Monday, November 10, 2014

Creative Writing and How to Submit Essays, Short Stories, and Poetry for Publication

Last week I received encouraging news about a current essay making its submission rounds:
Thank you for submitting your work for Creative Nonfiction’s "Memoir" contest, and for your patience during our lengthy review process. We received more than 1700 submissions and, as you might expect, reading them all has been a challenge for our tiny staff. At this point, we are still considering approximately 4% of the submissions for publication, and your essay, "Crisis", is among those. Congratulations! We hope to make final decisions regarding the contest winners and the pieces to be published by end of the year. 
Keep in mind, these reminders that my writing is on the right track came after the essay was already rejected from nine other publications or contests including The Pinch, Pilgrimage, Gulf Coast, Arts & Letters, Narrative Magazine, Fourth Genre, and Fifth Wednesday Journal. Aside from Creative Nonfiction, I'm still awaiting notification from Bellevue Literary Review and The Missouri Review.

Photo courtesy of Eureka Books
Wondering how to find lit journals and submit your creative nonfiction, fiction, or poetry? An article at The Millions argues that "creative writing should be taught as an art, and as a business":

"This is the inside joke of creative writing programs in America. We know creative writing doesn’t make money, and yet we continue to graduate talented writers with no business acumen. At best, it is misguided. At worst, it is fraudulent... It is the responsibility of writing teachers to help students become better on the page, but also to teach them what to do with those pages."

Well, it's no secret that most literary magazines don't have funds to pay writers well (or at all), unless you're lucky enough to win a $1,000 prize, but I agree that the "business" of writing is often left out of programs more focused on craft. I think it could easily be interwoven into any writing curriculum, simply by reading literary journals in classes (my classes most often focused on book-length works); looking up calls for submissions, contests and submission guidelines; and using themes or even things like page/word count as structures.

For example, Bellevue Literary Review, published by the NYU School of Medicine, calls itself "a journal of humanity and human experience" and the annual prizes "award outstanding writing related to themes of health, healing, illness, the mind, and the body."

Sometimes there isn't a focused theme or element, but guidelines tell what type of writing is considered, such as:

Creative Nonfiction is seeking new work for an upcoming issue dedicated to memoir. Creative Nonfiction editors will award $1,000 for Best Essay and $500 for Runner-up. The judges want stories that are honest, accurate, informative, intimate, and—most important—true. Submissions must be vivid and dramatic; they should combine a strong and compelling narrative with an informative or reflective element. Essays must be previously unpublished and no longer than 4,000 words. 

If you'd like to learn more about How To Submit Your Writing to Literary Magazines, read this article at Aerogramme Writers' Studio, borrowed from Neon literary magazine. It's got everything from how to find a suitable publication to writing a cover letter and bio, to tracking submissions. Best of luck!

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