Today’s post is by guest blogger, Guy Biederman
For years I wrote without sending my work out for publication. Publishing, and rejection, seemed rather beside the point. I wrote because I was a writer. Felt the pull, found the chair. Occasionally I’d send out a story. Some were published. I won a few contests. But mostly I was content with writing and teaching. I created a literary magazine, Bust Out Stories, and published books by others. One student called me a story midwife.
Two years ago, for whatever reason, I decided it was time to send out my work in earnest. I created a stable of revised stories and poems that felt ready to go and began to research and read — a lot. It was fun. I embarked on my own maniacal sending binge, sending out work every day, or at least several times a week.
Since then I’ve had over 500 rejections. I live for rejections. It means I’m sending. I’ve also had 60 acceptances, published a book, received invitations to be a featured reader, and in April, I’ll be hosting The Floating Word, on commercial-free Radio Sausalito.
I share my research with friends and they share with me. I believe in three essential ingredients—inspiration, deadlines, and a place to send the work. It was important to shift and change the narrative of this process.
Instead of submitting, I send. Instead of rejections, I’m declined. I record where, when, and what I send, and of course, the results. I record quality declines if I’m given feedback, especially from those who invite me to try them again. And when accepted, I write Yes! next to that entry in Zapfino font, just to party a little.
When someone declines my work, I send ’em two more. Unexpected pleasures have included correspondences and email friendships I’ve developed with publishers and editors. They’re writers, too. They appreciate being acknowledged and respected. They appreciate when I buy their magazines and chapbooks and let them know what I like about their books. They appreciate knowing I’m not scatter-shot sending, but sending with care and purpose.
I’ve had impersonal responses, funny responses, encouraging responses with suggestions that eventually led to that same story being accepted by another journal. Once I had a story declined that I hadn’t even sent. It was like they had peeked into my files and said, ‘Don’t even think about sending us that one, dude, don’t even write it.’
Of course I sent it elsewhere.
To paraphrase Goethe, as soon as we begin, we put ourselves into the flow and things start to happen. Little steps lead to big. It’s a numbers game. Send send send.
If you send out a hundred times, with care and purpose, you’re going to receive some acceptances. Attend open mics. Listen to new voices, lend your own.
You’ll meet people. Venn diagram relationships will form. Recently after a reading, I was handed a flyer and invited to send my work to a journal. I did. They accepted a story and a poem.
Last week a friend forwarded me the link to an online magazine. According to the guidelines (editors are grateful when writers read and follow them!), submissions were closed. I liked the magazine, made a small donation, expressed my admiration, and inquired about the next open submission period. That editor emailed back, thanking me. She had found my stories online, asked if I could send some work her way. I did. She accepted three.
This is what happens when you send your work out and it starts getting published. You develop a presence online. People from all over the world find you, read your work and get in touch. My stories and poems have appeared in New Zealand and England, as well as in the U.S.
I still love print magazines, too. Some publications have both. It’s not either/or, but and/or when it comes to publishing.
One of my concerns with this new practice was that it might adversely affect my writing and/or my teaching. It hasn’t. I still write at the same pace and my new work is being accepted. I may even be a better writer than before. I still teach. In fact, I now have an offering called Send It! for those who want to send their work out but desire some tools.
One thing leads to another. Work appears in print and online. Friends are made. Poems and stories enter your world and change your life. For me, it started with the decision to send my work out. I shifted. I changed the way I looked at rejection and developed momentum. Now when I’m asked to share my experience and discoveries, I distill my advice to two simple words: Send It!
The Write Spot Blog has a list of places to submit your writing.
Guy Biederman will be the Writers Forum presenter on March 21 in Petaluma, CA.
Guy’s work has appeared in many journals including Carve, Flashback Fiction, Exposition Review, The Sea Letter, and The Write Spot: Reflections.
Guy’s collection of short work, Soundings & Fathoms, was published last fall by Finishing Line Press.
Pretty Owl nominated his flash fiction for Best of The Net 2018.
For a signed copy of Soundings & Fathoms, email Guy at Guyb-at-sonic.net