The Writing Life: Top Seven Takeaways from Writing Conferences (Part 3)
Of all of the tips and takeaways I carry with me from my year of attending writing conferences, this one (#3 on the list, a list which is in no particular order) struck the deepest chord in me. This tasty tidbit was given at almost every conference I attended, but somehow at the most recent it was presented in way that caused not just one but several light bulbs to brighten over my previously dim head. Here it is in a nutshell:
Yes, that’s it. Deceptively simple. Two little words that appear, at first glance, quite obvious. We’ve all heard the story about one famous author or another whose bestselling blockbuster was rejected umpteenth times before finally sticking.
But what about the rest of us lowly humans? Those of us who are maybe submitting a poem or work of flash fiction? Those of us with a manuscript that probably won’t yield millions upon millions of sales (but is still a darn good book)?
At the last conference I attended in 2015, I spent one of my precious time slots listening to a panel of writers and editors talk about submissions. And I’m glad I did because this is where I had my aha moment. One of the panelists, a co-founder of Tin House, explained that some writers do not let rejection stop them from submitting again. These writers do not wait before they submit wholly new pieces or revised pieces. And she explained that these writers tend to be men. Why men? Because they …
In the world of literary journals, women are published less often than men (see e.g., VIDA). The panelists at the writing conference I attended seemed to think this is at least partially due to the way women submit. Or rather, don’t submit. According to the panelists (and several articles, such as this one, which I read after I got home), women are less likely to resubmit to the same journal even when encouraged to do so by the editors. Men, on the other hand, do. They …
That being said, I’m fairly certain (okay, I’m actually certain) that not all women fall into the “shrinking violet” category. And not all men are the fearless alpha males of submitting. I don’t think it matters. I think what matters is the takeaway – submit like you are the alpha. Don’t take rejection personally (though do take feedback into consideration). Don’t wait a year or longer to resubmit – editors receive hundreds, even thousands, of submissions so strike while they still remember your name. If a publication accepts you, don’t worry about letting someone else have a turn – send more or your own work! And above all …
Not submitting to journals? Trying to get a full-length work published? That’s fine. This advice holds for manuscripts, too. Listening to the panelists, I was embarrassed that it took me this long to truly accept the obviousness of what they were ultimately saying, even if they didn’t say it outright: the decision to accept or reject is subjective. And because we human are imperfect, editors and agents make mistakes. Looking back at some of the famous cases of authors who were rejected again and again only to eventually make it big, we can imagine editors and agents who were/are kicking themselves at the missed opportunity.
How about you? Do you have any submitting (and submitting … and resubmitting …) success stories? Have you thought about giving up but decided to stick with it? What inspires you to keep sending your stories and poems in to publishers? I’d love to hear from you!
Posted on January 31, 2016, in The Writing Life and tagged #amwriting, #platchal, how to get published, how to publish a book, how to publish a poem, keep submitting, keep writing, submit like a man, submitting writing, The VIDA Count, the writing life, women and rejection, writing, writing advice, writing rejections, writing submissions. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.