The other day I was having some back/forth with a writer friend online. I had forwarded him a call for submissions from Rattle. There was talk about rejection, which compelled me to do something I have never done before—share my submission spreadsheets (poetry, essays/fiction) for the past 6-7 yrs.
After I hit the Send button, I slept funny. I wasn’t concerned he would do anything obnoxious, but I realized that I had exposed myself and suddenly so. A quote from another friend resounding, “I hope you will forgive me for saying this, but I feel like I’ve seen you naked in the shower and I’m going to love you forever.” after he read my first book.
In the middle of the night, I realized that my motive was three-fold:
1. To offer some perspective on how much work it can be to get into certain journals (not that he doesn’t know this, he ran a lit mag…)
2. To share resources (it may sound ridiculous, but those spreadsheets represent hundreds of hours spent researching journals—which to submit to, which ones accept your work and go defunct and leave your poems orphaned and never tell you this, which ones are awesome and nominate you for Best of the Net every time you submit—thank you Toasted Cheese, which ones take over a year to respond and then tell you they never received your piece and then send you a form rejection, which ones address you as “David” when your name is “Natasha” yup—this really happened, as in “Dear David, Hope all is well and thanks for the poems—I’m going to pass on this batch…”, which ones you have to submit to 5-6 times before they accept you, which ones take you on a first try, which ones publish your work without ever notifying you, which ones never read your work but gladly cash in their reading fee, which ones take 10 years to be re-accepted into—all the while knowing that my experience isn’t going to mirror another’s, but it’s information nonetheless.)
3. To offer some humor (not necessarily at my expense, but hey this can be amusing business)
My concern at circa 3:00 a.m. was that this might be received as the eq of an up-skirt shot of my publication life on a day I was wearing tattered old undies, versus let’s say a resource.
Still, I’ve never favored façade. When paper rejections were a thing, you know before Submittable, I kept them in a binder and would reread for fun/perspective. I enjoyed watching the progress. How with Indiana Review I went from some ink in 2005, encouraging me to resubmit, to an acceptance 3 submissions (4 years) later. Or how in 2011, during my pre-med/med gap year, I thought I’d really push my publication creds and ended up with a record of 70ish rejections in the span of 3 months. Of course I did what any me would do, I chose the most artful ones and strung them along my wall, interspersed with holiday greetings.
And while I’m not offering to send my spreadsheets to anyone else (this is hard work and I encourage you to embrace it), I guess I’d like to begin a dialogue about this process of submitting. More will follow, perhaps from the perspective of having functioned as an editor, panelist for selecting grant recipients, etc. But for now, I offer you a wall of reality and some encouragement to keep sending those batches out, because you never know how/when your work may be received.