong, has written about this beautifully, persevering in the face of unstinting rejection. And also, it is mighty easy to have dedicated writing time co-opted by sending my work out if I haven’t in a while. Above all, it’s lonely. I am pretty active on Twitter so one day I put it out there, “Is there any one who knows if there are submissions parties? Is this a thing?” And someone sent me the WWS Twitter handle and I thought, that’s for me. It was absolutely key that Ashaki Jackson, co-founder, had a training session, coached me about attracting people and then worked her own NYC-based network of poets at Cave Canem,to help me get started. The national organization has supported me at every level and that keeps me going. Continue reading

Building Up to Emerging: Tips for Applying to Fellowships, Residencies and Workshops

by Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo

The first time I applied for a fellowship was in spring 2009. I was about to finish grad school, and I sent out a slew of applications like I was applying for a PhD. I figured it was the next logical step as I readied myself to move beyond my MFA program, and I had the mentors close by to help. I gathered transcripts and letters of recommendation, curated samples of work and wrote project proposals. I remember one mentor agreed to write a letter with what I perceived as little enthusiasm. When all the rejections came in that summer, I read the bios of those who won and took notice of all their previous awards and accolades. I thought back to that mentor and considered her lackluster support the response of someone who understood the literary world better than I did at that time.

See what I learned from this experience was that “emerging” doesn’t mean new like I thought it did, Continue reading

Writing Myself: On Becoming a Real Writer

by Marya Summers

In the summer of 2003, poets from around the world converged in Chicago for the National Poetry Slam. One densely packed nightclub was electric with anticipation for the group poem showcase, a highlight of the annual event. You could have supplied power to a small town with the energy my own body was generating as I took the stage with two women on my team to deliver the poem “Penis Envy.” It had received perfect scores the night before in preliminary bouts.

For any team, but particularly for our small-to-middling town team from Delray Beach, Florida, this showcase was The Big Leagues. Because it wasn’t part of the competition (it was a “best of”), all we had to do is exactly what we did the night before – deliver our bawdy, satiric conjecture on what we would do if we had penises. We were only a few seconds into our poem when the room began to hiss as if giant, terrible snakes were about to strike. I recognized the sound immediately. I’d heard other poets call it “the feminist hiss.”

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Learning Your Audience: The Benefits of Submitting to Literary Journals, Grants, and Residencies (Even If You Don’t Get In!)

by Rachael Warecki

Two years ago, I decided I needed to focus my submission process. I’d received acceptances from some wonderful journals, but I’m ambitious as hell and I wanted to take my writing and submission goals to the next level. Around the same time, I also decided to apply for grants and residencies, so I started to target my submissions and applications more strategically.

As I’ve written previously, this approach has had some success, mostly in the form of personal rejections. But the editorial notes and feedback have given me more than just warm, fuzzy feelings of validation—they’ve given me a better sense of my most receptive audience. In the two years since I decided to submit more strategically, I’ve discovered that my writing seems to appeal mostly to editors and directors who are women. The judges and editors who’ve written me the warmest rejections have identified as women or represented women-centric organizations, or both.

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On Getting Into The Huffington Post: Approach from Another Angle

by Alana Saltz

When I first started writing essays, I knew that I wanted to become a contributing blogger for The Huffington Post. It’s one of the largest and most trafficked publications in the world, providing an invaluable platform for a fledgling writer like myself.

But getting into HuffPo wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Unlike other publications I’ve managed to get my work in, it would take several attempts—as well as a few different tactics—to land that coveted “Contributing Blogger” title.

When I started submitting essays to The Huffington Post, I used my standard approach. I submitted an article, waited a few weeks, and then submitted another. When a few more weeks passed with no response, I tried one more time.

Each submission was sent to the same category, “Healthy Living,” because my writing at the time focused on mental health. And each time I submitted an article, I received no response whatsoever.

I realized that it was time to approach the situation from another angle. My mother happens to be a contributing blogger for HuffPo after getting connected with an editor through one of her contacts. I decided to try out the same approach and asked her to connect me with her editor. We exchanged a couple of emails, and the editor assured me that my articles were being passed on to the right people at “Healthy Living.” After two months of waiting, there was still absolutely no response.

I was ready to give up hope. I told myself that HuffPo wasn’t the right fit for me. They didn’t like my writing. I wasn’t marketable enough. I should just stop trying. I should give up.

But then I wrote an article that was different than the kinds of articles I’d been writing before. It was about the Netflix series, Orange is the New Black, and how the newest season dealt with the subject of depression. After getting the pitch rejected from Salon, I decided I might as well send it off to HuffPo because it seemed like it would be a good fit.

I chose “Entertainment” as my category for the post and sent it off at a Women Who Submit meeting without any expectations. A few days later, I received an email from an “Entertainment” editor informing me that my piece was going to be published. She sent me the information to set up my account, and I officially became a Huffington Post Contributing Blogger. I was absolutely thrilled.

Once my article, “What Orange is the New Black Gets Right About Depression,” was posted, I submitted an article that had previously been rejected by the “Healthy Living” section. To my surprise, it was also published a few days later…in the “Healthy Living” section. I’m now able to submit pretty much any article I want, and as a contributor, it goes right through.

The entire process from first submission to eventual publication took about eight months and six separate essay submissions. It would have been easy to give up on becoming a HuffPo contributor after any of these attempts and approaches failed. It took rethinking my approach and submitting a different kind of piece to a different set of editors to finally get published on the site.

The thing I’ve learned about getting published is that it’s not just about trying again and again. Persistence and patience aren’t always enough. Sometimes you need to switch gears and approach something from a new angle to get your foot in the door.


df212354-efee-4881-abea-b45c8267f03fAlana Saltz is a writer, freelance editor, and occasional ukulele rocker residing in Los Angeles. Her essays can be found in The Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post, HelloGiggles, RoleReboot, The Manifest-Station, and more. You can visit her website at alanasaltz.com and follow her on Twitter @alanasaltz.

The Fabulous 40: Sister Journals to Read, Support, and Submit to in 2016

by Tisha Marie Reichle

NPG x126136; Jackie Collins; Joan Collins by Terry O'Neill

by Terry O’Neill, bromide fibre print, 1970s

When setting your reading and writing goals for 2016, consider the work being done by other women writers and editors – people like you! Think about subscribing to one or more of the journals listed below. Make a conscious effort to read print and online journals edited/curated by women writers. Submit your work regularly to the journals and magazines that address themes you are writing about. As we move towards being more responsible literary citizens in the upcoming year, keep our sister writers in mind. (Information below is edited from each journal/magazine website information.)

If there are publications that have not been included on this list, please add a brief description and a link in the comments below so others can learn about it and we can update our information.

13th Moon: A Feminist Literary Magazine
Founded in 1973 in the ferment of early second wave feminism, as a home for women writers and their readers. Because the surrounding culture has tended to erase women writers from history, their work has needed rediscovery, preservation and its own dedicated space each generation.

Adanna Literary Journal: a journal for women, about women
A name of Nigerian origin, pronounced a-DAN-a, is defined as “her father’s daughter.” Women over the centuries have been defined by men in politics, through marriage, and, most importantly, by the men who fathered them. Today women are still bound by complex roles in society, often needing to wear more than one hat or sacrifice one role so another may flourish. Submissions must reflect women’s issues or topics, celebrate womanhood, and shout out in passion.

Adrienne
This is an intermittently published literary journal featuring poetry by self-identified queer women. Work need not be lesbian themed. The definition of “queer women poets” is also a flexible term; they welcome work by women who identify as queer, lesbian, dyke, bisexual, and trans* as well. Each issue is built around a small number of poets and showcase the variety within the queer poetry community. They are not looking for any one style or form; each issue will represent multiple poetic forms, including traditional poetry, prose poetry, spoken word poetry translated to the page, and experimental poetry.

Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture
A nonprofit, independent, feminist media organization dedicated to providing and encouraging an engaged, thoughtful feminist response to mainstream media and popular culture seeks to be a fresh, revitalizing voice in contemporary feminism. They are uniquely situated to draw in young readers who are at a critical moment in their lives—a moment when they are discovering feminism and activism, finding answers to who they are, and questioning the definitions of gender, sexuality, power and agency prescribed by the mainstream media.

Blackberry
A magazine devoted to sharing the literary voices of black women. This online journal is run by women who strongly believe in its mission to showcase a new generation of writers as well as illuminate voices from the past that may have been ignored.

Bluestockings Magazine
A feminist multimedia publication with a gender-aware perspective and an anti-oppression framework. Their feminisms are rooted in opposition to all forms of oppression with an understanding that feminism links together the political, the structural, and the personal. They aim to center voices from marginalized and historically resilient communities across intersections of color, race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, immigration status, disability, gender identity, sexuality, class, substance use, status of incarceration, experience of violence and trauma, and other identities not listed here. They accept work from every genre and medium, and highly encourage work from people of color with intersectional identities. They also welcome work from first-time contributors, who can expect a hands-on editing process from the team.

Bone Bouquet
A biannual online journal seeking to publish the best new writing by female poets, from artists both established and emerging. They aim to highlight the important work of female poets, who are often underrepresented in the writing community and popular media. Rather than personal politics, their criteria are excellence and vibrance. Rather than segregating the poetry of ‘women’s issues’ from ‘regular’ creative work, their goal is to provide an additional arena to make work more visible to readers, building their reputations as artists.

Calyx: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women
A forum for women’s creative work—including work by women of color, lesbian and queer women, young women, old women—CALYX Journal breaks new ground. Each issue is packed with new poetry, short stories, full-color artwork, photography, essays, and reviews.

damselfly press: A gathering of women’s voices
The name is derived from the tenacious damselfly, a unique and highly independent insect whose remarkable compound eyes allow her the advantage of examining many aspects of her environment. They value writing that soars beyond common perceptions and seek to promote exceptional writing by women. They welcome fiction, poetry, and nonfiction from female writers of all experiences. They are interested in work that is honest and explores human nature; there is truth even in fiction.

The Fem
It is a literary journal that publishes feminist, diverse, and inclusive creative works and interviews with writers, artists, and creators twice a week. They practice intersectional feminism, and seek to act as a safe space for both readers and writers from marginalized groups.

Feminist Formations
It is a forum where feminists from around the world articulate research, theory, activism, teaching, and learning, thereby showcasing new feminist formations. An interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal, they publish innovative work by scholars, activists, artists, poets, and practitioners in feminist, gender, and sexuality studies. A permanent section of the journal devoted to contemporary feminist poetry is designed to push at the bounds of academic knowledge production to make space for creative writers whose work can help us to see, learn, and experience from fresh angles.

Feminist Studies
They are committed to publishing an interdisciplinary body of feminist knowledge that sees intersections of gender with racial identity, sexual orientation, economic means, geographical location, and physical ability as the touchstone for our politics and our intellectual analysis. They welcome all forms of written creative expression, including but not limited to poetry and short fiction in all forms. They are interested in work that addresses questions of interest to their audience, particularly work that pushes past the boundaries of what has been done before. They look for creative work that is intellectually challenging and aesthetically adventurous, that is in complicated dialogue with feminist ideas and concepts, and that shifts readers into new perspectives on women/gender.

The Feminist Wire
It is a peer reviewed online feminist publication. They welcome essays, interviews, op-eds, stories, poetry, plays, and visual art that explicitly deploy a feminist lens, and define feminism very broadly. They are also committed to anti-racist and anti-imperialist approaches.

Hip Mama
This is the original alternative parenting magazine, covering subjects from weaning to home schooling with humor and political edge. It is a forum for single, urban and feminist mothers. And the December 2015 issue features WWS member Lisbeth Coiman!

Iris Magazine: for thinking young women
After more than 30 years of publication, they continue to celebrate and empower young women through provocative pieces. Their mission is not only to showcase women’s achievements at the University and within Charlottesville, in support of the women’s community and in conjunction with the Center’s mission to creating change, but to also underscore the relevance of women’s issues throughout the community to foster change and highlight accomplishments.

Lavender Review
Born on Gay Pride Day, June 27, 2010, it is an international, biannual (June & December) e-zine dedicated to poetry and art by, about, and for lesbians. This e-zine is free, and open to everyone.

Lilith Magazine
Independent, Jewish & frankly feminist since 1976, it charts Jewish women’s lives with exuberance, rigor, affection, subversion and style. Their work includes bold reporting and memoir, original fiction and poetry, and a lively take on tradition, celebrations and social change.

Literary Mama
Since 2003, they have featured writing about the many faces of motherhood, including poetry, fiction, columns, and creative non-fiction that may be too raw, too irreverent, too ironic, or too body-conscious for traditional or commercial motherhood publications. They honor the difficult and rewarding work women do as they move through motherhood by providing a smart, diverse venue to read, publish, and share mama-centric stories.

Lumen Magazine
It is a project for (and by!) women and nonbinary people. They are interested in poetry, fiction, personal essays, and interviews that examine how people move through the world, both as complex individuals and as members of larger communities. The conversations they are interested in are those that shed light on our stories—our struggles, our triumphs, and all the in-betweens.

Luna Luna Magazine
It is the dreamer’s lifestyle diary where readers can indulge their good and bad sides in the quiet conversations, the confessions, the uncomfortable, the indulgent and the beautiful. They aim to capture everything that makes our world so powerful: beauty, light, nuance, oddities, opulence, magic and desire. They consistently profile brave, unapologetic, feminist and creative thinkers from all walks of life. They focus heavily on the personal, intimate, literary, artistic and occult.

Minerva Rising
It is an independent literary journal celebrating the creativity and wisdom in every woman. They publish thought-provoking fiction, non-fiction, photography, poetry and essays by women writers and artists. It has grown out of a love of literature and the knowledge that when women come together, we flourish. Just as the Goddess Minerva represented creativity, wisdom, medicine, commerce, arts and education, the journal provides the opportunity for and the evidence of that bounty.

The Mom Egg Review: Literature & Art
An annual literary journal by and about mothers and motherhood. Celebrated writers and new talents explore the experience of motherhood from diverse perspectives and examine the nexus of motherhood with other identities, cultural and personal. Multi-ethnic and multi-generational, it tells important stories ignored or marginalized by other publications, and nurtures exciting literary talents.

MP
It is an online, peer-reviewed, international feminist journal. Their goals are to provide an intelligent forum for feminist discourse in cyberspace and provide space for a variety of voices on issues of gender and power. They believe that words can change the world!

Mslexia: for women who write
It tells you all you need to know about exploring your creativity and getting into print. No other magazine provides their unique mix of debate and analysis, advice and inspiration; news, reviews, interviews; competitions, events, courses, grants. All served up with a challenging selection of new poetry and prose.

Ms. Magazine
A brazen act of independence in the 1970s, the authors translated a movement into a magazine. It is the first national magazine to make feminist voices audible, feminist journalism tenable, and a feminist worldview available to the public. Today, the magazine remains an interactive enterprise in which an unusually diverse readership is simultaneously engaged with each other and the world. It continues to be an award-winning magazine recognized nationally and internationally as the media expert on issues relating to women’s status, women’s rights, and women’s points of view.

Mutha Magazine
Mutha explores real-life motherhood, from every angle, at every stage, including the ways Moms looked in the 50s and 60s and 70s and the way Moms look now. It explores how people stay creative and vital while raising kids. This is a place online to hang out with all of it, without having pink flowers or digital sprinkles of fairy-baby dust assaulting the aesthetics.

Persimmon Tree
This online magazine is a showcase for the creativity and talent of women over sixty. Too often older women’s artistic work is ignored or disregarded, and only those few who are already established receive the attention they deserve. Yet many women are at the height of their creative abilities in their later decades and have a great deal to contribute. They are committed to bringing this wealth of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and art to a broader audience, for the benefit of all.

Pheobe: a journal of art and literature since 1971
They support up-and-coming writers whose style, form, voice, and subject matter demonstrate a vigorous appeal to the senses, intellect, and emotions of readers. They choose work that succeeds at its goals, whether it is to uphold or challenge literary tradition. They insist on openness, which means they welcome both experimental and conventional prose and poetry, and they insist on being entertained, which means the work must capture and hold their attention, whether it be the potent language of a poem or the narrative mechanics of a short story.

PMS: poemmemoirstory
PMS proudly features the best literary writing by emerging and established women writers. While a journal of exclusively women’s writing, the subject field is wide open. First published in 2000, the editors seek to include compelling, intellectually rigorous writing that represents a diverse range of women’s voices and experiences. Simply put, they want to be riveted.

Quaint Magazine: a women’s quarterly literary magazine
Quaint publishes dynamic, arresting, and transgressive poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction by female and gender non-binary writers. They are trans-inclusive and are strongly committed to publishing work from traditionally marginalized writers, giving voice to the strange, the weird, and the unsettling.

ROAR Magazine: A Journal of The Literary Arts by Women
ROAR is a print literary journal that exists to provide a space to showcase women’s fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. We are committed to publishing literature by emerging and developing writers and we aim to support the equality of women in the creative arts. ROAR accepts work that represents a wide spectrum of form, language and meaning. In other words, don’t worry if your work isn’t specific to feminist issues. If you’re a gal, we just want your point of view.

Room: literature, art, and feminism since 1975
Room to read. Room to write. Room to converse across our many differences. Canada’s oldest literary journal by and about women showcases fiction, poetry, reviews, art work, interviews and profiles about the female experience. Each quarter they publish original, thought-provoking works that reflect women’s strength, sensuality, vulnerability, and wit.

Sinister Wisdom
It is a multicultural lesbian literary & art journal that seeks to open, consider and advance the exploration of lesbian community issues. They recognize the power of language to reflect our diverse experiences and to enhance our ability to develop critical judgment as lesbians evaluating our community and our world.

So To Speak: feminism + language + art
They publish poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and visual art that lives up to a high standard of language, form, and meaning. They look for work that addresses issues of significance to women’s lives and movements for women’s equality and are especially interested in pieces that explore issues of race, class, and sexuality in relation to gender. They are committed to representing the work of writers and artists from diverse perspectives and experiences and do not discriminate on the basis of race, class, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, culture of origin, political affiliation, disability, marital or premarital status, Vietnam-era status, or similar characteristics.

Torch Journal
They publish and promote the work of black women by publishing contemporary poetry, prose, and short stories by experienced and emerging writers alike, to archive contributor’s literary work for posterity and educational purposes, provide resources and opportunities for the advancement of black women writers.

Weird Sister
An online community that makes people laugh, and maybe cry, and always think a lot. One that resonates with our lives as writers and artists and activists and teachers and curators and moonlighters. A website that speaks its mind and snaps its gum and doesn’t apologize. It explores the intersections of feminism, literature and pop culture, featuring essays, interviews, comics, reviews, playlists, secret diaries, and love letters written in invisible ink.

WomenArts Quarterly
They aspire to nurture, provide support, and challenge women of all cultures, ethnicities, backgrounds, and abilities and seeks to heighten the awareness and understanding of achievements by women creators, providing audiences with examples of historical and contemporary work by women writers, composers, and artists.

Women’s Review of Books
They provide a forum for serious, informed discussion of new writing by and about women and a unique perspective on today’s literary landscape, featuring essays and in-depth reviews of new books by and about women. Their goals include advancing gender equality, social justice, and human well-being.

Women’s Studies Quarterly
It is an interdisciplinary forum for the exchange of emerging perspectives on women, gender, and sexuality. Its thematic issues combine psychoanalytic, legal, queer, cultural, technological, and historical work to present the most exciting new scholarship on ideas that engage popular and academic readers alike. It is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal published twice a year that along with scholarship from multiple disciplines, showcases fiction and creative nonfiction, poetry, book reviews, and the visual arts.

Word Mothers
It is dedicated to showcasing women’s work in the literary arts around the world, featuring female author interviews and women in the book industry discussing what they’re really passionate about. They embrace diversity; minority voices and genderqueer artists are especially encouraged to contribute.


ac9b1d5f-71bc-4c76-92ed-7aa18d1b98edTisha Marie Reichle is a Chicana Feminist and former Rodeo Queen. Her stories have appeared in 34th Parallel, Inlandia Journal, Muse Literary Journal, Santa Fe Writers Project, The Acentos Review, and The Lunch Ticket. She earned her MFA at Antioch University Los Angeles and is the fiction editor at Border Senses magazine.

Closing the Gap: On Confidence and Community

by Ramona Pilar

Reposted with permission from our friends at Lumen Magazine, where this article was first published on August 5, 2015.

Women Who Submit was born out of a reaction to a couple of gross injustices: a) women are not being published as often nor as broadly as men, and b) women may not be submitting or resubmitting their work as often as men. Men and women of color are published to an even lesser degree.  The founders of Women Who Submit took this information, acknowledged it, and asked themselves what could be done to change this?

The Atlantic published an article called “The Confidence Gap” which posed the idea that “… there is a particular crisis for women—a vast confidence gap that separates the sexes. Compared with men, women don’t consider themselves as ready for promotions, they predict they’ll do worse on tests, and they generally underestimate their abilities. This disparity stems from factors ranging from upbringing to biology.” In their research, authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman found that women will tend to psyche themselves out of opportunities if they don’t feel close to, if not perfectly suited for the opportunity while men did not have that particular issue.

While there are exceptions to generalizations, there was enough of a commonality to infer that a lack of confidence was one of the reasons why women weren’t submitting their work for publication as often as men.

Confidence is something I personally struggle with when it comes to writing, much less submitting my work for publication. There are layers upon layers of experiences that have transformed me from the bravado-fueled fireball I was in adolescence (my most prolific writing years to date) into a domesticated housecat who refuses to come out from under the bed, shiny eyes reflecting at you from the furthest corner, resigned to remain planted until I’m good and ready to come out.

I’ve been an active member of Women Who Submit for about two years. In that time I’ve submitted work to a total of maybe 10 places. Which, comparatively speaking, is a fraction of a fraction of the amount of submissions other members have followed through on. But comparison is not the point and has never been the point. What brings me closer to crawling out of the safe, uneventful, under-the-bed darkness is being around women who have navigated out of that safe crawl space. Women who have more experience submitting than I do.

The trick, I’ve learned, is to focus on what is actually within my control rather than on being accepted. I can control the content I create, the journals I submit to, the frequency with which I submit pieces. There is not one way to do anything. For example, I’ve acquired four different versions of cover letters to send with submissions. Each of them different and each of the women who shared them with me had success with her version and their reasons why they stuck by it. Hearing sometimes contradictory advice lets me know that the point cannot be about acceptance. That is a faulty, foul gauge of success. The point is to commit to submitting or getting my work ready to submit, at whatever pace feels comfortable for me. Cats don’t live under the bed forever.

The mere act of getting together with committed frequency, either in person or virtually, via Skype or checking in via email, matters. That sense of community is paramount to success, for me individually, and for the overarching goal of working towards gender parity in publishing.

Confidence isn’t some magic superpower only a chosen few are anointed with at birth. It’s something that comes from tangible practicality, from looking at a daunting task and knowing it can be broken down into easily digestible, easily completed tasks. I am inspired by and grateful to the women who have demystified submission by showing me how it’s done.


953012fc-9c9a-4fd6-a657-4393b5e68787Ramona Pilar is a writer, performer, emotional fluffer and native Californian. She is currently working on a collection of essays entitled “Darth Vader Abandoned his Daughter and Other Thoughts Along The Heroine’s Journey.” She can occasionally be found troubadouring with her band The Raveens.

Closing the Gap: DON’T CHEAT. YOU CAN STILL GET PUBLISHED.

Back in September, The New Republic published an article entitled, “Cheat! It’s the Only Way to Get Published.” but not everyone was so convinced. Here is one rebuttal from writer, Rachael Warecki reposted here from Zoetic Press, first published October 5, 2015.

First, let me say that I’m aware I have several legs up in the literary world just by dint of being white, middle-class, over-educated, and employed in a white-collar job. My family and friends have always been supportive of my desire to write, even when they haven’t understood it; I’ve never had anyone tell me that writing is something I shouldn’t do. I have time, space, and a room of my own: in many ways, to many people, the life I lucked into could be considered its own literary cheat.

In the fall of 2011, though, I was recovering from several serious medical issues, unemployed, and in the middle of my first semester as a graduate student in Antioch University Los Angeles’ MFA program. (In the spirit of encouraging fellow emerging writers, it’s perhaps pertinent to add that I did not just sail into an MFA program; Antioch accepted me off the waitlist.) I didn’t have any literary connections to recommend my work. I didn’t have any prestige-journal stationery on which I could write my cover letters. While looking for literary magazines that might publish my short stories, I noticed a call for submissions for the inaugural issue of The Masters Review, a lit mag that—at that time—was only open to writers attending grad school.

Back then, my assets consisted of my words, my classmates’ assurance that my stories were ready for publication, and the generosity of a literary magazine truly committed to helping new writers succeed. Because The Masters Review’s author demographic was so narrow, I thought my work might have a better chance of successfully making its way through the slush pile. As it turned out, I was right: my short story “The Rites of Summer” was published in The Masters Review’s 2012 issue.

In the years since, I’ve worked to build those post-slush literary relationships. I’ve kept in touch with one of The Masters Review’s editors, and I’ve continued to submit my work to their contests and anthologies, which have now expanded to include all emerging writers—not just those in MFA programs. My most recent submission, “10:25 a.m. EDT,” earned an honorable mention and a pending review from a top literary agency, which is an amazing career opportunity for which I’m eternally grateful.

More importantly, I’ve also continued to work those slush piles. Although I had zero relationships with any of the top-tier literary magazines, once I had work I thought was strong enough, I started shooting for the moon. Out of those long-shot submissions, I’ve received personal rejections and encouragement from fiction editors at Tin House, The Atlantic Monthly, Agni, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Blackbird, and PANK. I say this not to brag, but to point out that you can submit to slush piles of top-tier magazines and, if your work is a good enough fit, editors will start to pay long-term attention to you, even if you don’t have a list of previous publication credits or a fancy lit mag’s letterhead to back you up.

Here’s the rub, though: at the most basic level, if you want to be published without “cheating,” you need to be selective about what you send. Three years later, I’m still proud of “The Rites of Summer,” as I am of every story I’ve published, but I’ve also written stories that I’ve stopped submitting for now because I know they’re not yet strong enough for the markets in which I want to be published. Of my unpublished work, I have three “powerhouse” stories making the rounds of contests and top-tier literary magazines, but I also have five other stories, all written almost two years ago, that I’m still pumping up to that heavyweight level. Beyond that, everything else is unsalvageable for various reasons. That’s one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my fledgling writing career: my work can be well-written and well-constructed, but it can still be too unoriginal, too white-bread, and/or too autobiographical to be publishable. Not everything is fit to print.

Which leads into the fact that you also need to be selective about where you send your work. If you’re an emerging writer, look for literary magazines that are committed to finding, publishing, and promoting emerging writers; that way, you won’t be competing for limited page space with the likes of Joyce Carol Oates and Adam Johnson. The Masters Review is a great place to submit since it’s only open to new voices, but many other top-tier publications, such as Glimmer Train and A Public Space, hold contests and grant fellowships specifically designed to attract new writers. If you’re working in a certain genre, submit to magazines that appreciate that genre rather than disdain it. If you think a certain publication might be a good fit for your work, get a hold of some back issues to make sure—even print journals usually have one or two stories available for free online.

The world of literary journals and publications can seem exclusive, insular, and elitist, and that reputation is in many ways deserved. But it’s not a completely impermeable membrane, and you don’t have to cheat to make inroads. Just be strategic and selective about your submissions, and don’t be afraid to cultivate relationships with other writers, wherever you may find them.


 

1091093_347757792022433_1818843801_oRachael Warecki received her MFA in Fiction from Antioch University Los Angeles. She is also an alumna of Scripps College, Loyola Marymount University, and the 2008 Teach for America Los Angeles corps. Her fiction has appeared in The Masters Review, Midwestern Gothic, The Los Angeles Review, and elsewhere. In her spare time, she enjoys rooting for the Cleveland Indians and the Ohio State Buckeyes. She is currently at work on a novel.