Life as a Submitting Author (Hint: It Ain’t Pretty)


Being a writer who submits your work has its charm. One is the perpetual state of expectation (just west of the perpetual state of Tennessee).

Remember when you were young and the Internet was still an idea-in-waiting, how you’d look forward to the postman’s visit to see if you got any handwritten letters? It’s somewhat similar, in a pale fashion, checking your inbox daily for responses from magazines and journals.

Mostly, the following happen to you:

  • Nothing. I mean nothing. For days. Weeks even. Sometimes months. Remember what Mama once told you: “A watched micro never waves.”
  • Nothing goes on for so long that you decide to submit to another five or ten markets. That’ll show ’em!
  • Hint: This is known as saturating the market out of frustration. It is also known as making work for yourself should one of your simultaneously-submitted babies get accepted.
  • Something, in the form of subject lines beginning with RE: followed by a journal’s name. Here you engage in little reindeer games. You open the other emails first and save this one for last. You act like a little kid plucking petals from an ox-eye daisy while reciting, “S/he loves me, s/he loves me not.” Then you finally click it and know immediately by the shape and length of the message.
  • Hint: Usually “…s/he loves me not.”
  • You get a form rejection from a journal that charges a reading fee. You kick yourself (no small feat, even if you have big feet). How many times have you sworn this off? And yet you continue to fool yourself by saying, “Yeah, but this poem is that good!”
  • Hint: No it’s not. Unless you’re already famous. Then it might be.
  • You get rejected by a journal two days after you submitted. Though it’s disappointing, it actually feels good. Why?
  • Hint: It might have something to do with submissions from 10 months ago that still read “RECEIVED” in Submittable (maybe the journal’s name, The Cobweb Review, should have served as a hint).
  • You agreed to subscribe to emails from the journal the day of submission. It sends you a form rejection and your babies (typically five of them) come home downcast and in tears. As retribution, you go into indignant mom mode and unsubscribe to emails from that journal. Here we go again: That’ll show ’em!
  • Hint: This is small-minded, but rejected poets are quick to forgive themselves.
  • You make a run and get three or four acceptances in a row. You’re hot. Like ham and cheese with mayo, you’re on a roll. Now the poetry world gets it! Now they finally appreciate your genius!
  • Hint: Do you actually think they are aware of each other’s acceptances and are jumping on your imaginary bandwagon? Hey. Whatever floats your boat, dreamer.
  • Your run ends with a series of rejections (say, ten), landing you back where you began, unable to break the ceiling of unknown poets (not as famous as the Sistine Chapel’s, but a very real thing).
  • You get a letter in your snail mail box.
  • Hint: Just kidding. And seeing if you’re still reading. No one gets snail mail letters in their snail mail box anymore. That is now the conquered province of bills, catalogs, and credit card application come-ons.

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